Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Author: morris4of4 (page 2 of 5)

The Space Between. A meditation.

A meditation on space and connection, abstract shapes in neutrals and bright magenta.

“The Space Between”, 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

A while back, when I was off work dealing with some health issues,  I was told repeatedly that I had to reduce the amount of stress in my life. Since I had no idea how to do that, I talked to a councillor who specialized in stress management. She sent me a bunch of books, some of which I’ve read, and advised me to learn how to meditate. Mindfulness was something that would help me immensely, she says, from stress reduction to pain management (I have a back issue that I’ve been coping with since I was a teenager. There are times when I am pain-free, but it’s not a normal state for me).

Since my trip to Portugal in January I have managed to take the chaos of work in stride. I was rested enough that I could ignore the insanity of the deadlines, roll my eyes at the technical ignorance of those asking for the impossible, and laugh with my coworkers over the unrealistic expectations of management.

Over the past two weeks, my vacation zen has deserted me. It started with the shocking news that an artist friend of mine had, quite suddenly, passed away from a heart attack. She was such wonderful company, often when I was dropping off work at her gallery space I would stay for an hour or more to talk, her filling me in on the latest community goings on as other artists would file in and join the conversation. The monday after her funeral, we were informed one of my coworkers had suddenly passed away. The third, because there is always a third it seems,  was my cousin’s child… a mere 26 years old, and only a few short years older than my own son. It has been a stark reminder of the fragility and impermanence of life, and a very clear message to me that I need to spend what limited time I have here with people whose company I enjoy, and doing the things I love.

I decided to try taking this meditation thing seriously. I have tried a few times before, but I’m so easily distracted that after a minute or two I would give up. I’ve downloaded apps on my phone, I’ve tried audio “guided meditation”, I’ve done yoga breathing exercises. The only thing that has worked at all was a guided drawing meditation that I found online. I realized that creating, for me anyway, is meditation. It is the only time I am completely and totally in the moment. I am calm. The next best thing is walking alone outside… I will still often have the story running in my head, but I can sometimes manage to quiet that and observe my immediate surroundings. I’ve done both these things in this past week. I need to get going with these paintings anyway, so incorporating my studio time with meditation may actually be a way to cope that works for me. I guess the only way to find out is to try.

And… I’m off….

Last week I asked for suggestions, and I got a good one from Toronto artist Kevin Ghiglione (whose encaustic paintings I think are pretty amazing. I even own one). Here’s what he said:

Hi Marianne – abstraction will be a great way to present your new bodywork. Why don’t you gather up all of the inspiring photographs from your trip and put together and maybe something will come of that. There will be shapes. There will be colours. Patina. And I’m sure there will be feelings too – both passive and experienced. Try talking it through with a friend or an associate – because when you take all those dreamlike thoughts from your brain and talk about them and explain them – the simple fact of putting these thoughts into concrete words will make it much more concrete for you. I’m really excited what you going to produce!

Always one to try a suggestion, particularly if I’ve asked for it, I gave it a go. I looked through my photos and flipped through my sketchbook. I wrote some stream of consciousness about what I was looking at. I talked, to myself mostly, about what I found interesting and the visual cues that excited me. Then I set about painting.

The blue page I had started already, but had lost the thread of it part way thorough, and put it away. I had it finished within 20 minutes. While I’m not thrilled with the shapes, I do like the way you get the feeling there is something going on behind the surface. The charcoal marks and the spattering of ink peek through what could be a window or a passageway. I’m satisfied enough that I know I want to pursue the idea of covering up and scraping back… kind of like uncovering the old and decrepit under the new and the smooth.

The pink page I started with an idea of how I wanted to approach it, and I think it is my most successful of these experiments. The shapes work, the textures are lovely, and I like the way the linework doesn’t get obliterated by the paint.

I think I’ve got a path now. I’ve prepped some smaller canvases to start… a bunch of 12×12″ and a few 24×24″. I have a few large ones waiting as well, but I want to have a good idea of what I’m doing before I start those. We shall see how it goes.

A fine mess I’ve made here…

journal painting

I painted over this one 3 or 4 times. I’m not impressed, but I finally just decided to move on. Looking at it now, a few days later, I can see what’s wrong with it. Time, I suppose, is the artist’s friend.

While I’m in my exploratory stage, I do my best work when I approach it without any semblance of a plan. Not that hard really, knowing that even when I do have a plan, it very rarely works out the way I think it will.

Working as I do, I always get caught up in something. Sometimes it’s the way the paint is flowing, sometimes it is a subject, or maybe an emotion. I will try to identify what it is that grabs me, and then keep following the thread until I get to the end… or I lose interest, whichever comes first. That may be a half-dozen pieces, or it could keep me occupied for much, much longer. For instance, my Fascinating Rhythm series ended up being almost 50 paintings, and took me close to 2 years.

For this project, while I’ve identified what I loved about my trip to Portugal, I’ve yet to figure out how I’m going to translate that visually. I don’t particularly want to paint a bunch of landscapes. I could, and they would probably sell, but I’m much more interested painting abstracts. Maybe it’s time to forget about doing a concrete “inspired by” kind of collection, and just let its influence come through however it decides to show up. Any of my artist friends have suggestions on that?

ink drawing of a Beagle, Boarder CollieX

This little doggie was distracting me. She wanted my undivided attention at all times.

This week my work time was seriously curtailed by the furry visitor we had. Destiny is a beagle, border collie cross… and spending time with her you could see exactly how each breed influenced her personality. Nose to the ground for the entire time we were outside, going faster than any big dog I’ve walked, but stubbornly refusing to move if she smelled something interesting. That’s so Beagle. Inside, she would stare a hole through me if I was not paying attention to her. She wanted to be in my lap if at all possible. Made it a bit difficult to paint. Still, it was fun to have her here. And it is short term. If she were my dog I’d have to figure something out, but now she’s gone home, and I have a week free before the next one arrives. I’m certain I’ll get my paintings figured out by next week. I need to…. the clock is ticking.

Finding Direction

Visual Journal abstract entry in blue and gold

My intent here was to create a background that I could draw on with ink and white pastel. But I got a bit carried away with the paint.

Somehow I’ve become a carrier of a sketchbook. It’s not something that I’ve done regularly over the years… I’ve always had a sketchbook, and I’ve worked in it now and then, but it’s never been something I always had with me. It would usually take me a year  or more to fill one up. I think it’s because I paint more than I draw, and instead of going out and drawing the world around me, I would take a more “visual journal” approach with a book that could stand up to a bit of abuse.

I’ve been carrying this book around with me for the past two months. It’s almost full. All the practice has been good… I’m most definitely seeing improvement. But I have a show in October, and I need to figure out what I’m going to paint. So I went back to my tried and true, and made myself a little book out of watercolour paper, and started to paint.

Since I’ve been drawing in ink, my first thought was that I could do some mixed media kind of thing, using paint and india ink. I got out my paints and started, thinking I’d do a background, then add in some kind of abstract drawing, and take it from there. It didn’t quite work the way I had planned. I got totally absorbed in the way the paint flowed. I was mesmerized. I had painted something very much resembling work I’ve done before.

Back to the drawing board… this time I started with the drawing. I tried to draw one of the many stone archways I have in my sketchbook, only this time using a stick so I would have very little control over the resulting marks. I just ended up making a mess. The ink spattered and caught, but the shapes were interesting. Once it dried I used paint to try to pull the random marks into some kind of composition. It’s not bad, but a bit too chopped up. I did manage to capture the feel of a passageway though, so that’s encouraging.

I still have a bit of work to do. If somehow I could manage to combine the two approaches into something cohesive, I may have a something I can work with.

Abstract painting of an archway

Again, I thought I’d do a background and draw over top. Again, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Now comes the hard part

So, I spent a month travelling and collecting inspiration. It was amazing. Now… what do I do with it? How does everything new that I’ve seen and experienced translate into new art?

I don’t know yet. It’s always a question… how to take the thoughts and feelings of who I am at this moment, and make it visible into a body of work. And it’s going to have to be  a decent size body of work, because I’ve got a show lined up for October, and I have a gallery to fill. Yikes.

Where do I start? I thought a good place to start would be with a new notebook, to sort out the bits and pieces that come up as I’m working. A journal of sorts. I know I’m not really good with writing daily, but maybe if I have a book specifically for this purpose, that I like to write in… well, maybe I will actually do it.

I’ve altered hardcover notebooks for the writers in my life before. Started out as an idea for a Christmas present and turned into a thing. So, off I went to my local Staples and bought myself a plain black hardcover notebook, and started thinking about what I wanted it to look like.

For this, I opened my new book and started to write. Things that grabbed me while I was there? The rocks, the water, the old concrete buildings, and of course, the traditional tiles that were everywhere. I started with some texture gel to give me the feeling of the concrete. I thought about making a small pattern stencil and painting the entire cover, like a tiled wall, but in the end I decided to go with using acrylic molding paste through a single tile-like stencil, and adding colour in hues to represent the water. I used an underpainting in metallic bronze, and used transparent brown and turquoise over top, which lets the metallic glow through.  Overall I think it was a successful experiment. When I look at my book I am reminded of what I loved about Portugal. A good place to start processing.

I need a Hero…

Ink drawing of Mastiff dog

Our “loaner” dog, Hero. He stayed with us for a week, booked through the dog-sitting service DogVacay. He was a very agreeable subject. He let me take photos, and sat still enough I could draw from life. Sometimes.

So, for those of you who have been reading a while, you will know that I lost my dog in December. And the year before that, my other dog passed away. We went from being a 2 dog family to a no dog family, and it was difficult. As I am a dog person… and I mean really a dog person… people were predicting a couple of months before we got another dog, no matter how much I insisted we were not going down that road again.

My husband and I are still dogless. We want to travel. Together. It’s a challenge when you have 4 legged beasties to take care of. But we needed our doggie fix. So after a bit of investigation, we discovered the dog-sitting service DogVacay. It’s like the Air b&b of dog-sitting. Dog owners can search for a caregiver by location and availability. Hosts can choose what works for them, in terms of dog size and care requirements.  We immediately signed up to be hosts. Essentially, we get to have a dog now and then without having to commit to being full-time “parents”. How perfect.

Our first “loaner”, as I’ve taken to calling them, was Hero. He is an adorable 2-year-old Bull Mastiff pup, and he stayed with us for a week while his family were off on vacation. It’s amazing how quickly we got attached. It was a bit sad to see him go home, but it was nice at the same time. We got to do the walks and play with him for a short time, which was fun. But it isn’t something that’s required daily for the next 10 years, and I can appreciate that. And it was wonderful that he was calm enough that I had a great subject to draw while he was here.

And I’ve had that old Bonnie Tyler song stuck in my head for the entire time…

Guest Post: Collage artist Linda VanWyk

Collage painting by Linda VanWyck.

Collage painting “Collaboration in Nature”,  by artist Linda VanWyk.

I’ve decided to start something new here. I have so many wonderfully talented friends making some fabulous art, that I wanted to share with my readers. So in 2017, every now and again I’m going to have a guest artist here on my blog.

I met Linda VanWyk a few years ago, when we both exhibited at the Arts on the Credit art fair. I had the pleasure of having the booth beside hers, so when we had lulls in traffic we could chat and brows through each other’s work. I LOVED her collages. Both her representational and abstract work blew me away. Anyway… I’ll let her tell you herself about what she does.

Written by Guest artist, Linda VanWyk:

I am thrilled that Marianne has asked me to be a guest blogger this month. My name is Linda VanWyk and I am a collage artist. You can see my work at http://www.lindavanwyk.com

In my post today, I am going to talk about making and using your own collage paper. Often I find making collage paper to be the most creative thing I do. It’s a way for me to express my joy of color, pattern and mark making with no restrictions, rules or limitations. The collage paper is made with no end product in sight.

While many artists use ‘found ‘ papers in their collage works, I only use papers that I have painted myself. Even though this is important to me, it is by no means the only option available to you.

If you look at my acrylic / collage paintings, you will see hundreds of different pieces of painted paper that are combined to create my compositions. Each piece might have a different texture, color combination and pattern.

You can apply collage paper with acrylic fluid and/or gel medium to various supports including w/c paper, stone paper, Mylar, stretched canvas and panels.

I have recently started combining my collage paper with oil paint and cold wax on oil paper and panels. While the first layer can be applied with acrylic mediums, once you start using oil paint subsequent collage pieces need to be applied with cold wax.

Here are some tips for painting your own collage paper:

  • Have fun! This is just an exercise.
  • Paper – large sheets of bond paper, Japanese papers, deli paper and acid free tissue paper
  • Paint – acrylic paints (fluid and tube), acrylic inks, plan to mix various color combinations – while you are waiting for one piece to dry, start another
  • Other mark making tools – charcoal sticks, oil pastels, coloured pencils, watercolour pencils
  • Patterns – draw directly on to the painted paper, use various stencils while painting, stamp the paper with homemade or purchased stamps, make marks into wet paint using various tools (paint brushes, spatulas, other household objects)

All of your collage painted paper has a way of accumulating. If you are thinking of using them on a regular basis, you might want to think about how you can store them so that you can easily retrieve the perfect colour and/or pattern when you need it.

 Here are a couple of options for storage:

Small and large pieces can be stored in drawers but I often find that I don’t readily see all of the pieces. If I am using storage drawers I tend to set up each drawer by color.

Alternatively I hang paper via hangers and clips. I can easily and quickly look at each piece and choose what I need.

Photo of studio of artist Linda VanWyck

One way to sort your collage papers to make them easily accessible.

Happy Painting!

You can reach me at  linda@lindavanwyk.com

Upcoming Events:

A pen and a sketchbook is all I need…

Ink sketch done on the beach in Albufeira, Portugal

I loved the rocks and trees by the beach. I tried to capture it a few times.

Oh, it’s good to be home. I had a great time, and I am so incredibly inspired… but hell, it’s wonderful to sleep in my own bed. I missed my home, I missed my boys, and I missed grocery shopping in English.

I am so fortunate that I was able to paint during my visit. It’s not a luxury I would have had if I stayed in a hotel. I will be eternally grateful to my host for the opportunity. But as an artist looking for inspiration, I know that all I need is a sketchbook and a pen. The rest is a bonus.

My drawings started off a bit rough… after the first time out I was actually beginning to think I had forgotten how to draw. It has been a long time, after all. But persistence is one of those things that usually pay off. After a few days working consistently I started to feel more comfortable. My drawings improved. Then I discovered my new fountain pen has water-soluble ink… what an awesome discovery!  I also got out my watercolours and did a few coloured sketches. By three weeks in I was doing a couple drawings a day along with whatever else I was working on. It’s like I found myself again.

Now if only I can manage to hang onto this feeling now that I’m back at work. Easer said than done, I fear.

The Leftovers: Lisbon and the Algarve

Lisboa view

View of the city of Lisbon

I’m home. It took a while, but I made it. The trip was long… it actually took 2 days. Started out normally enough, a bit late boarding the plane but not unusually so. But then we sat out on the tarmac. And sat. And sat. Finally, we went back into the terminal to sit there until they figured out if they could fix the problem with the plane. And then they bussed the lot of us to a hotel for the night. Sounds like an ordeal but it was actually kinda fun… the hotel was on the other side of the city, so we got a bus tour of an area I hadn’t managed to get to. I got to drive right under the aqueduct, which I was sure I was going to miss altogether. The hotel was quite nice, and we were provided with a lovely buffet dinner. I spent a few hours talking to my fellow passengers over food and wine… people I would never really had the opportunity to talk to if we had just got on the plane and gone. I made a couple new friends. And when we did finally get going, it was almost like being at a social event. People were wandering the aisles chatting, instead of just sitting there watching the inflight entertainment. Not too bad at all.

I’ve noticed a few things about the Portuguese. They run on their own version of time… and nobody seems to get irritated at delays. People just go with the flow, and things work out. Every place seems to shut down for a few hours in the afternoon. I was told they go home and have lunch with their families. Maybe have a nap. I think North Americans should take note… they seem to be much happier than the average person here.

People in Europe seem to have normal shaped bodies. I saw very few insanely thin women, bulked up men, or obese people. I also noticed that by comparison, at 5’7″, I am tall (here I am on the short side of average). I noticed this while on a crowded metro in Lisbon. I was one of the tallest people in the car. I wonder if this is because of all the additives we have in our food…. because the food in Portugal seems much fresher and less processed. The bread is stale in two days, the egg yolks are almost orange instead of pale yellow, and the majority of the supermarket is fresh produce, meat, cheese, fish. Not nearly as much in packages. And of course there is always lots of wine. It is local, inexpensive, and very good. And a part of life. Here, if you drink wine with every meal people would think you have a problem.

The cities there do not seem to be built for the car. There are areas that are pedestrian only, and lots of people on foot. While I might see lots of pedestrians in downtown Toronto, outside of that it’s not as common. Women in Portugal do not wear heels as a matter of course. It’s not practical at all given the cobblestone streets and the hills… you’d be likely to break an ankle if you tried to navigate the roads in stiletto heels.  Almost everyone in Portugal speaks more than one language. Chatting with the woman who runs the art supply store in Albufeira, I asked how many languages she spoke. Five. Finding someone with both our official languages here is unusual. And while I speak bits and pieces of a few different languages, I am only able to have an actual conversation in English. I really should work on that.

Europeans seem to see a value in old things that we in North America don’t. There is history everywhere. Yes, I understand we are a much younger country, but I returned to a flap about a heritage building in Toronto being unexpectedly demolished.  Even in my own neighbourhood we have a grand, old building presently being “rebuilt”… oh they saved the facade, but the rest of the building had to go. Why not just renovate and restore? From what I understand it was structurally sound… but I digress…

I’ve just started going through my hundreds of photos from the trip. I had some interesting ones that I haven’t posted yet, along with my shots from the couple of days in Lisbon. If you’ve been following along, it might be of interest to check them out. I loved Lisbon…. and kinda wish I had more time. I got to see the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the Santa Justa lift and the Carmo Church ruins, but missed the Jerónimos Monastery  and the Belem tower. I guess I’ll get to those next time. And there will be a next time.

Oh, and if you happen to be interested in visiting the area I was in, the villa I stayed in is rented out when not otherwise in use. You can check it out on the website allgoalgarve.com.

And some bits and pieces leftover from my Algarve photos (click on a pic to go through the slide show)…

The end is near…

landscape painting inspired by Algarve, Portugal.

“In the Golden Light”. Acrylic on Canvas. Private collection. Inspired by the rocky cliffs by the beach in Albufeira, Portugal.

My trip is nearing its end, and I’ve spent the last few days finishing up my last couple projects and taking a last look at this amazing landscape. I hopped on a train Saturday and trekked to Lisbon (photos to come), to spend the time before I fly out exploring something new. I head out tomorrow morning, and am back to work on Tuesday. The time has flown by.

Abstracted cityscape painted in Albufeira, Portugal

Acrylic on Canvas. Private collection. Created on site in Albufeira, Portugal

My companion for my last week in Albufeira was Suzanne Southerton and her husband Andy. What a fun pair. Dry, English humour from the both of them… very different from my Texan friends but just as fun. She was busy painting away from her first day. Her stuff was looking good. I imagine the few paintings she gets done will end up being house favourites.

I’ve hit my first bit of unpleasant weather this week. Thursday it rained like hell… not just a little drizzle but torrential downpours off and on right into the night. I had been checking the forecast so it was expected… I had a last canvas I’d left unfinished so I’d have something to work on that day. Saturday the rain kept up, and it’s expected to rain all day today as well.

Figures… exploring a new city in the rain isn’t quite the same as doing it in nice weather. Come to think of it, last time I was in Lisbon (many, many moons ago) it rained the whole time as well. I guess it’s just one of those cities I’m destined to have grey, wet photos of. I can’t complain though… I’ve been here for a month, and up until this week every day has been pleasant and sunny. If it hadn’t been I’m sure my paintings would have turned out much differently.

abstracted landscape inspired by the rocky cliffs in Albufeira, Portugal.

“Golden Hills” Acrylic on Canvas. Private Collection. Inspired by the wonderful landscape in Albufeira, Portugal. The metallic looks so much better in real life. It’s difficult to get an accurate image.

Painting by 9 different artists created in Albufeira, Portugal

Final painting created by all the artists staying at the Albufeira “Casa de Cor” in 2017. Mine is the flowers with the butterfly.

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