Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

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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….

Fixing a screw up…

Abstract painting in sunshine yellow, turquoise and violet

“With Apologies” 9×9″ Mixed Media on paper. Private Collection.

This week I got an email from a client informing me that a painting I had shipped out to her had arrived…. damaged. Crap. A week before Christmas, and it had been purchased for a gift. It was obvious to me that I had screwed up… I didn’t pack it well enough to survive the trip from Ontario to BC. I could make a bunch of excuses. I’ve been busy, preoccupied with the chaos at work, getting ready for Christmas, dealing with issues at work and home. Beside the point. I knew this wouldn’t have happened if I had just been more careful. What an awful feeling.

Carelessness isn’t in my DNA. I’m the artist that is the last to leave a show, carefully wrapping all my paintings in bubble wrap so they won’t get damaged in the car. I’m good at my day job because of an OCD level of attention to detail. I contacted my client and asked how I could make this right? I offered a refund, or I could paint her something similar and get it in the mail within the next couple days. She opted for the replacement piece…. so with just 6 days until Christmas eve, I was in my studio painting.

Abstract painting in sunshine yellow, turquoise and violet

“Second Thought” 9×9″ Mixed Media on paper. Available.

I painted two, just in case one of them was a failure. I knew I couldn’t duplicate the original. That piece was done last summer and I was in a totally different state of mind. But I could use the same colours, composition, the same basic shapes and get close. Actually, I think they both turned out better than the original. I’ve learned since then. All the work I’ve done on composition and value since this summer has given me tools to improve on my original image. I sent photos off to my client, and constructed a package that hopefully can survive the trip. Once she made a decision off it went, expedited of course, and hopefully arrived in time. Fingers crossed.

 

New Bird Painting: Intermission

Abstracted painting of two birds flying through a turquoise and lavender sky

“Intermission” 14×18″ Acrylic on Canvas.

If you read my newsletter, you know that I am on going to be heading to Portugal in January for a month-long painting trip. It’s very exciting for me… I haven’t had a vacation in quite some time that didn’t include madly trying to get some project or other completed. To give you some idea, 2016’s vacation time included Arts on the Credit, moving my mom, assorted doctor’s visits and illness recovery, and a week long immersive painting class. This trip is going to use up every minute of my vacation time. But it will be time to focus on myself and gathering inspiration to use in future work. I hope to come back fully rejuvenated. Might be a lot to ask for, but I can hope.

The arrangement with my host is free accommodation in exchange for a certain number of artworks to become part of their collection. When I saw the initial posting online asking for submissions, I didn’t even consider applying. I thought I wouldn’t have a chance at getting it. There is so much competition for any kind of residency, and so many artists out there that are better than I am. Why bother? By the third time the post came up in my feed I had changed my mindset to “why the hell not????” I may not be the best painter in the world, but I’m good. I’ve had shows in galleries and have sold a respectable number of pieces. I have exhibited in one of the best art shows in my home city for the past few years. I have collectors. Someone is going to Portugal, and if I don’t apply, I would never know if it could have been me.

As a mother, I can’t tell you the number of times I have told my child “if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no”. This goes for me as well, though sometimes I don’t always remember it. The first year I felt like I had accomplished something with my art was the year I had decided I would accept any and all opportunities that would get me more exposure. I had paintings hanging all over the place. It was exhausting. I had a calendar printed out and taped to my wall to keep track of where everything was supposed to be, with drop off and pick up times. I applied for shows that I knew I didn’t have enough work for, then worked like mad to pull it off. I went to shows where I knew no one and forced myself to talk to strangers (many of whom are now my friends). I joined an art group. I painted like a fiend. It got me out there, and now people around here know who I am. The last couple years I’ve had a lot on my plate with family stuff, so I’ve scaled back what I’ve taken on. This trip something I had on my wish list, so if I didn’t even apply… well, I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass by without at least trying.

I probably won’t have a whole lot of new stuff to post between now and January. There is Christmas, and the usual craziness that goes along with the holidays. I leave at the beginning of the month. There will be many new things to write about, and new work to show. I will be posting here, as well as to my social media feeds. My intermission is over…. stay tuned….

New Bird Painting: Pilgrimage

Abstracted painting of a lone bird flying through a turquoise and lavender sky

“Pilgrimage” 14×18″ Acrylic on Canvas.

I felt like painting something with an actual subject this time. Often, I just enjoy working with colour and shape, but I feel like I need a bit of practice with my realism to get me ready for an upcoming trip. Not that this is particularly realistic… I don’t really do realism, but I do sometimes like to paint a slightly less abstracted image of an actual thing. I often paint birds… quite often a single bird in an abstracted landscape. There’s something about the way they look in flight that I find calming. I did a small painting from this drawing before, but this time I was much more deliberate in how I wanted it to look. Choosing the blue and turquoise to get the feeling of water, I added the hit of orange to bring attention to the details.  I felt better when it was done. So I did a companion piece, just because I had another canvas the same size (not quite done… stay tuned next week).

Photographing this piece was somewhat difficult. If I got the whites white, my turquoise came out dull blue. That won’t do at all. The photo above I actually took with my phone, instead of my expensive DSLR. Not as sharp, but the colour was better. I really should take some kind of photography course so I can learn how to deal with stuff like this. I imagine the next one will be the same deal. I’ll save myself some time and just take the photos with my phone.

When my father passed away last year, I had planned to do a piece to donate to the hospital in his memory. They took such good care of him I wanted to give something back. Then my sister suggested we do something together, so I put the idea on hold until she had some time. Of course that hasn’t really happened. We live a 2 hour drive apart, I work during the week, she works weekends, we both have kids… it’s busy. After I finished this I sat looking at it for a while… it feels peaceful. Calm. Most of my bird paintings feel this way to me. That’s why I do them. I think this may be the one I give to the hospital for their palliative care wing. It has the right mood. And it would be nice for the families who sit in the room reserved for them to have something to look at other than the empty walls. Unfortunately, with winter coming, it will be spring before I can get up there. The weather out that way is more severe… they’ve already had a load of snow while here in Toronto we are still enjoying the above freezing temperatures. That gives me lots of time to figure it out. A luxury I don’t seem to get very often.

Spending a Day with Dale Chihuly

This room got a lot of attention. The patterns created by the light on the walls were almost as interesting as the forms in the ceiling

This room got a lot of attention. The patterns created by the light on the walls were almost as interesting as the glass forms in the ceiling

Toronto has been home to many excellent art exhibits in recent years. Right now there are actually two big shows worth making a trek for: Impressionist landscapes at the AGO, which I hope to get to this week, and Dale Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum. I’ve heard so much about this show… even people I know who are not really into art have gone. But time seems to be in short supply these days, so the only way I was going to get there was if I set aside everything else. So glad I didn’t miss it.

In the past, I have to admit the only thing I really knew about him was he made these huge blown glass chandeliers. The photos I had seen of those were enough to make me want to go to this show. But when I heard there weren’t any there I lost a bit of enthusiasm. Of course he did other stuff but it hadn’t really caught my attention. But seeing a photograph and seeing the real thing are two very different experiences. The pieces the ROM had gathered were truly breathtaking. Amazing how he takes blown glass to a totally different level. The things that struck me was how he used reflections and light as part of the pieces, often with the reflections being as or even more important than the glass itself. Very inspiring.

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