Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Tag: painting (page 1 of 3)

Undercurrent

abstract painting in neutrals and magenta

“Undercurrent”, 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

I’m slowly making my way through the pile of canvases I have stashed in my studio. In a perfect world, I’d use up the ones I have sitting around before I go and buy new ones, but I doubt it will work that way. I’ve already got some vague idea about how I want this work displayed, and what I’ve got hanging around isn’t really going to fit. And I usually like to have a selection of small pieces done before moving on to the bigger ones.  There is something about working that way that keeps me in my flow state.

I’ve written before about how working in a series keeps my momentum going. I know that is how my brain works. Being somewhat easily distracted, I know that going off in a different direction can sometimes derail me completely. Even so, I’m looking forward to participating in some plein-air sessions a local artist is arranging over the summer. I like painting landscapes, but hopefully not enough that it will completely distract me. I don’t think I particularly like painting plein-air (which only means, for you non-artist type people, painting outside on location), but I’ve only done it a couple times so maybe I haven’t given it a decent opportunity to enthrall me. It’s worth trying again, and it will get me outside my studio on my days off work. I can foresee this current project becoming all consuming, and the summer disappearing without me taking the time to enjoy it. That won’t do. I’m trapped in a building 40+ hours a week. I refuse to spend all my remaining time indoors.

As I write this, the sun is streaming in my windows and the radio says it’s a balmy 12°C. Ok, maybe that’s not so balmy, but after a Canadian winter, it feels wonderful. I’m going to head outside for a long, meditative walk before I start my weekend work. Hopefully, it will get me into the right state of mind to figure out what I’m doing with the canvas I covered with drywall compound a couple days ago. Because at the moment, I really don’t have a clue.

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.

The Space Between. A meditation.

A meditation on space and connection, abstract shapes in neutrals and bright magenta.

“The Space Between”, 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

A while back, when I was off work dealing with some health issues,  I was told repeatedly that I had to reduce the amount of stress in my life. Since I had no idea how to do that, I talked to a councillor who specialized in stress management. She sent me a bunch of books, some of which I’ve read, and advised me to learn how to meditate. Mindfulness was something that would help me immensely, she says, from stress reduction to pain management (I have a back issue that I’ve been coping with since I was a teenager. There are times when I am pain-free, but it’s not a normal state for me).

Since my trip to Portugal in January I have managed to take the chaos of work in stride. I was rested enough that I could ignore the insanity of the deadlines, roll my eyes at the technical ignorance of those asking for the impossible, and laugh with my coworkers over the unrealistic expectations of management.

Over the past two weeks, my vacation zen has deserted me. It started with the shocking news that an artist friend of mine had, quite suddenly, passed away from a heart attack. She was such wonderful company, often when I was dropping off work at her gallery space I would stay for an hour or more to talk, her filling me in on the latest community goings on as other artists would file in and join the conversation. The monday after her funeral, we were informed one of my coworkers had suddenly passed away. The third, because there is always a third it seems,  was my cousin’s child… a mere 26 years old, and only a few short years older than my own son. It has been a stark reminder of the fragility and impermanence of life, and a very clear message to me that I need to spend what limited time I have here with people whose company I enjoy, and doing the things I love.

I decided to try taking this meditation thing seriously. I have tried a few times before, but I’m so easily distracted that after a minute or two I would give up. I’ve downloaded apps on my phone, I’ve tried audio “guided meditation”, I’ve done yoga breathing exercises. The only thing that has worked at all was a guided drawing meditation that I found online. I realized that creating, for me anyway, is meditation. It is the only time I am completely and totally in the moment. I am calm. The next best thing is walking alone outside… I will still often have the story running in my head, but I can sometimes manage to quiet that and observe my immediate surroundings. I’ve done both these things in this past week. I need to get going with these paintings anyway, so incorporating my studio time with meditation may actually be a way to cope that works for me. I guess the only way to find out is to try.

And… I’m off….

Last week I asked for suggestions, and I got a good one from Toronto artist Kevin Ghiglione (whose encaustic paintings I think are pretty amazing. I even own one). Here’s what he said:

Hi Marianne – abstraction will be a great way to present your new bodywork. Why don’t you gather up all of the inspiring photographs from your trip and put together and maybe something will come of that. There will be shapes. There will be colours. Patina. And I’m sure there will be feelings too – both passive and experienced. Try talking it through with a friend or an associate – because when you take all those dreamlike thoughts from your brain and talk about them and explain them – the simple fact of putting these thoughts into concrete words will make it much more concrete for you. I’m really excited what you going to produce!

Always one to try a suggestion, particularly if I’ve asked for it, I gave it a go. I looked through my photos and flipped through my sketchbook. I wrote some stream of consciousness about what I was looking at. I talked, to myself mostly, about what I found interesting and the visual cues that excited me. Then I set about painting.

The blue page I had started already, but had lost the thread of it part way thorough, and put it away. I had it finished within 20 minutes. While I’m not thrilled with the shapes, I do like the way you get the feeling there is something going on behind the surface. The charcoal marks and the spattering of ink peek through what could be a window or a passageway. I’m satisfied enough that I know I want to pursue the idea of covering up and scraping back… kind of like uncovering the old and decrepit under the new and the smooth.

The pink page I started with an idea of how I wanted to approach it, and I think it is my most successful of these experiments. The shapes work, the textures are lovely, and I like the way the linework doesn’t get obliterated by the paint.

I think I’ve got a path now. I’ve prepped some smaller canvases to start… a bunch of 12×12″ and a few 24×24″. I have a few large ones waiting as well, but I want to have a good idea of what I’m doing before I start those. We shall see how it goes.

Finding Direction

Visual Journal abstract entry in blue and gold

My intent here was to create a background that I could draw on with ink and white pastel. But I got a bit carried away with the paint.

Somehow I’ve become a carrier of a sketchbook. It’s not something that I’ve done regularly over the years… I’ve always had a sketchbook, and I’ve worked in it now and then, but it’s never been something I always had with me. It would usually take me a year  or more to fill one up. I think it’s because I paint more than I draw, and instead of going out and drawing the world around me, I would take a more “visual journal” approach with a book that could stand up to a bit of abuse.

I’ve been carrying this book around with me for the past two months. It’s almost full. All the practice has been good… I’m most definitely seeing improvement. But I have a show in October, and I need to figure out what I’m going to paint. So I went back to my tried and true, and made myself a little book out of watercolour paper, and started to paint.

Since I’ve been drawing in ink, my first thought was that I could do some mixed media kind of thing, using paint and india ink. I got out my paints and started, thinking I’d do a background, then add in some kind of abstract drawing, and take it from there. It didn’t quite work the way I had planned. I got totally absorbed in the way the paint flowed. I was mesmerized. I had painted something very much resembling work I’ve done before.

Back to the drawing board… this time I started with the drawing. I tried to draw one of the many stone archways I have in my sketchbook, only this time using a stick so I would have very little control over the resulting marks. I just ended up making a mess. The ink spattered and caught, but the shapes were interesting. Once it dried I used paint to try to pull the random marks into some kind of composition. It’s not bad, but a bit too chopped up. I did manage to capture the feel of a passageway though, so that’s encouraging.

I still have a bit of work to do. If somehow I could manage to combine the two approaches into something cohesive, I may have a something I can work with.

Abstract painting of an archway

Again, I thought I’d do a background and draw over top. Again, it didn’t quite work out that way.

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.

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.

 

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