Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Month: August 2016

Abstract Painting: Birth of Venus

Abstract painting in blue, brown and copper.

“Birth of Venus”,  28×40″ Acrylic Abstract Painting on Terra Skin. Available.

I have to keep this short. I’ve managed to hurt my wrist, to the point where I am pretty much one-handed. It’s improving… mainly because of my amazing physiotherapist, Jennifer.  The sessions are torture, but I feel so much better the next day  I’m positive I’ll be fully functional in a couple of weeks. Even my cough is improving. Of course, that could be because I am off work, and I’m pretty much convinced that the problem is something in the building that I am allergic to. We should be moving back into our newly renovated space very soon, and hopefully by then I’ll be well enough to return. Fingers crossed.

About this piece: This is one of the pile painted during my recent class with Lila Lewis Irving. It’s one of the few she didn’t suggest any changes to. Painted on Terra Skin paper, which is actually made of crushed stone, it was really interesting to work on. When I can get back to my studio I may try again. Titling abstract paintings, in general, can be a bit of a challenge. When I look at this I get the feeling of sky and water and earth. Copper is symbolically linked to the goddess Venus, who is said to have washed ashore in a clam shell. Taking my cues from the myth, “Birth of Venus” seemed an entirely appropriate title for this piece.

Coincidentally, copper is also believed to have a “healing” energy… I could use a bit of that right now.

The Benefits of a Good Teacher

Abstract painting in orange and blue by Marianne Morris

“Fire : Water”, Parts 1 and 2.  11×15″ Abstract acrylic painting on paper. Available.

Every year I go somewhere to take an art class. It started in 2012 when I went to Seattle for Art Fest. It was such an amazing experience I decided I should do it again. Maybe a bit closer to home so it wouldn’t be quite so expensive. This year I went off to Haliburton School of the Arts, an arts college in Ontario that has a regular program all year round, and has week-long workshops during the summer.

This year’s workshop was a week with Lila Lewis Irving, a local abstract painter who is somewhat of a legend around here. Any artist I told of the upcoming class gave me the same spiel. It was so difficult. It was so freeing. It changed the way I paint. And after having done it? Yes, it was all of the above. I loved every minute. Well, except maybe the first day where I was frustrated and completely sure I was in way over my head. But apart from that. She pushed us to try a new way of working, with new tools. We even had to try a new paper (terraskin… made of rock), which reacted to the paint in a totally new way. You had to be bold. And by Friday everyone there had made great progress.

Over the week I finished off about 10 paintings. Some were for learning and will go in a folder. They are not anything I’d want to frame, but they illustrated what we were learning. A few were good enough to surprise me. I even sold one on the same day I painted it. That never happens. I’ll be posting the new ones over the next couple weeks…. we did a thorough critique the last day where Lila analyzed what was working and what wasn’t, and gave suggestions on how to fix the problems. I will be going through the pieces one at a time to see if I can fix up the problem spots, and then photographing them properly instead of just uploading a snap from my phone.

I don’t know how much longer Lila will be teaching (I think she’s around 80), but I am SO glad I got to be in her class. I came back here anxious to get back into the studio. I will find a way to work what I’ve learned into what I am working on, and I’m sure my paintings will be that much better. If only I had been lucky enough to have had a teacher like her when I was in University, I might not have wasted so many years not painting. But at least I got there. It took a while, but was so worth it.

Abstract Painting: Submerged

Abstract painting in aqua and gold

“Submerged”, 12×12″ abstract painting, mixed media on wood panel. Available.

I started this small abstract painting in the spring. Usually, I start a bunch at a time, and inevitably there is one that doesn’t work and gets set aside for a while. This was the one. It is on a pre-primed wood panel… something I have never worked on before. I had a bunch of them given to me when a friend cleared out her studio. This was quite different from canvas to work on . It was slick, and the paint kind of slid around. Didn’t seem to stick quite the same way. I can’t say I liked it all that much.

There are many ways to solve a problem…

I started out sanding it. Thought it might rough it up enough that the paint would stick better. Didn’t really help that much. I continued, covering the board with another layer of gesso, but this time not smooth. I let my brush work leave some texture. That didn’t really help either. Ok. Well, I have a shelf full of mediums and gels. A thin layer of molding paste put on with a pallet knife, and some fibre paste in areas gave me a much nicer texture to work with. What I had already painted hadn’t been completely obliterated, so I kept a similar colour scheme. With all that on top of it, it had the feel of water. So, of course, I just went with it.

I like the calmness I managed to get in this piece. Almost etherial. I’m not quite sure how that happened, given that for the last few months, I’ve had the cough from hell that just won’t leave. All day, every day, I hack to the point of not being able to breathe. It is driving me insane. By the end of the day I am either unreasonably angry or feeling totally hopeless. Every day I call my doctor’s office, looking for that appointment I’m supposed to have with the specialist. Every day I am told to call back tomorrow. It’s unbelievably frustrating. I think every painting I’ve done since this whole thing started has had a kind of calmness to it. No idea where it’s coming from, but I’m glad I’m managed to tap into it. It has kept me sane, while I am driving everyone around me crazy.

Clairvoyant Crows – A drawing

Clairvoyant logo ink drawing

Illustration created for the Toronto band Clairvoyant, eventually to be on t-shirts, stickers and other assorted merchandise.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know my son is a musician. He currently plays bass in the band Clairvoyant, who I happen to think are pretty darn good. Even if I didn’t like the music (which I do), I’d still have to admire their dedication. They practice at least once a week. They are constantly working on new material. And they understand the basics of internet marketing and building a following.

This week, they officially released their first EP. All songs were written and performed by them, and recorded in my basement. I did the drawing for their cover art… if you are interested in reading about how that one came together, you can find it over on my old blog. When they asked if I would put together something they could use as a band logo, I went about finding a way to merge my obsession with crows, the drawing style I had used on the EP cover (not coincidentally, also a crow), and my recent realization that the ink drawings I had done in the past were actually pretty decent.

I have to hand it to my boy… the kid has a pretty good eye. I knew that, of course, but he proved it to me yet again with this project. I had done a bunch of sketches… really rough ideas… and he picked out a couple to work up more throughly. He made changes. We chose one to do as a final, and he made more changes. He made some observations about what I had done, and even though I was getting a bit exasperated by this time, I have to admit that with the changes he asked for, the drawings were a lot better. If I had done what I had initially thought was my best idea, it wouldn’t have worked out as well as it did.

I’ve always believed creativity is something that can be learned and worked on. It isn’t the elusive, magical “talent” that everyone thinks it is. It’s a matter of taking things in, and working through the obvious crap until you get to the good stuff. I’ll be the first to admit that my initial ideas are never my best. Actually, a lot of them suck. I need to take the initial spark and keep going with it until I feel like I’ve wrung out every decent idea there is. Maybe it isn’t that way for everyone, but I think if you want to be creative, you can. But it takes work. And that’s the hard part.