Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Eternal Sunshine

Abstract painting in soft yellow and green

Painting #20 of my 100 Square Project. “Eternal Sunshine”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

I live in Canada. I love Canada… there are a lot of wonderful things about living here that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But there is one thing that I can’t say I love. Winter.

I don’t mind the cold so much. Like many Canadians, I own two winter coats. One for days where the temp hovers around the 0 mark, and another that has special insulated lining and a hood made to keep me warm(ish) when it’s -20° outside. And a brisk winter day when the sun is shining on fresh snow and ice is magical. Everything sparkles. But the time when the sun is actually out is brief, and as we head toward Christmas, actual daylight hours get progressively shorter.

There is a stretch in December when the days seem practically non-existent. It’s dark when I get to work. It’s dark when I leave. It starts getting dark at 4 in the afternoon, and once I’m home the last thing I want to do is go out again. I force myself to go outside on my lunch breaks, because no matter how cold it is, I need to see the sun for at least a few minutes a day. If only to reassure myself it still exists.

A few years ago I bought myself a sunlamp. They are made for treating people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition where the lack of light makes you depressed. Yes, that is a real thing. My doctor recommended it, and I figured even if it didn’t help with my mood, I needed a good light in my studio anyway.  Turns out it does help. I use it year round, though in the summer I tend to work on larger pieces on my easel at the window. I have it on my work table, and it’s on whenever I’m working at the table. Sometimes I’ll even go in there to read, because I need a dose of light.

I’m planning on moving my studio into a larger room in my home at some point in the future. The bigger paintings I have been working on take up so much space in my small room that I can hardly move in there. Since we have the space, I might as well make use of it. My only issue is the room is in the basement, and the lighting is pretty crappy. Once we fix that, it’s a go. Right now I’m wondering if they make those sunlamps so they can be mounted on the ceiling. I could have a sunny studio all year round, even though it’s underground. Lighting has come a long way with the invention of LED lights. I’ll sort it out eventually. In the meantime, I will dream of eternal sunshine.

Rough Patch

abstract painting in orange and teal on a neutral ground.

“Rough Patch”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel. Private Collection.

This is my latest addition to my 100 Squares Project. This one started with a color combination, that teal and orange I like so much, and an idea to create some texture by scraping back areas of paint as it is drying. I did manage to get some really interesting bits… as usual, the result of layer upon layer, with parts of the underneath showing through.

It surprised me last weekend when this piece was one of the first to sell at my studio sale. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do. I guess I have my favorites, but it’s hard to know if it’s because they were a “breakthrough” painting, or because they are particularly beautiful. This one didn’t work quite the way I wanted it to and I struggled a bit with the composition. It’s one of my few pieces that don’t touch every side… a thing a professor in university told me I need to do, and I’ve been doing ever since. It’s not easy to break a habit of 20 years.

I work in groupings. For these, I’ve been going in groups of 5 or so, and when I finish up one I will add a new one into the rotation. It’s mainly because that’s how much space I have to lay them flat on the floor to dry. Any more and they are in my way. One of these days I’ll put up shelves… but then I might never finish anything. I really love the beginning part where I’m just instinctively putting paint on the board. The finishing is more difficult. That’s when I evaluate the composition and fix the things that aren’t working. Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell what it is that isn’t working. But the more I do it, the better I seem to get at it. Like anything, practice helps.

The ones where I finally stumbled upon that elusive element that takes a painting to another level are ones I am particularly attached to. “From Here to There” is one like that. That one didn’t sell. But I’m attached to it, and so I will hang it on my wall until it finds that person that loves it like I do.

Thanks to everyone who came out to my Studio Sale last weekend. It was more successful than I had dared hope for. In many ways, it validated that I am on the right track. I now have motivation to keep going. I’m not sure what shows I’ll be doing in 2018, but there will likely be at least one art fair in the mix. Hope to see you there.

Like a Moth to a Flame

Abstract mixed media painting in blue and brown on a neutral background

“Like a Moth to a Flame”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

This panel was one of my first forays into collage with this series. I’ve used collage before as part of a painting, but for the most part, it adds texture and is completely covered with paint by the end. This little moth was added near the end of the process when I realized I needed something dark in that area. I like that it isn’t blended in and you can still see the edges of the torn paper. It’s evidence of the process.

I’ve got printouts of bugs on my work table. All different sorts… bees, dragonflies, beetles, spiders. I’ve had a fascination with various types of bugs since I was a kid. I don’t like them so much when they’re alive… they kind of creep me out actually. But they are interesting.

The ancient Egyptians used a scarab beetle to represent Khepri, or Ra the sun-god. It symbolized self-creation or rebirth. (As the story goes, Khepri renewed the sun every day before rolling it above the horizon, then carried it through the other world after sunset, only to renew it, again, the next day). They viewed these bugs as good luck and buried them with their dead. Ick. But still, interesting. I often use this imagery in my visual journals. This is the first time I’ve used any kind of insect on a painting where you can still see it when I’m finished.

I see the moth and butterfly as much the same… a symbol of renewal or rebirth. It’s the stages… the caterpillar, chrysalis, and ultimately, a rebirth into an entirely new being. It’s symbolic and adds some layer of meaning to an image that is otherwise just colour and shape.

This painting is number 18 in my 100 Square Project. I’m a long way from the end. I’ve started a few more that should be finished for my Studio Sale next weekend. My goal is to sell enough to set up an e-commerce store so I can step up to the next level. I know art sells online, I’m just not set up to do it yet. I’m hopeful an online store and selling prints alongside original works will allow me to make enough income to cut back my hours at my day job. I know I’ve learned a lot in my work life that is serving me well now.  I can do things on my own that other artists have to pay people to do for them. My technical skill is useful. But it’s not everything. The time has come for me to become the artist I was meant to be. 

Studio Sale November 26, 2017

Short post this week. Just want to announce a clear out sale I’m having in my studio, on Nov. 26.  I have a large amount of work and seem to be running out of space. Its gotten to the point of selling it or starting to paint over things. That’s not something I really want to do.

I’m putting my entire inventory on sale at 25% off, with an extra discount for my email list subscribers (you can sign up by putting your email in the sidebar area if you are so inclined. There will be a coupon code in next week’s email). And as always, if you already own one of my originals there is an extra special deal for you.

I still have a decent number of my musician/dancer paintings, as well as my entire series of Jazz Legends. I’ve got quite a few small pieces as well as big, statement paintings, some prints and matted works on paper. Something for every budget.

It might not be the easiest place to find… the numbers on the houses don’t go sequentially around the circle part of the street… so here’s a link to a map. Hope to see you there.

Thoughts for a Summer Morning

Abstract painting in teal and brown on a neutral ground.

“Thoughts for a Summer Morning”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

A bit late for that “summer morning” thing, yeah? Isn’t it November? Well, up until last week it has been feeling like summer… we’ve been out and about with balmy temps that are more seasonable in early September than late October. I was actually thinking this could be the year where the kids were out for Halloween without needing a coat over their costumes. Didn’t happen, but only 2 days before I was out in a t-shirt. Weather-wise, it’s been an odd year. June was chilly, July cool, even August didn’t feel like summer. But September and October have been lovely. Sunny and warm.  It wasn’t until last week that I even thought about getting out a winter jacket. I live in Canada. This isn’t normal.

I have a few of these 10×10 panels hanging around my studio that I didn’t get to in time for my show. I started a few but didn’t get them done. And there were a couple I had primed but didn’t start. I figured that was the easiest way to get back to work… picking up where I left off. I enjoy working on these little paintings. I can, quite literally, do anything. I can experiment. Try new things. Any mistake is fast to cover, and even if I end up with 20 layers of paint, it still doesn’t turn into a huge project.

Small pieces have other advantages. They can be sold for a relatively low price, great for the novice collector. And they are easily transported to and from shows, inexpensive to ship, relatively easy to store. So here I am wondering… why don’t I do more?

I had many of these little gems on exhibit in October, including this one. I’ve got them hung in rows now in a hallway… minus the 4 that I’ve already sold. I have a couple other spaces that would look good with an arrangement of these little squares. And I like doing them, which is really the point. I’ve decided I’m going to turn this into a real “project”. They are 10×10″. If I did 10 rows and 10 columns… so 10×10… that’s 100. One hundred squares… it kinda has a nice ring to it.

It may take me a year or more to get these all finished, but it will be interesting to see where this will take me. I should number them as I post them… it’ll be cool to see how my work changes from beginning to end. I sort of remember what order they were done in. Or what groups they were done in any way. I was working in sets of 5, going back and forth between them until they were finished. Well, no time like the present to start I suppose. This one will be 16.

16 of 100. I’ve got a long way to go.

Flight of the Bumblebee

Abstract painting in blue and ocre

“Flight of the Bumblebee”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel. Sold.

When I start a painting, I generally have no clue where it’s going to end up. There was a time when I planned. Oh, how I planned. But kind of like trying to map out a 10-year plan for your life, shit happens and things go off the rails and often you end up somewhere completely different than where you thought you were headed.

The thing with planning… I was always disappointed with the results. That thing that I saw in my head, there was no way I could translate that into something real and concrete. It looked wrong somehow. It lacked the life other artists managed to achieve in their paintings. It wasn’t just the masters that managed this, even my some of my contemporaries could breathe life into their work. And that was why they were showing all over the place, and I was not.

When I finally gave up on planning my paintings, things improved exponentially. Suddenly rather than trying to recreate what I what I was thinking, I was finding the image that just seemed to appear as I worked. This one started with a collaged image of a bee… which inspired the title. That little bee is in there somewhere, under layers of paint and graphite and scraping and sanding. The bee inspired the color palette, the flight path gave me the movement. This one is all about that bee, even though you can’t see it anymore.

This painting was sold as soon as my show came down, along with a couple others. I am still humbled that people love my work enough to want to hang it in their homes, even after the last few years of somewhat consistent sales.

I have a lot of work in my home. Seriously, a lot. There comes a time in every artist’s life where they have to clear out the old to make room for the new. That time has come for me. I am going to be holding an open studio sale, with everything discounted. I’ve got a bunch of prints, and originals of all sizes and price points. Mark November 26th on your calendar if you’ve had your eye on a painting. And sign up for my email newsletter (see sidebar for signup box), for details on how to get an even better deal. Hope to see you then.

October Wind

abstract landscape in brown tones

“October Wind”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel. Private Collection.

What determines the value of something? I’ve been mulling that question over in my mind all week. Something happened at work that had me questioning the value of what I bring to their (the company’s) table. It would seem that we are not on the same page about how necessary the skills are that I have worked hard to attain. What is valuable to me is not necessarily valuable to the guy sitting beside me. It seems to be a fluid thing. I’m not sure I’ve figured it all out just yet.

When I think about the work that I do “on the side”, I know the value it brings me. My art brings me a sense of calm that I don’t get anywhere else. I can retreat into my own mind, be in my own moment, and create this thing that will recreate that feeling for me when I look at it. It’s like meditation made physical. I continue to create because I need to feel like I am contributing to the world in a positive way. I don’t feel that when I’m sitting in front of a computer screen, no matter what I’m working on.

The times that I have sold a painting, I know that the person who bought it sees the value in what I’m doing. Of course they do, they just handed me money that they, no doubt, worked hard for. I’ve connected to something inside of them. It may not be the same thing I feel when I look at the piece, but they feel something. Something that they value.

I’ve brought all my work home from the gallery this week. My show is over, cut a bit short by the Professor strike at the university. I understand where these teachers are coming from. They, too, believe their value is more than what the institutions they are a part of think it is. They are fighting to be treated fairly, to have some stability in their lives. The government sees the new way of temporary and part-time as a way to save money. Hopefully, they can sort things out soon. Come to some kind of agreement and make a reasonable compromise.

The way things are right now, everybody loses.


Ocean Tide

abstract painting in deep teal and brown with metallic details by Canadian artist Marianne Morris

“Ocean Tide”, 36×48″ mixed media on canvas.

My initial inspiration for this piece was my photos from Portugal where I was looking down through the rocks into the ocean. The waves would roll in and crash against the rocks, creating areas of white foam. Looking into the water you could see the edges of the rocks… the crevices creating deep shadows or colour shifts where the light penetrated. I didn’t post any of those photos… they were more of a reminder for me than something for other people to look at. But they are still taped up to my studio wall. It was so fascinating to look at that I went back to that spot to take pictures again and again.

This piece is the last one I managed to get finished before the kitchen reno started. I was on a roll and could have kept going, but ran out of time. I love working at this size. It takes long enough that you can really get absorbed in the piece. I’d go back into the studio after a night of working and see something new that I needed to change. Once I decided it was done, it was definitely done.

In a way, I had been a bit afraid to work this large. I’m not sure why. It’s intimidating to look at this big blank canvas that is almost as tall as I am. But once I got going I realized the potential. This is a whole body kind of painting. I used big brushes, big tools, and big movements. I mixed big containers of paint so I wouldn’t run out of a colour. I used a kitty litter bucket to hold my water. I put a tarp down on the floor so I wouldn’t make too big a mess. And I realized that if I want to go any bigger, I’m going to need a larger studio…

Uma Noite De Arte

University of Guelph Humber event planning student team

Me and the event-planning students that planned my opening reception. They did an amazing job. Photo by Lyn Photography, Toronto. 

It’s done. The show is open, the reception is over and I can relax for a couple of weeks before I start planning whatever comes next. It was a great experience. I committed to something big, I worked hard and managed to put together a cohesive collection of paintings of a decent number. Whew.

Wine bottles and candlelight with seasonal arrangements set the mood.

Wine bottles and candlelight with seasonal arrangements set the mood.

The opening reception was inspired. I was assigned a team of kids learning about event planning, who were really thinking outside the box in terms of the “art show opening” genre. They combed through my blog and extracted bits and pieces that gave some background about the creation process, they created a brochure outlining my inspiration, they created the mood of a European bistro complete with samplings of Portuguese food. No rubber cheese and bad coffee here.

The paintings were grouped together by color scheme and arranged creatively. I had assumed they would just be hung on the walls like in most galleries, but they suspended shelving and arranged pedestals to display the little 10×10″ pieces (since they were on 2″ wood cradleboard, they stood upright with no issues). The larger pieces were set on easels around the room with enough space around them to back for a good look. I had one moment where I watched someone back into an easel and I thought that piece was a goner, but he steadied it quickly and it didn’t fall. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time a piece had gotten damaged at a show… but the kids would have been devastated so I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with that.

students looking at paintings

Some student visitors checking out the art

Overall we had a really good turnout. Along with friends, coworkers and University staff, a lot of students came out, which kind of surprised me. I figure they came for the food, but most of them did take the time to look around and I had quite a few interesting conversations. It was great to see people so you interested in art. By the time we closed up, the comment box was stuffed full, and I felt like I had been talking for hours. Exhausted, but satisfied with the outcome.

Given that this is a public gallery and part of a course requirement for the kids involved, the paintings could not be sold through the gallery. But I am hoping that the people who inquired about pricing follow up once the show comes down. Because now I have 30 new pieces of art I’m going to have to find a place to store….

part of the art display

The art was placed around the room on easels or pedestals. The mood was created with soft ambient light and spotlights on the paintings.

Check out more photos from the show, taken by Lyn Photography based in Toronto.

Force of Nature

abstract painting in blue and teal by Canadian artist Marianne Morris

“Force of Nature” 24×24″ mixed media on canvas

Been a busy week. I’ve finished up all the last minute stuff for my show and have dropped off all my paintings to the gallery. I have a team of university students taking care of the opening reception. They are getting business degrees, and this is part of their event planning unit. They have a budget (!!!) and have been working hard on making the evening memorable.

Join me for an evening of art at University of Guelph-Humber Art Gallery in Toronto.It feels odd to be at the center of this whole thing. I’m really not used to being the center of attention. I usually find openings pretty exhausting. I’m introverted by nature, and while I enjoy meeting people and getting to know them, it really drains me. For a while, I thought if I just went to more I would eventually get better at it.  Hasn’t happened yet, but I keep trying.

The kids have pretty much free rein for the event. I don’t feel the need to be involved with all the little details. I’ve given my stamp of approval to the brochure they’ve created, and am cool with the theme they came up with. I think the whole night will be pretty fun… I hope they get a decent turnout. I think they are graded on how things go. Little unexpected things always happen, but if you just go with it things usually work out fine.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to take photos, but I will have a few friends there who I hope will get a couple. I’ll try to post a few shots next week. And if you happen to be in the Toronto area and free Thursday evening, come on out.

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