Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Category: Life (page 1 of 4)

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.

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. 

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.

 

Requiem

abstract painting in red and brown by Canadian artist Marianne Morris

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

I’m reading a novel, “Requiem” by Francis Itani. It popped up on my Library’s “you should read…” section, and as I was uninspired by other offerings, I took them up on their advice. It’s about the internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2, and the toll it took on one family in particular. It’s taking forever to get through it… not because it’s boring or not well written, but because I’m often already exhausted when I start reading and I doze off after a few pages.

The story is engrossing. The protagonist is an artist, and the act of creation is what saves him from being consumed by bitterness. He works his way through his grief by creating. His emotions are all left there, on his canvas. This sounds remarkably familiar. I think as artists, that is what we do, to a certain extent. At least this is what is true for me.

The definition of Requiem is an act or token of remembrance. I thought this was a perfect title for this piece because I can see evidence of every layer of paint, every mark… even if I covered it eventually, the texture is still there because of the thickness of the paint. The colour from the underpainting shows through in spots. I can see a hint of green from the first layer, some of the pinks still show from when I first decided it should be red instead. There are large quiet areas,  evoking the feeling of calm I needed at that moment. The linework is covered in spots, but not completely. In some places, it is enhanced.

This piece is like a map of my psyche at the time of creation. I suppose that is why it feels authentic to me. I’m not doing anything new or revolutionary, I’m not the innovative, “turn the art world upside down” kind of artist. I’m just working through the emotions that would otherwise be bottled up and giving me an ulcer. Art therapy, indeed.

Resting Place

Abstract painting in teal and brown.

“Resting Place”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood.

It’s been a strange couple of weeks, weather wise. North America is in rough shape. The west coast is burning… still. Both Canada and the US. Hurricane Harvey made a mess of Texas, and this past week Irma crushed the Caribbean like it was nothing. We have yet to see what destruction José is going add to the mix. Add to that a devastating earthquake in Mexico. How can anyone possibly still deny that climate change is real? I think what’s going on right now is hard-core visual proof that what scientists have been predicting for the past decade is coming to pass. it’s a very scary situation.

I whine about my home being a mess right now. First world problems, right? At least I’ve got somewhere to go. Somewhere warm and dry, food in my belly, a healthy family all making our way without much to complain about. I can earn a living doing something that keeps me somewhat engaged, I have enough money left over to pursue something I love. I’ve got it good. I am reminded of my luck every time I check the news and see what’s happening elsewhere.

My friends in Texas are safe. They haven’t been online much (not that I expected them to be), but they did check in to say that they made it through ok. Seems everyone I know in Florida has checked in as well. For that I am thankful. I hope the people who have been displaced can manage to find shelter and someone able to help them, and those who have lost loved ones can find comfort. I hope everyone will find their resting place.

 

Where the Light Gets In

purple and red abstract painting by Canadian artist Marianne Morris

“Where the Light Gets In”, 36×48″ mixed media on canvas.

My life is in chaos. I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it easier. I am now in reno hell.

I tried to organize things as we packed up the kitchen. We put the stuff we don’t use often in boxes in the basement. Everything else got stacked up somewhere we could access it. But I can’t remember where I put things, no matter how logical it seemed when I put it there. And having to prepare every meal on my dining room table to be cooked either on the BBQ or in the microwave is challenging. To say the least.

There are things you do once and decide you never want to do them again. I was that way with water-skiing. And team sports of any kind. No thanks. A kitchen renovation is something we did 15 years ago, and I vowed NEVER AGAIN. And yet here I am, doing it again.

It’s not that I was in love with my kitchen. It was adequate. Everything worked. There was some wasted space, and the fronts of the cabinets were peeling off. The upper cabinets, where we put our dishes, were right around the sink area… so putting away dishes while someone was washing them was impossible. I regularly caught a finger or bashed my head by having more than one door open at a time. But still, I didn’t want to do a reno. The last one was still burned into my memory as a completely unpleasant experience.

Eventually, we decided we should get this done while we still planned to live in the house long enough to enjoy it. We figure we’ll be here for a decade or so, give or take, so it makes sense to fix the problems and give ourselves some space. If only I could live elsewhere for the duration, I’d be happy.

We’ve got the room completely gutted at this point… the unwanted wall is knocked down and the electrical work is updated. This week we get new drywall and, if I’m lucky, a floor. It will still be a couple weeks before we’re done with this… hopefully, with enough time to finish up my last couple paintings before I have to drop off my work at the gallery for my October show.

 

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.

Attention is Everything

Abstract painting in blue, brown and bronze by Canadian Artist Marianne Morris

“Flow Interrupted”, 24×24″ Acrylic on Canvas.

My painting is not going well. I’ve been struggling with the same 5 canvases for going on 4 weeks now. I’m getting frustrated, and I’m feeling defeated. Not particularly helpful when I have a show to prepare for. I’m starting to panic, even though I’ve still got 5 months to prepare. Again, not helpful.

The painting above is “finished”. As an abstract piece, I’ve covered all my bases; Shapes, contrast, composition, colour. It’s quite possibly not actually finished… for although it works as a painting, I don’t get the feeling of calm I usually get when I look at a finished piece. Not sure it’s what I’m after, but at some point, I have to accept that this is what it wants to be and let it go. I can go back and change it in a few weeks if I can figure out what it is that bothers me. That’s always the hard part.

Part of my problem has been this feeling of restlessness that has settled on me in the past few weeks. I’ve been so easily distracted that I’ve found it hard to focus on anything. My days at work have been unproductive… I go home in the evening feeling like I didn’t get anything accomplished. Home hasn’t been much better. I spend hours in the studio trying to focus, only to have my paint dry on the palette while I’m reading comments on a Facebook post. I fear my studio is going to have to become technology free if I’m to get anything done, but I no longer have any “old school” ways to play music if I do. Maybe silence is what’s called for?

I know that this is just part of the creative process. It’s happened before, and it will undoubtedly happen again. I have to work through it. I need to pay attention to the work in front of me, calm the inner chatter, and block out the noise. I may step away for a week and do something else, just to reset. I need to find my center again, and then maybe I will be able to pay attention.

When does Inspiration become Appropriation?

Amanda PL in front of her paintings, from the Hamilton Spectator.

Amanda PL in front of her paintings, from the Hamilton Spectator.

Last week in Toronto, the young painter Amanda PL, had her first solo art show canceled by her gallery because of backlash from the Native community, and concerns of cultural appropriation. It has been the main topic of conversation in local art circles and discussed at length by many of the people I follow online. Her work is in a style remarkably similar to that of Norval Morriseau’s, probably the one First Nations artist that is instantly recognizable by pretty much anyone in Canada. As pointed out by a few people, one image on her Instagram profile looks like a direct copy of a Haida painter’s work. She claims to love and honor the culture. Indigenous people cry appropriation.

The topic of cultural appropriation has interested me for years. Being of Metis background but not being raised with any exposure at all to that culture, I have long been curious about Indigenous art forms and have studied them at length. But my first inclination of how Indigenous people view non-native’s depictions of their culture came years ago when touring an art show with a native acquaintance. We were standing in front of a booth of romanticized, native on a horse, “noble savage” type paintings. She Lost. Her. Mind.

I was curious, so I started asking questions. The rant that followed was truly educational. I was directed to books written by Indigenous writers. Historians telling the story of the “Imaginary Indian“.  Tales of what it was like growing up native and female in contemporary Canada. A reiteration of at least a dozen ridiculous cultural stereotypes. It sparked an interest that has continued on for more than a decade, and every time I see something that seems even the tiniest bit wrong, I will read everything I can get my hands on.

Before this event, I had been working on a series of charcoal drawings depicting a figure intertwined in a background of symbols, some including masks drawn in a style similar to indigenous carvings I had seen. Afterward, I backed away from this, not knowing if what I was doing would fall into the category of inspiration or appropriation.

This incident in Toronto has surprised me. Not the backlash… I figured that would come if she got any kind of widespread exposure, in the event that she was not actually native. It was that neither the artist nor the gallery expected it. Both seemed to be caught completely off guard. Given the amount of exposure given to recent events such as the banning of hipster’s wearing warbonnets to festivals,  the Pharell magazine cover controversy, and the D-Squared blow up of their racistly titled “D-Squaw” fashion collection, you would figure they would have braced themselves for the onslaught. I suppose not everyone follows this stuff as closely as I do, but this is pretty mainstream stuff.

As an artist, I draw inspiration from various sources. I too love Norval Morriseau. I love most of the First Nations art, from the traditional to contemporary (seriously, check out Brian Jungen’s hockey bag totem poles or Jane Ash Poitras’ mixed media work for some great contemporary stuff). What I drew from Morriseau was his colour palette… the bright, pure colours I used in my music series came directly from studying his work. The subject matter came from my own life. When I look at those paintings I see my own soul, not his. Should I ever decide to create a body of work that draws heavily from a culture that is not my own, I will be sure to check in with the online community before I get too far into it. In most cases, all you have to do is ask, and people will happily tell you what they think.

Hidden Pathway

abstract painting in neutrals and magenta

“Hidden Pathway” 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

I work on many paintings at a time. I sometimes have as many as 10 going at once, all in various stages of completion. I find that there will always be one that I don’t like at all, and I am willing to make bold changes because I’m not as invested. It often becomes my favourite.

Right now I have 6 going… well 4, if you don’t count the two I have decided are finished. The three small ones came together fairly easily. The three larger ones are not working. At all. There is one I must have 5 layers of paint on already, and I still hate it. I don’t know why.

I’ve discussed with a few of my artist friends putting together a critique group to help each other when this happens. I know I’m not the only one who goes through this (though I may be the only one to admit it publicly). Sometimes you just need someone else to have a look, and make a suggestion. It really does help. So far though, no one has had time. We all have day jobs, or other obligations, and at the end of the day we are wiped. Myself included. The small, online trial of the group failed miserably, as I was the only one who ever posted anything. After a few months we abandoned it.

I think I need to approach this another way. In reading biographies of famous artists, I know that they socialized with other artists. They hung out together, drank wine together, discussed books and went to events together…. all we ever seem to do here is gather at gallery openings, chat for an hour and retire to our respective homes. While we all know each other, it’s not like we are a cohesive group of friends. Maybe that’s what we need.

Personally, I love hanging out with creative people. They approach life in a different way. A group of creatives can turn an everyday experience into an event. The discussion is lively, they challenge your way of thinking, they are usually well-informed and willing to get involved.  I know that the only way I am going to have that group of friends to do things with is if I step out of my comfort zone and organize something. So that is what I am going to do. Wish me luck.

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