Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

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Flying Into Myself

Abstract painting in red, brown and blue

“Flying into Myself”, 36×48″, mixed media on canvas.

The switch from wood panels to canvas for these large pieces has been interesting. I’ve determined that I really like working on wood… I like the indestructibility of it. I can gouge and sand, scrape and glue, I have a hard surface to draw on. Drawing on canvas is a very different thing. The soft pencil that created a rich, black marks on wood is dull gray on canvas. I tried laying the canvas down and putting hard cover books underneath to give it some support, which would have worked on something small, but the support bars got in the way for something this large. What I ended up doing is drawing over an already dark area, and painting in the light parts. It gives an interesting look, though it feels much less spontaneous than just using line as its own thing.

Scaling up has also been interesting. The 30×40″ piece from a couple weeks back came together with little effort. It didn’t really even seem that big once I got going. This one didn’t quite work the same way. My first effort seemed like a bunch of little paintings in a big space. I knew from my classes with Lila Lewis Irving last year that big shapes make for bigger impact, so I got out the 12″ brush I bought specifically for her class and blocked in some shapes with that. That got me going in the right direction. Of course, it still needed work. But I felt like I made some progress.

Titling my work is starting to become a bit challenging. In my normal state of affairs, I have my nose in a book for at least part of every day. I pick up phrases or ideas that then suggest titles that suit the feeling of the painting I’m working on. I have at least one page in every sketchbook that has numerous possible titles scrawled down. I haven’t had time to read much lately. I’m so exhausted when I fall into bed at night that I will often get through less than a page before I can no longer keep my eyes open (this, of course, doesn’t mean that I will sleep an entire night. 2 a.m. seems to regularly find me staring at the ceiling). And as I’ve almost finished 30 pieces over the last few months, I’m running out of ideas. I’m thinking of asking my songwriter son to help me out with this. He certainly has a way with words that I seem to be lacking these days.

I’m getting near the end of my allotted work time for this show in October. Nothing like a tight deadline… I will hesitate next time I accept a show for works I have yet to create. The stress of the last few months has been more than I want to experience again soon. Now that I have a reasonably large body of work I can relax a bit while I do the finishing… painting edges, varnishing, attaching hardware, etc. Hopefully, I can manage to keep myself sane while my other half rips apart our kitchen.

Truth and Half Truth

Abstract painting in red and neutrals.

“Truth and Half Truth”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

This little 10×10″ painting took weeks to finish. A lot of that time was spent looking… trying to figure out my next move without ruining the bits that I liked. Of course, I did. Ruin bits, that is. I’ve got so many layers of paint on here I couldn’t even tell you how many times it was repainted.

The thing I most wanted to save is that loopy bit of line work at the top. But pencil on a background is so easy to obliterate. I glazed the piece at one point because it was too red and white, and it needed something to give it some interest. But the glazing reduced the contrast too much and then the composition didn’t work as well. So I added more. Then it was too much and I had to paint bits out. It was taking forever.

One thing I didn’t want to do was alter the piece beyond recognition, as I’ve done with others that were giving me a problem. It probably would have been easier. I may even have liked the result more. But I was somehow seeing my progress in this little series of boards. I was finding my voice. There was something in this piece I liked and was determined to make work.

I don’t know if this painting will be part of October’s show or not. I may end up painting over it. I’ve probably got a wall’s worth of these little 10x10s now and may do more when I get my larger pieces done. Only the best will make the cut. I can continue to work small, even in the middle of a reno. I’m at the point where I can now take off an evening here and there to do something else when I’m feeling drained. The panic is subsiding. Thankfully.

And as you can see, I figured out a way to save the bit of loopy line work at the top.

My Inspiration is revealing itself

Abstract cityscape in violet and green.

“Borrowed View”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.


Abstract cityscape by Canadian Artist Marianne Morris

“Echoes of an Ancient Time”, 10×10″ Mixed Media on Wood Panel

I’ve written before about how I’ve taped up photos from my Portugal trip around my studio for inspiration while I’m working. For the most part, you can’t really tell what I was looking at from my finished pieces. It’s vague… a colour here, a shape there… things picked from an image and put in an entirely different context.

I wanted to incorporate all the arches I saw there into my work somehow. If you look closely, you’ll see them appear here and there.  The craggy rock cliffs appear more in the textured areas than in the shapes, but they are there. The way the concrete goes from smooth to eroded inspired many an edge. These two pieces are a much more literal interpretation, although still very abstract.

In “Borrowed View”, what I see (which is probably not at all what someone else will see), is a representation of my view from the villa balcony. The church is at the highest point in the city, the grove of green between where I was and the town, the cliffs are there, and a vague reference to the city emerging from the rock.

“Echoes of an Ancient Time” reminds me of Lisbon, and how coming around a corner suddenly revealed the amazing aqueduct rising from the city. Not literal of course. The aqueduct is enormous. I tried to get the feeling of awe I had when it came into view.

I’ve been working at breakneck speed the last few months. I imagine when I arrive at the gallery once the show is hung, I will be able to see things I haven’t noticed so far (and will possibly want to change once I see it). How much will it feel like me? I know that so far my pieces have primarily been light. As in a feeling of light as opposed to the deep, heavy colour of my previous work. I should probably try to complete a couple darker pieces for balance. It’s difficult for me to think of these paintings as a group because I’m so focused on each individual piece as I’m working on them. But as I’m nearing the end of my time limit (hubby has already started ripping stuff out of my kitchen), it’s something I can’ t put off any longer.

Fugue State

Light abstract painting in orange and blue by artist Marianne Morris

“Fugue State”, 30×40″ mixed media on canvas.

Here it is, my first “large” piece for this show. Although at 30×40″, it’s not exactly enormous. But certainly a step up from the 10×10″ boards I’ve been working on. I don’t know how many big pieces I’m going to get accomplished. I’m hoping for 4 more. That would be a pretty amazing feat to accomplish, given where I am now.

I actually have no idea how this painting came to be. The initial stage of putting paint on the canvas produced a big mishmash of colour. No composition to speak of. But there was something… so I made this bit darker and that bit lighter, a bit more orange, fix some edges, and remarkably, there was a painting there. Still took a few days to refine some things and add some details, but overall, it seemed to happen fairly fast.

I’ve started a couple at an even larger size, 36×48″. It would seem my studio is a bit small for this. I can’t have two in there at the same time or I can’t really move. When the paint needs to dry and I want to switch to the other piece, I have to move it out into the hall. Pretty sure my husband isn’t too thrilled with how I’ve managed to take over that section of the house. He’ll have to live with it for another month.

I’ve been trying to figure out if I can combine these paintings I’ve been working on with some of the stuff I’ve done over the last couple years… just to take the pressure off. The gallery has 3 large walls (about 25ft) and a smaller one (there are windows across one section). Arranged together, the older pieces could fill a wall. The 10x10s could fill a wall, and then whatever else I manage to get accomplished would fill the remaining space. Maybe not ideal, but a possibility. A backup plan, of sorts. Always good to have a backup plan. If for no other reason, to keep the panic at bay.

Earthbound, Part 2

Abstract painting in orange and teal by Canadian Artist Marianne Morris

“Earthbound”, 10×10″ Mixed Media on Wood Panel.

I don’t expect anyone will recognize this painting, even though I posted it a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t particularly enamored with it, but I needed something to post, and it was the best I had at the time. This being a blog chronicling my growth as an artist, I will explain what I did, and why.

abstract painting by Marianne Morris

My first attempt at this painting. If I saw this in a show, I’d probably just walk past it. It’s not that engaging.

So here is a photo of the “original” painting.  I had seen enough in it to set it aside, although “finished” wasn’t what I was going to call it. I knew if I found my way I would go back and change it. It was good enough, even if I found it boring, for me to give it a title. The only part that seems to have been spared is the blue bit that is bleeding into the ivory on the bottom. Now on the top.

Normally when I’m done with something I am done with it. Even if I know I can improve it, I just can’t muster the enthusiasm to go back in and change it. I have a painting hanging in my hall that has these two red blocks side by side that drive me nuts every time I see it, and still, it has been hanging there for a year and I haven’t gone in and fixed it. I suspect I will just paint over that entire piece when I need something to do one day. I’m not in that place anymore, mentally, and I don’t really want to be. I much prefer where I am now.

I try not to get too attached to my work. Yes, it does express who I am at the moment of creation. I think all my work does that. But a year later, am I still that person? I’m at a point now where I’m ready to paint over a pile of work because I now see it as mediocre. A good learning exercise, yes, but not that great as art.

Now that it’s mid-July and the countdown is on, I know I’m not going to have time to write a post for all the paintings in this show. I may not really have time to post at all. I have a mere 6 weeks before my kitchen reno starts (yes, a month before a show we are ripping out my kitchen. Just to add a bit more pressure). I better get on with my large works, because of course, they take longer. I can fit the remaining small boards in between. Just noting that I only have 6 weeks makes my tummy a little queasy. Nothing like a deadline to get ya moving… right?

Hope In Dark Places

Abstract painting in orange and teal by Canadian Artist Marianne Morris

“Hope in Dark Places”, 10×10″ Mixed Media on Wood Panel.

I think I’m in love with orange. It’s been a long time since I’ve used colour. I’ve spent almost two years in a gray and brown world, with the odd splash of something. It went with how I was feeling. Things are better now. Not just in the studio, but life in general. My mom has settled into her new digs and is spending time with family and friends. My son is thriving in University, and has seemed to find his voice with his music (check him out on Spotify… he is “The Harmful”). Even work has improved somewhat, now that I have a great pair of headphones to block out all the ambient noise.

Pushing through a block has to be one of the toughest things an artist deals with. Every painter will go through it at some point… I’ve had it happen every time my style shifts. I imagine writers would have the same issue from time to time. This time around I’ve had help and encouragement, and it has made it infinitely easier to keep going. To my artist friends who have given me critiques and talked me through the low points, thank you. If I can return the favour at any time, I will.  The online community that let me hop in and out of group conversations, join in group painting sessions and willingly answers all my technique questions has been awesome. Even the friend that looked at what I was doing and said “meh, I’m not feeling it” has helped (if you’re wondering, I have not shared any of those images). Having someone tell you the truth instead of lying to spare your feelings is a necessary thing when trying to find your way.

I’m hoping I’m in a groove now, but that’s something only time will tell. I’ve started a large piece… mainly because I don’t think I can produce enough of these little 10x10s to fill the gallery… and so far it’s going ok.  It’s bigger than I’ve done in a very long time. Probably since university. Kinda intimidating. But whatever. Onwards I go.

From Here To There

abstract painting in orange and dark blue

“From Here to There”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

This painting was a real turning point for me. I was so frustrated. SO frustrated. I had painted and repainted and nothing I did was speaking to me. The few successes I had seemed to just happen. The remaining panels I had started all changed dramatically with each session, but they just all seemed so… well…. boring.

I’ve always believed that the boredom of the artist will show up in the painting. The artist has to be totally engaged, or the painting won’t be better than mediocre. That’s why as soon as I start to get bored with what I’m doing, I change direction. I had managed to get to a place where I just didn’t care anymore, I had to do something different. I pulled out a tube of orange a friend had given me… a colour I didn’t think I would ever use, and just slapped on the paint. I got out my soft pencil and scribbled on the board. Then I moved on to the next one.

Imagine my surprise the next day when I looked and saw not one, but THREE panels that were working. They weren’t perfect. They still needed adjustments. But overall, there was something there. Some emotion was showing. Even if it was frustration, there it was.

I know that the other pieces I have stacked up will get there if I just keep going. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, just a few strokes and it pulls together. I feel a bit more confident that this show in October isn’t going to be a disaster. I still have a lot to do… my social life is practically non-existent at the moment and I hope my friends understand. As soon as I have a reasonable number of pieces completed and can resume my life and anything else I get done will be a bonus. I know things will be fine however it works out. Worst case scenario I can take every piece I have in my house to the gallery. But I know I can do better, so I’m sure as hell going to try.

Understanding Solitude

Understanding Solitude abstract painting in blues and oranges

“Understanding Solitude”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.


Poem by Kristina Goltsis, as presented on her Facebook page. I like the way she sets the words in an old-fashioned typewriter font. And it makes it easy to share these little gems as images.

I admit it, I am a reader of poetry. I’ve been to poetry slams and thoroughly enjoyed myself. And sometimes, a few lines of prose sticks in my memory and describes something that feels real to me.

Recently, I discover a young Toronto poet, Kristina Goltsis, when she posted some work in a Facebook group I belong to. There were a few that really spoke to me, but this one seemed to go with the feeling of the piece I was working on at the time.  It seemed easy to finish it once I had these few lines in my head.

With non-objective work being only shape and colour, it’s pretty much impossible to “say” something with a piece. I go for the feeling. If you feel something in your gut when you look at it, I’ve succeeded. After a week I still like to look at this. It still feels right. I can let this one go.

Ocean View


Abstract painting in blues by artist Marianne Morris

“Ocean view”, 10×10″ acrylic on wood panel.

I’ve been working away on this little set of wood panels. I have to say I like working small. I can move pretty quickly, and even if they don’t work out right away if I just keep going, eventually they turn out alright. This one went through a few iterations. The paint was building up and building up… at some point, the shapes were just there and all I had to do was emphasize them a bit. I wasn’t sure it was done, so I put it aside for a week and when I went back to it, it looked better than I remember. I hope that happens with all of them, but somehow I doubt I will be that lucky.

I’m painting every day and that’s a good thing, given my deadline. It’s June… that snuck up on me quickly. We have a renovation scheduled for September. When I agreed that the date, I was positive I would be done all the work for my October show long before that. I think I jinxed myself. I really should know better. Things never work quite the way you think they will and having a deadline only ensures that.

I’m just going to keep plugging away. My goal is to have one new painting to post every week. I’ve got lots started, so it should be achievable. Right now I’m going back to work.

Soul Window

soul window abstract painting by artist Marianne Morris

“Soul Window”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

Been a busy week. I’m back to painting every day, which is certainly when I feel my best. It’s sometimes difficult to fit in the time, but even a half hour is useful. Actually… sometimes a half hour is better than spending hours working away at something. I get in, I do whatever, and I’m done. No time to second guess. Sometimes when I go back into my studio the next day, I’m surprised that I actually like the result. It’s going in a bit of a different direction than what I visualized, but it’s going, so I’m just going to forge ahead and worry about putting together a collection that makes sense later.

A while ago someone made a suggestion to put all my inspiration together, and look for common elements. I’ve done that. I’ve printed out a couple dozen photos and taped them to my studio wall in groups. I’ve got all my “nature” shots… the beach, rocks, ocean, trees, animals, flowers. Then I’ve got my city stuff; buildings, peeling paint, crumbling concrete, public fountains, and lots of arches. Old churches and cobblestone. They are vastly different in feel, but both sets are inspiring.

This painting started with a scribble on a wood panel. I progressed from there, responding to the marks as I went. It reminds me of the way the sun streams in old windows. It’s been one of the few pieces I don’t feel like I’m labouring over. It just happened, and I’m not about to question that.

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