Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Tag: Abstract Paintings (page 1 of 4)

Ocean Tide

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

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

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

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

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

Uma Noite De Arte

University of Guelph Humber event planning student team

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

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

Wine bottles and candlelight with seasonal arrangements set the mood.

Wine bottles and candlelight with seasonal arrangements set the mood.

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

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

students looking at paintings

Some student visitors checking out the art

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

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

part of the art display

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

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

Force of Nature

abstract painting in blue and teal by Canadian artist Marianne Morris

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

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

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

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

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

Join me October 5th at the University of Guelph-Humber

Join me for an evening of art at University of Guelph-Humber Art Gallery in Toronto.

Join me for an evening of art at University of Guelph-Humber Art Gallery in Toronto.

Just a quick mid-week post to make sure all my subscribers get the official invitation to my show opening next Thursday evening. On display will be paintings inspired by my trip to Portugal last January. The university has a lovely gallery and the Event Planning students have been working hard to make this a special opening reception. Parking at the school is free after 5. Hope to see you there!

Impressions Of Home

Abstract painting in teal and brown.

“Impressions of Home”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

This piece was totally experimental, as most of these small ones have been. Finding out what I can do on wood has been fun. The thing I haven’t tried is using my carving tools, and that is mainly because I haven’t had time. I’m sure I’ll give it a go once I have some time and space to get back to work.

I made good use of sandpaper in this painting. I’ve got many layers of paint here, so gentle sanding with fine paper or steel wool gets me down one layer, but wet some of the course stuff and I’m right back to the wood. The main thing is that I pay attention as I’m working. I have to be totally in the moment, and stop when it gets somewhere that works.

There are a few things that have happened during these experiments that I really wish I could repeat… but of course each element depends on everything that has come before. I’ve taken notes, but even from one painting to the next I can’t seem to repeat myself. I’ve managed to get some beautiful textures. Even on the pieces I don’t think are my best, I have areas that I just can’t bear to cover up.

With only a few weeks to go, I’m getting on with doing my finishing. I can’t leave it until the last minute, in case I run into a problem. I’ve set up a make-shift varnishing station in my bedroom because the space I usually work in is full of kitchen stuff. I’ve attached the hardware on my large pieces with them laid flat on my bed. And I’ve been going through my supplemental materials and updating things.

I still have to write my artist statement for this particular body of work. Probably my least favourite thing to do (and that’s likely why I’m procrastinating). I really don’t know if this gallery is going to use it in some way, but I know I’ll need it eventually, so I suppose I might as well do it now.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve stopped the constant painting. I certainly feel better… much less stressed that I won’t be able to pull it off… but the urge to create is there again. I look at the few half-finished paintings that have been so recently abandoned and suddenly see what is needed. I figure as soon as I’ve got my kitchen unpacked in the new cabinets I’ll be back right back in my studio, working away.

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.

 

Urban Forestry

abstract painting in deep green and brown by Canadian artist Marianne Morris

“Urban Forestry”, 24×24 mixed media on canvas

I have this tube of green paint. It’s a lovely rich, deep emerald… not a colour I would normally use, but it is a colour I like and would wear. Someone gave it to me, and I want to use it, but it just never seemed to fit with the mood I was going for, so the tube sat on my work table, waiting.

I actually have more than a couple of tubes of paint in colours I don’t usually use. They all came in the same box from the same person. I’m making a point of trying all of them out. I’ve found a use for some of the light pink tones (they make a lovely soft grey mixed with certain greens… but the naming is just stupid. Light portrait pink? In my almost 50 yrs on earth I have yet to meet anyone with skin this colour), I’ve decided I love the violet, orange and the turquoise and I will purchase more when I run out, but there are a couple of greens that I just can’t get a handle on.

I wanted this piece to feel like walking through the woods on a summer morning. I didn’t get there. It’s more the quick dash through a city park on your way somewhere else. To me anyway (hence the title). Even though I got the emerald green to work here, it totally changes the feeling of the piece. I’m ok with that… it’s good to know that even the saturation of a colour can change its impact. Every painting teaches me something.

This is the first mid-size piece of this group that I’ve posted. I have done a few more, but I did 20 of the small ones first, and I feel like they were more interesting. While doing these larger pieces on canvas I kept trying to repeat some of the things that worked so well on wood, but since the substrates are so different the techniques didn’t work at all. Once I’ve used up my inventory of canvas I may switch over to wood completely. It’s more expensive, but wood panels can take way more abuse. Or perhaps I’ll try unstretched canvas like I see artist’s online using…. they can work on a hard surface like a floor or wall, then roll it up to ship or store. Anyway, that is in the future, and I have to focus on the immediate. Like the show that opens on October 2. I have a month to get it together. Better get moving.

Deep Roots

abstract painting in red and brown.

“Deep Roots”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.

I usually listen to music when I work. There is no doubt that what I am listening to influences what shows up in my art. Lately, I haven’t felt much like music. Maybe I’ve hit some kind of musical overload. Is that even possible? I guess with my son constantly working on new stuff, the steady stream of other musicians playing in my house, and I’ve usually got music on at work to drown out the other noise…. I guess it’s not entirely surprising.

Instead, I’ve been streaming podcasts. There are a lot of good ones out there. Stuff that will make you think. I particularly like the stuff on NPR and CBC.  Note to Self, InvisibiliaIdeas, Q… all good ones. Also, there are some good art podcasts I like, particularly Artists Helping Artists.  Anyway, when I was working on this painting I had on something where they were discussing systemic racism, and how the state of our First Nations population is the legacy of the residential school system. Not exactly light listening, but it was really interesting, and I was completely absorbed.

I think the idea of things being connected and buried deep in our subconscious shows up particularly well in this piece. I actually stopped painting and flipped the board over to write the title on the back when it popped into my head.  It related to what I was listening to, and what I was seeing emerge from the chaos I had going on the board. It’s too bad this one is only 10×10″… I think it would make a great impact at a larger size. But not this time around. That one will have to wait.

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.

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