The process creates the meaning.

process creates the meaningMy paintings often reflect the internal debate I’m experiencing looking for the harmony between structure and freedom.

I had the opportunity to travel for a week a few summers ago on the Northern route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, often called The Way. We averaged 24km a day, it was steep, muddy, it rained, our backpacks were way too heavy, our knees and ankles were swollen and there were times when all I could do was count my next steps.

The journey didn’t really make much sense. We could have hopped on a bus, train or plane to get to our destination. It took tremendous discipline at times to get on the trail at 7:00am, especially when it was raining and we were sore from the day before.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. I hope to walk the entire journey – approximately 40 days.

It was beautiful.

The structure, the discipline allowed us to feel free. It allowed us to escape from our everyday lives, we forget the day and the date, we were free to really and truly slow down, unplug and feel the sweet simplicity of taking it one step at a time.

We quickly formed friendships with other peregrinos (pilgrims) from all over the world; young and old, speaking different languages and living lives so different from our own.

It was meaningful and real.

How did this experience influence my art?

I’m seeking some quiet space, some structure on the canvas – allowing me to tap into and express with spontaneity and freedom – letting the journey, the process create the meaning.

The alternative is chaos.

“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.”

Katharine Hepburn


Well that’s a bit of a killjoy isn’t it?  Or is it?

We had a beautiful long extended summer here on the West Coast.


However, by the 2nd week of September I was struggling.

Routine was calling me to return to order and productivity.  Fall is a roll up my sleeves time of the year for me, especially knowing that holiday festivities are actually not that far ahead.

I’m preparing for The Sunshine Coast Art Crawl and my paintings reflect the internal dialogue I’m having about structure and freedom. How much structure is enough, when does it feel constricting and when does it actually support me and all that I love to do?

I’ve been paying attention to how much routine I need, I’ve been playing with what I think my boundaries are; exploring tools like time blocking, realistic to do lists, daily rituals like my meditation practice & a cup of tea and a silly reminder to floss my teeth (I know).

I’m making peace with my inner time-keeper and realizing that because of her, I get my stuff done, and truly enjoy the sweetness of free time. I make sure she isn’t so out of control as to not let me revel in the beauty of spontaneity and I demand that she books me some space for nothingness. It is an ebb and flow – at times she can be a real bitch but in a good friend kind of way.

When it comes to my art, I’m seeking some quiet space, some structure on the canvas to let my message unfurl, shine and be as expressive as I possibly can muster.

The alternative is chaos.

Your thoughts? Your tools? Please share.


Funny, when I paint . . .

I often think I have to have it all figured out first.

However, when I allow myself to just start, what I am creating begins to show itself and I gain clarity in the process.

Jumping in forces me to break habits which is kind of exciting.

Questions will come up like –

Why do I do what I do?  What propels me?  Where am I blocked?  What or who am I influenced by?

“Write (paint) what you know,” in this case gets challenged by write (paint or fill in the blank) what you want to know.

I’ve stopped worrying. Yippee!

Do I get frustrated and blocked?  Oh ya… 
I’ve learned to expect set backs and sometimes I even have to start all over again.

I now recognize this as a natural process and absolutely necessary to making something that I’m proud of.

I welcome the discoveries, the accidents, and the “wrong turns” because they are never a waste of time just an opportunity to stir up something new and juicy.

When we are willing to take risks and just start, we all benefit. (I’m sure I read that somewhere as a well articulated quote – I’m game, how about you?)


p.s. If you are scared to start – get your hands on this great little book –“Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon, it will make you smile while giving you a kick in the ass or come paint with me!

Hello, I’m a painting and this is my story . . .

“I began in the depths of Marlene’s mind, heart, and gut.  I began because I was inspired by something she saw, heard, or read.  Or perhaps something she felt, wrestled with, or was overcome by – joy or sorrow.”

 I often get asked how I begin?  Where did this painting or that one come from?

The stories behind the paintings are often difficult for me to articulate because I’m a painter and my “stories” are the paintings themselves.  However, I do have a passion for the written word so I’ll do my best to tell you the story of  “symbiotic.”

Once upon a time …

My whole being loves to hike in our forests.

I become immersed.

I have a deep respect for the complicated web of life, the co-dependency and connection that enables everything to live, interact, and nourish each other.

The old cedar stumps of the trees that were first logged in our area fascinate me.  They remind me that what I am seeing is all re-growth.  All the beauty that I’m experiencing is new.

You can often still see the notches cut in the stumps for the springboards that the loggers used as platforms to stand on while hand cutting these giants; honest and difficult work.  The stumps are charred black from fires that we have no memory of. They are rotten and have been burrowed into by animals and insects, leaving piles of soft cedar shavings on the ground like talus at the foot of a mountainside.

They are the remains of a different time.

Yet they nurture.  Often there are small trees growing on top, their roots draping down towards the earth, snake-like.  There are ferns and huckleberry bushes clinging to their sides.  They are covered in areas by thick green moss, fungi from “Wonderland” and patches of blue-green and white lichen.  They sustain minute forests when you examine them closely like a coral reef in the forest.

the process
How did I tell their story with paint?

I covered the white canvas with dark cedar reds.  I then began to build the story one brush stroke at a time.  I used the colours of our temperate rainforest, building layers of dark and light, like the seasons of growth and change.  I made thousands of marks. I continued to build and explore with colour, contrast and shape until I felt satisfied that my version of the story was complete.

My intention was to create something rich and beautiful, with depth and history because to me these discarded stumps are grand, still.

They are a symbol of our symbiotic relationship to this planet.  They remind me that we can transform and create something new, beautiful and sustainable.

They are hopeful.

The End.

by Marlene

"symbiotic" oil on canvas 36"x48"