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"

Even though I’m a painter, I have a strange fascination with words…

I think some words are alive, they seem to grow and become energetically charged.“Gratitude” has a kind of life force.  I think when repeated out loud or as a silent mantra it grows, gets plump, bold, beautiful, colourful, expands, begins to ripen becomes tangible, tactile and delicious.
"a mystery" oil on canvas 36"x36" SOLD
As a recipient of gratitude you can physically feel it.  When others stand with you, show up, lend a hand, create support, smile at you, hug you, and look you in the eye.  We can hear it even when the word itself isn’t spoken, in kind and encouraging words, in curiosity and interest.  We can embody gratitude as it can be expressed in our actions.There is another word that never tires of repetition but only grows in depth and meaning when you discuss it, share it, pass it along, and try to live by it.Have you heard of  “Ubuntu?” (and I’m not referring to the free OS system)It is a South African philosophy, best described by Desmond Tutu in the video below – but I’ll make an attempt.

The powerful message behind this idea was a tool used to challenge Apartheid.  We are all one, woven tightly together, interlinked so that when one of us suffers, we all suffer and when one of us shines, we all shine.   Nelson Mandela lived Ubuntu, forgiveness was his bright light.

Ubuntu encourages us to stand up for one another and support each other.  It asks us to celebrate our friend’s successes, encouraging them to shine brightly for when they shine, so then do we.

We need to be ourselves and express that self to the best of our ability.  We need each other to be bold and be bright to create this amazing tapestry of humanity; beautiful, strong and life supporting.

Gratitude & Ubuntu are interlaced in my world and growing stronger.  These ideas were forefront when I was painting  “this will the day.”  Here below.

"this will be the day" oil on canvas 48"x48"
So I’ll repeat, and help them both grow.  Thank-you.Thank-you for coming out to my art opening, for calling me, sending me notes of encouragement from afar, thank-you for talking to me about my paintings, thank-you for purchasing my artwork and thank-you for reading this blog. I am so motivated to paint right now – I’m bursting with ideas and energy, painting makes me feel shiny – thank-you for that incredible gift.

Namaste (The divine light in me bows deeply to the divine in you).

Ubuntu - Desmond Tutu
Video – Ubuntu explained by Desmond Tutu – 2:15 minutes.

What are you afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

Me?  snakes (well, duh), bears (yup, in most of my nightmares), mice, failure and it turns out I’m also afraid of success, being judged, not being liked by everyone, rejection, not making any money and then not making enough money and then running out of money, the dentist, handstands (and I’m a yoga teacher), needles, heights, being late, missing the boat (both figuratively and if you live on the Coast, literally), dying, singing in public, public speaking, losing, wearing bright colours, dancing with out being at least slightly inebriated, being vulnerable, looking like a fool, going back to school, reaching out to help a stranger, traveling where other people don’t speak English (albeit difficult to do these days), rocking the boat, making a ruckus, standing out, being still, sharing, bungee jumping , diving (big one for me, head first just doesn’t make sense), speaking up . . .

Chances are you nodded to at least one of these on my list and I’m just getting started.

Why do we pretend that we are not scared?

Are we collectively afraid of living?   Or maybe it’s just me.


I’m getting a little tired of being scared, how about you?

I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.

When I do something or face something on my list, I feel lighter, freer, I move more easily, the day, the week, the next obstacle looks a bit easier.

I practice handstands.  They used to make my hands sweat and my heart pound and even though I’m still a little bit scared, I’ve come accustomed to being slightly uncomfortable.  The fear is there but it has faded.

Perhaps facing that fear and being O.K. in “uncomfortable” lead me to singing.

I sang.  Yup, in front of an amazing singer, (Katherine Penfold no less) and at a party during a jam session.  I’ll keep practicing.

I tried aerial silks with my daughters, not quite bungee jumping but it involves – being upside down, being suspended in the air and quite a bit of spinning.  Scary and I felt like I was going to vomit at times.

I share my paintings now, even some that I’m still working on!   It still scares me a little bit but not like a few years ago, when hanging a show, I felt again, like vomiting.

Is there something on your list that you could take on?

Perhaps just a little one?

I’ll acknowledge that you are freaked out just like me, now let’s move on, together.  LIVE with me.

And please, come visit me, if you can, during any of my art openings, I’ll appreciate your friendly face (it will feel like you are holding my hand).


p.s. I was afraid to hit “publish.”

Always wanted to learn how to draw?

Have you ever tried blind contour drawing? Creative play this week is about working from the “right” side of your brain.

Find a piece of paper and something to draw with. This will take about 10 minutes.

Place your non-dominant hand, for me it is my left, on the table.  Starting at your wrist begin to slowly draw your hand without looking at your paper or letting your drawing instrument (a.k.a your pencil) lift from your paper.  You might want to secure your paper to the table with a bit of tape or a paper weight.  Now, before you begin, ask yourself, “Is there any possible way that what you draw will actually look like your hand?” The answer, probably not.  But if you take it slow, notice all the lines in your fingers, on your palm, in the joints and knuckles, you will begin to relax and actually start to draw what you see as opposed to what you think you see (or what your “hurry up get this over with” rational left brain is telling you).

blind contour drawing

Interested in learning more about drawing?  I highly recommend “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.  It is a classic and is full of really amazing exercises that will move you along quickly.  Incidentally, even though I paint abstract, this switch over in my brain is where I go and want to be when I’m in the “flow,” so learning about being in this space is kind of magic.

Enjoy and share your “handy” work with us.