Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

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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.

Inspiration of the Algarve

Painting of the Albufeira beach.

The painting was to represent what reminds me of the Algarve. To me, that is these rock cliffs. I’ve used metallic (those light areas on the rocks) to give the feeling of the sun hitting them. The painting changes with the sun at different times of the day… just like the rocks.

Been a busy week. If you follow me  on social media, you’ll know I worked on a couple of paintings, hauled my gear into town for a plein air painting session with Abner Cabriales  (who has agreed to do a guest post! Yay!), did some sketching, walked endlessly, and ate a lot. It’s been fun. The weather cooled down a bit the last few days, so it seemed a perfect time to stay indoors and finish up the numerous things I’ve started. My big triptych is finished, and I’ve got a couple smaller paintings done as well. I hope my host will be happy.

Painting on the streets of Albufeira

painting in the streets of Albuferia. Lots of people stopped to look, but no one commented…

My stay here is nearing an end, and I have to admit, I’m ready to get back to real life. I’ve arranged to spend my last couple days in Lisbon. Seeing as I fly out of the Lisbon airport, it seemed the best time to fit in some sightseeing. Hopefully it won’t rain the whole time I’m there. The forecast doesn’t seem to be working in my favour this time. But hey, as I have yet to see any rain at all, I can’t really complain. I have a tan… ok, a somewhat reddish tan as it was hot one day this week and I seem to have gotten a wee bit of a burn. And yes, I was wearing sunscreen, but I’ve got fair hair and freckles. It happens.

This week’s photos are from the eastern part of the Algarve. Of the few towns I got to visit, Travira was the one that captured my imagination. What a beautiful little city. Built into a steep incline, as most towns in the Algarve seem to be, it was endless trekking up and down hills. Many of the heritage buildings have been restored, but some are just at that level of gorgeous shabbiness… a bit run down but not yet sketchy, a bit of crumbling concrete, old windows, cobblestone streets that need just a bit of repair. There is a cobblestone bridge that runs across the river in the centre of town. I assumed it was a pedestrian bridge until I saw a car trying to cross… and having to wait for the people to get out of the way.

The age of everything here amazes me. I was told that all these heritage buildings were protected by law, so the people who bought them couldn’t tear them down to put up a more modern structure. They could restore them and renovate the inside, but that’s it. It certainly lends to the old world charm of this place. It almost feels like time has stopped.

One morning this week we got up really early to trek down to the beach for the sunrise. Abner’s wife, Yvonne, also dragged herself out of bed for the excursion,  though I’m not sure if that was her idea or not. I haven’t seen such colours in the sky in a while. I’ve been figuring out how to use all the manual settings on my camera during my trip, so I have loads of photos using various exposures. Some turned out pretty well, others, not so much. At least I got a few that work for me. Maybe before I go I’ll try to photograph the sunset as well. Just, well… because.

I’m on my own for a couple days now until the next artist arrives. Suzanne Southerton, from the UK, will be the last one here. While I like the quiet, it was way more fun having someone else around who thinks in the same weird way. Abner would point out an old, broken wooden door with peeling paint, inset in crumbling concrete, and I would swoon along with him at the beauty. Yvonne would roll her eyes. Although she did spend days watching us paint, claiming it was fascinating to her. Not sure how that is fascinating, but ok. I do know that I appreciate the wonderful meals the two of them would whip up, and gratefully roll up my sleeves to clean up the dishes. A month of solitude would have been a totally different experience.

I’m not missing the snow in Canada. At all.

sketchbook drawing of rocks

Trying to figure out how to split my drawing over 3 canvases. This will be the largest piece I will do here.

I’m two weeks into my stay in Albufeira, Portugal, and things are going wonderfully here. There is just SO much to be inspired by. The weather has been perfect…. pleasantly warm but not too hot, days full of sunshine with cool nights. I have to keep reminding myself its January. I’m buying fresh fruit and vegetables in the markets that taste like summer. Yesterday I had a bowl full of sweet, juicy strawberries that I can only get at home in June. Life is good.

Artist Abner Cabriales working on a carving out on the villa's back patio.

Artist Abner Cabriales working on a carving out on the villa’s back patio.

I’m sharing the villa with another artist, Abner Cabriales, a wood-carver/painter traveling from Texas. His trip has not gone nearly as smoothly. Flight delays and connections took up a couple days, and he just got his hands on his lost luggage, only to find one of his tools missing. A resourceful guy, he managed to figure out the city busses to get to a hardware store for a replacement. He even knows how to rejig the thing so he can use it once he gets back home (if you didn’t already know, European electrical outlets are very different from ours in North America). Lost luggage was the situation I was dreading, being the type of person who thinks through every conceivable bad scenario for every situation. I would have had some kind of meltdown if my tools had gone missing.

underpainting for a large painting

Starting to paint.

I’ve done a bit more traveling around and sightseeing, and of course more photos. But I have also buckled down to get some work done. The most fantastic thing to me are the colours I’m seeing everywhere. No surprise there I guess, given that colour is really my “thing”. The rocks, the sand, the water, contrasting with the white concrete houses. Amazing.

As unlikely a thing as I can imagine, I decided I wanted to paint a landscape. I haven’t done landscape painting in eons, and I’ve never really done it seriously. But being surrounded by such beautiful scenery, how could I not paint it? I’ve been posting a few progress shots on my social media feeds… I’ll chronicle them a bit better here next week. I think all the abstract work I’ve been doing has made me much more aware of things like composition and value. These paintings will probably be better than any landscape I’ve done before. It’ll be interesting to see how this experience changes my future work. I’m certain it’ll all be good.

Bem Vindo a Portugal. I hope you work out.

old town, Albufeira

Very hilly city…. my legs are going to look great after a month of trekking around here.

I’ve been in Portugal a few days now. It has been days filled with walking, learning, figuring things out, trying out all things new and different. There were things about this town that I knew from my research, but you don’t really know until you experience it. For instance, I know Albufeira is a hilly city. But holy cow, hilly is an understatement. When you walk around here you are either travelling up or down. There is no flat. After a couple days my legs feel like I did some kind of heavy duty training workout at the gym. No wonder I have not seen any really large people here. I don’t think you could manage.

There are areas here that are closed off to cars. Pedestrians only. I love that. It’s winter here… the off-season… so the town is not overrun with tourists. You see them around of course. I’ve learned that many older British people winter here. Kind of like Florida for us Canadians. It’s pleasantly warm (it’s been sunny and 17-20°C every day so far), the sun shines, it’s pretty easy to get around. I can definitely understand the appeal.

20170105_185930

Less than 20 euros worth of groceries. Including a decent size bottle of olive oil. Oh and there was a bottle of wine with that. Which was open and started already.

Getting groceries was fun. First finding the grocery store. It was a bit of a hike from the  villa, but not unreasonable. I guess I went at a busy time, as it seemed people were a bit impatient with me wondering the aisles, dumbstruck. The fish counter was something to behold. More fish than I’ve ever seen at a single time. Stuff I didn’t even recognize. I would have snapped a photo if I didn’t think I would have gotten pushed out of the way as I got out my camera. Taxes are high here… 23% on things like coffee and “luxury items” (I bought a tin of some kind of squid. Delicious), and 6% on the normal stuff. But to counter that the prices were fairly low. 2 euros got me a decent bottle of red wine, and the yogurt was probably 1/2 what I’d pay at home. Interesting.

I’ve found the local art supply store and bought some canvas, though I haven’t started to paint yet. I figured I needed to see the place first…. gather my inspiration. There are many things I can see inspiring me. There are these incredible rock formations along the beaches that are so interesting. The buildings are white concrete… I assume to keep them cool when it hits 40° in the summer months. The roofs are mostly made of these red tiles… the repeating shapes draw me in. It’s going to be a bit tough to narrow down what will be the subject when I get to work. I’ve done some simple sketches and taken a load of photos, but I think I may take my watercolours around town and do some on-site work. It’s different working from life than working from a photo. I think I should know my subject well before I start. The fun is just beginning.

Buh-bye 2016. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Abstract painting in earthy green-grey and aqua

“Weight of the World”, Acrylic on Canvas. Available.

Hello 2017!! I am SO ready for 2016 to be over. I know a lot of people have had a pretty great year, but I can’t say the same for me. Illness and loss, strange unpleasant things going on at work, overall state of the world getting to me. I’m ready for a change. And change is starting now.

I can’t believe it’s happening, but I’m leaving for Portugal day after tomorrow! Getting to go on this trip is something I am extremely grateful for. I’m excited and terrified all at once. I’m leaving other people to look after my responsibilities. Something I never do. My husband and son are going to have to look after themselves. Cook for themselves. Clean up after themselves. People at my day job are going to have to do my work while I’m away. I know these people are adults and are perfectly capable, but relinquishing control has always been a little difficult for me. But I think I can manage.

The last couple weeks I’ve been running around like a maniac. So many little things to look after before I go. Trying to figure out what tools I should bring and what I can buy there. Do I need a cellphone plan? (I think so). Can I manage to post to my blog without taking my laptop? (no). Should I bring my big, bulky camera or just use my phone for pictures? (still undecided).  It’s been so long since I’ve travelled I just don’t know… but I know I have to resist the urge to pack everything. One thing I remember about travel is that dragging around a heavy bag is not fun. A small suitcase on wheels and a backpack is it, and if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t come with me.

It’s helpful to know there is an art supply store in Albufeira, about a 20 minute walk from the villa where I am staying. I should be able to get pretty much anything I need. I can do most of my prep work with a pen and a sketchbook. A few big brushes have to come with me because they’re expensive and I don’t want to buy them again. I’ll have access to laundry facilities, so clothes can be minimal. My host has been incredibly helpful with lots of information. I know it will be easier than it was when I was last in Europe (over 20 years ago… wow. when the hell did I get that old?!), when I had to struggle with international operators to call my mom (this was pre-email, folks, but moms don’t change. You still had to check in), and had to carry around traveller’s cheques which I often had trouble cashing. And my camera used FILM! Imagine! It took me months to get all my pictures back because I couldn’t afford to get all 12 rolls developed and printed at the same time. I know this will be a different experience altogether. I am older and wiser. And I have a credit card. That makes all kinds of things easier.

So overall, I’m looking forward to 2017 and all the new experiences it will bring. I can’t remember the last time a new year started with such promise. It’s a good sign. Ok… so now I have to go finish packing….

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