The city of Mississauga in Southern Ontario, Canada, has a vibrant arts community which holds the second largest annual cultural festival in the country. Marianne Morris is one of the artists from this community that continues to make waves with her abstract artwork. Guild Magazine recently had a conversation with her where we spoke about her career as an artist, her vision and experience.
“I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember,” she tells us. “I took art classes all through school and attended University for art. After graduating, I worked in graphics to pay the bills but ended up giving up on art altogether for a while. It was not until my son was a toddler that my passion was renewed,” she continues. “At first I would do projects with him and his friends. Later, I set up a small practice of my own and started exhibiting seriously in 2014 after a week-long workshop inspired me to paint my first extensive series. I now exhibit my work regularly, and have an online store.”
When discussing the inspiration behind her abstract work, and what makes her feel creative, Marianne smiles and tells us, “Everything inspires me! Such as music, art, literature, theatre, big blue skies, ocean waves, rock cliffs, tall trees. I am fascinated with mythology. I love looking at insects, and I am moved by poetry. I read constantly, and also enjoy how travel exposes me to new environments and cultures.”
As we discuss her work in more detail and the thought process behind her pieces, Marianne tells us, “My paintings often start as chaotic and uncontrolled, but as I continue, I become so focused on the present moment that things quickly settle into a calmness I can see in the finished pieces.” Achieving originality is of utmost importance for Marianne: “I think my process definitely ensures that my work is original. Since I work completely by intuition, there is no way that even I can copy a painting I have made. I have a few pieces that have my hand print showing through the layers of paint. Nothing can be more personal than that!” Marianne catalogs this authenticity as her biggest achievement as an artist. “Achieving your own authentic voice is a tricky thing to do in a world as saturated with visuals as ours is. It would have been easier to find a style I like and copy it, but I don’t really see the point in that. If I’m going to do this at all, I have to do it my own way.”
With her paintings, Marianne wishes to transfer to the viewer and society that state of calmness she achieves while painting, and where everything becomes clear. “I would like for people to slow down and look at things more carefully,” she says. “I use many layers of marks, colors, and textures in my work; things you may not see at first glance. If you slow down and look carefully, you can see all kinds of things going on beneath the surface, the hidden story. It takes time and attention to appreciate everything on offer. All of life is like this; particularly life in a big city. There are so many things going on that you won’t notice if you are not paying attention, and we are conditioned to not pay attention.”
Our conversation goes back to the time when she quit art and the reasons behind it. Here, we discussed how common it is for artists to go through a period of discouragement. “I think it is impossible to be an artist and not get discouraged at some point,” she tells us. “I have been rejected from many shows or had shows where I have not sold a single piece. I have done art fairs where people were obviously not interested in what I had on offer. I have had people tell me my art was crap and something a 5-year-old could do. It can be difficult to keep going at times.” When discussing how this has affected her and her work, she tells us: “In the long term, I think it has affected me by allowing me to become more authentically myself in my art making. I had to determine why I was continuing to do this thing that took a lot of effort for the very little reward. Once I figured that part out, I was able to set aside everyone else’s opinion and just do it for the joy of creating.”
Marianne emphasizes how crucial it is for artists to have friends who are also artists to help us overcome the doubts and setbacks that may occur during our careers. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for artists to have artist friends. We all go through the same struggles, and we need to be there to support each other when we stumble.” She also points out that while at times she has felt rejection of her work, those times are not comparable to the success she has achieved, and how her work continues to inspire people. “I’ve been fortunate that every time I feel like I want to give up, I’ve met someone who tells me I have inspired them, or a collector falls in love with a piece, or I get an email from someone telling me how much they love what I do. I think we are all in this for the connections we create. To have someone I have never met look at something I made, and have it spark some emotion in them is the best thing ever!”
As we came to the end of our conversation, we asked Marianne what the best advice she has received in her career is. To this question, she smiled and responded: “I have been told not to make the process more complicated than it is. Put the paint on the brush, put the brush on the canvas, and keep going until you have something you’re happy with. Don’t get too attached to something in the early stages, it is likely to change. If you don’t like something, just paint over it.” – GM