Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Month: May 2017

Getting into the groove

abstract painting by Marianne Morris

“Earthbound”, 10×10″ Acrylic on wood panel.

I’ve done a lot of painting this week. Not necessarily producing wonderful works of art, but I’m working, and that’s a big thing. I’m going back to small pieces for the time being. If I’m going to work my way out of a slump, working small is the way to go. It’s fast, I can correct mistakes without feeling like I wasted a whole lot of time, and I can produce a fair bit this way. I’m not sure how I’m going to display these, but whatever… I’ll figure out that part later.

My first few pieces are somewhat monochrome. I know that value and contrast really make the design strong, so going back to basics make sense. I’ll work on that for now, then add some color next week when I’m feeling more confident.

I love water… lakes, oceans, rivers, whatever. Waves crashing onto rocks are so inspiring for me. So a tube of deep blue is it for now, along with black, white and buff to give me some variation. I may not produce a masterpiece, but if I like it I will set it aside and call it finished. At least for now.

 

That Elusive Muse

Drawing of two pears in oil pastel by Marianne Morris

“Pair | Pear”, Oil Pastel on paper. I think this was the most successful of my three drawings. I’m amazed I remembered how to use my pastels, but somehow it felt really natural.

There was a time I got excited when I managed to free up some time to go paint. If you are a regular reader, you know that lately, it all has seemed like a bit of a chore. It always does when things aren’t going well. In an effort to get that feeling back, I’ve been changing things up… last week I did a lot of drawing, and on the weekend I participated in a group art night.

It wasn’t what you would think. The people I was painting with were scattered across the continent. We had met in an online art group. Patti was Canadian from the opposite end of the country, who I had never talked to before we started. Kim and Thomas have know each other for years, one in Wyoming, the other in Florida. We started a group chat, decided on a subject (abstract still life), Thomas set up a Spotify playlist which we all tuned into, and off we went.

The process reminded me of school in a way. We all worked away, then my phone would beep… someone would post a photo or ask a question, we would chime in when we could. We weren’t in the same room, but we were connected in a way. I got out my oil pastels since the others were talking about working in pastel. I figured working with something other than paint would probably help reset my brain. I haven’t used oil pastel in probably 15 years. It was a nice change. And I remembered more than I thought  I would. My pieces were actually decent.

I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working in a pseudo-group. I’m hoping these nights will become a regular thing. I may not be able to manage every weekend, but it is important to fit some play time into my schedule. I’ve managed one work session this week and I really looked forward to getting into the studio. That in itself feels like a huge leap forward.

Drawing Drills

Ink and wash drawing in my sketchbook

The photo I was working from was very dramatically lit. I don’t get the same sense of drama from my drawing… mainly because I am too lazy to spend all that time hatching in a dark background. I think I managed to get the feeling of his age without drawing in every wrinkle. And this one is a bit looser, which I like.

This week, on a whim, I decided to sign up for one of those online challenge things. If you haven’t seen one of these before, what happens is an online facilitator, in this case, Carrie Brummer Hanna, walks participants through a series of exercises designed to do one thing or another. This one was to improve our drawing skills.

Now I’ve been drawing for eons. I have taken the occasional long break… some breaks have lasted years… but I always go back to it, and it usually doesn’t take that long to reconnect my eyes and my hand. A few days maybe. But there are some things that I am just not good at and so I tend to avoid them. So I do have things that I can work to improve.

I love to draw in ink. But until recently, when I started drawing the dogs, the only ink drawings I have ever done have been sketching on location (landscapes and buildings), or imaginary, illustration type of drawings. Any other drawings were in graphite or charcoal. Media that are easy to shade and create form. Ink is not so easy. But with the discovery of washable ink… well that opens up a whole new world. My goal for this challenge was to get comfortable drawing people in ink. I chose a copyright-free image for each day right off the bat; I know myself well enough to know if I am tired when I sit down to draw I will pick the easiest thing, and not necessarily the thing I need to work on.

Carrie suggested setting aside 15 minutes a day. That is doable, even on really busy days. Of course, the 15-minute limit only lasted three days… the fourth day I totally screwed up the drawing and had to do it again, and the next day the image I chose was way too difficult to complete in that time. I’ve not finished the challenge… it started last Friday but I didn’t start until later on… but I was amazed at the posts I saw in the Facebook group. Some people made HUGE improvements in their skill level in only 7 days. I recommend this to anyone who wants to up their game. It obviously works if you commit to it.

If you are interested in going through this exercise yourself, I think you can access Carrie’s webinar on her website. And she also has a Facebook group that can provide valuable feedback.

Attention is Everything

Abstract painting in blue, brown and bronze by Canadian Artist Marianne Morris

“Flow Interrupted”, 24×24″ Acrylic on Canvas.

My painting is not going well. I’ve been struggling with the same 5 canvases for going on 4 weeks now. I’m getting frustrated, and I’m feeling defeated. Not particularly helpful when I have a show to prepare for. I’m starting to panic, even though I’ve still got 5 months to prepare. Again, not helpful.

The painting above is “finished”. As an abstract piece, I’ve covered all my bases; Shapes, contrast, composition, colour. It’s quite possibly not actually finished… for although it works as a painting, I don’t get the feeling of calm I usually get when I look at a finished piece. Not sure it’s what I’m after, but at some point, I have to accept that this is what it wants to be and let it go. I can go back and change it in a few weeks if I can figure out what it is that bothers me. That’s always the hard part.

Part of my problem has been this feeling of restlessness that has settled on me in the past few weeks. I’ve been so easily distracted that I’ve found it hard to focus on anything. My days at work have been unproductive… I go home in the evening feeling like I didn’t get anything accomplished. Home hasn’t been much better. I spend hours in the studio trying to focus, only to have my paint dry on the palette while I’m reading comments on a Facebook post. I fear my studio is going to have to become technology free if I’m to get anything done, but I no longer have any “old school” ways to play music if I do. Maybe silence is what’s called for?

I know that this is just part of the creative process. It’s happened before, and it will undoubtedly happen again. I have to work through it. I need to pay attention to the work in front of me, calm the inner chatter, and block out the noise. I may step away for a week and do something else, just to reset. I need to find my center again, and then maybe I will be able to pay attention.

When does Inspiration become Appropriation?

Amanda PL in front of her paintings, from the Hamilton Spectator.

Amanda PL in front of her paintings, from the Hamilton Spectator.

Last week in Toronto, the young painter Amanda PL, had her first solo art show canceled by her gallery because of backlash from the Native community, and concerns of cultural appropriation. It has been the main topic of conversation in local art circles and discussed at length by many of the people I follow online. Her work is in a style remarkably similar to that of Norval Morriseau’s, probably the one First Nations artist that is instantly recognizable by pretty much anyone in Canada. As pointed out by a few people, one image on her Instagram profile looks like a direct copy of a Haida painter’s work. She claims to love and honor the culture. Indigenous people cry appropriation.

The topic of cultural appropriation has interested me for years. Being of Metis background but not being raised with any exposure at all to that culture, I have long been curious about Indigenous art forms and have studied them at length. But my first inclination of how Indigenous people view non-native’s depictions of their culture came years ago when touring an art show with a native acquaintance. We were standing in front of a booth of romanticized, native on a horse, “noble savage” type paintings. She Lost. Her. Mind.

I was curious, so I started asking questions. The rant that followed was truly educational. I was directed to books written by Indigenous writers. Historians telling the story of the “Imaginary Indian“.  Tales of what it was like growing up native and female in contemporary Canada. A reiteration of at least a dozen ridiculous cultural stereotypes. It sparked an interest that has continued on for more than a decade, and every time I see something that seems even the tiniest bit wrong, I will read everything I can get my hands on.

Before this event, I had been working on a series of charcoal drawings depicting a figure intertwined in a background of symbols, some including masks drawn in a style similar to indigenous carvings I had seen. Afterward, I backed away from this, not knowing if what I was doing would fall into the category of inspiration or appropriation.

This incident in Toronto has surprised me. Not the backlash… I figured that would come if she got any kind of widespread exposure, in the event that she was not actually native. It was that neither the artist nor the gallery expected it. Both seemed to be caught completely off guard. Given the amount of exposure given to recent events such as the banning of hipster’s wearing warbonnets to festivals,  the Pharell magazine cover controversy, and the D-Squared blow up of their racistly titled “D-Squaw” fashion collection, you would figure they would have braced themselves for the onslaught. I suppose not everyone follows this stuff as closely as I do, but this is pretty mainstream stuff.

As an artist, I draw inspiration from various sources. I too love Norval Morriseau. I love most of the First Nations art, from the traditional to contemporary (seriously, check out Brian Jungen’s hockey bag totem poles or Jane Ash Poitras’ mixed media work for some great contemporary stuff). What I drew from Morriseau was his colour palette… the bright, pure colours I used in my music series came directly from studying his work. The subject matter came from my own life. When I look at those paintings I see my own soul, not his. Should I ever decide to create a body of work that draws heavily from a culture that is not my own, I will be sure to check in with the online community before I get too far into it. In most cases, all you have to do is ask, and people will happily tell you what they think.