Blind Contour Drawing #8 “Girl on a Hill “ Prudence Heward 1929

Despite the popularity of landscape painting during her lifetime, Prudence Heward was a Canadian painter primarily known for her figure painting of defiant women.

She used bold and rich colours that challenged conventional representations of passivity and created portraits of complex, brooding and independent modern women. Many of her subjects returned the viewer’s gaze. She also painted nude subjects and one painting titled “Hester” (1937) of a naked black woman provoked hostile reactions in the press.

Born into a wealthy family, Heward took her first drawing lesson at the age of twelve and soon started painting at the Art Association of Montreal. After living out World War I in England as a volunteer with the Red Cross, she returned to the Art Association in 1918.

For two summers, Heward painted with Maurice Cullen in the rural areas outside Montreal. In 1925, she went to Paris under a scholarship. There, she met another Canadian student, Isabel McLaughlin, who became her lifelong friend. The two returned to Paris in 1929 and took sketching classes at the Scandinavian Academy, before traveling together to the Mediterranean town of Cagnes.

Heward’s first major success was in 1929 when she won first prize at the Willingdon Arts Competition for “Girl on a Hill.” This piece depicts the modern dancer Louise McLea. It is remarkably modern for McLea is posing with dirty bare feet and is challenging you with her gaze.

Heward’s works were selected for numerous international exhibitions. She was invited to exhibit her work with the Group of Seven in 1928 and again in 1931, and held her first solo exhibition in 1932 at the Scott Galleries, Montreal.

She was associated with the Beaver Hall Group; a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters and Contemporary Arts Society, and a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists.

In 1947, Heward died at age 50 in Los Angeles, while seeking treatment for the asthma that had plagued her all her life. While frail in a physical sense, she was as robust and defiant as many of her subjects when it came to her dedication to her work. Her work continues to draw attention from art historians due to the issues she revealed about class, gender and race in Canadian society.

The National Gallery of Canada held a memorial exhibition in 1948, the year following her death.

Born Montreal, Quebec July 2 1896

Died Los Angeles, California, March 19 1947





Blind contour drawing #7 “Les Faucheurs” Natalia Goncharova 1907

Natalia Goncharova is one of the most highly regarded Russian painters of the 20th century. She was bold, confident and passionate about her country.

Goncharova worked in various styles of the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century but what remained constant was the influence of traditional Russian folk art and icon painting.

She came from a prosperous family of architects and spent much time of her growing up at her grandmother’s country estate. She decided to attend university, which at the time was not a common path for women and mid way through her schooling, in 1901, she transferred to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

There she met her lifelong love and fellow artist, Mikhail Larionov. The couple explored different visual styles and ideology, eventually pioneering an art movement called Rayonism. Drawing from Russian thoughts around Futurism, they created a painting style that expressed energy and movement like rays of light.

The couple started an artist collective called ‘Donkey’s Tail’, which included Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich.

She was invited to show work in Paris at the Salon d’Automne in 1906 and subsequently helped arrange a reciprocal show in Russia bringing Gauguin, van Gogh, Cezanne and Matisse to her home country for the first time.

Her paintings portrayed peasants at work, cutting hay, shaving ice, washing, and weaving. She gave her subjects, mostly women almost religious statue and strength. She paired the secular with the religious and was criticized for it. Much of her work was considered blasphemy by the church which only added to the controversy around her as she was unmarried and living with a man.

In 1910, two nudes and a painting called The God(dess) of Fertility were declared pornographic and confiscated by the police. She was put on trial for pornography, yet was acquitted. Goncharova and Larinov set a precedent for performance art that was not further developed until the 1970s. Together, the artists would appear naked in public with their bodies painted! She often wore men’s clothing, loved tattoos and sometimes went topless in public with designs painted on her breasts.

By 1913 she was invited to go to Paris to design costumes and staging of a production of the Ballets Russes. It was a huge success but just after the premiere, WWI began. She served in the army and was influenced by her travels to Rome and to Spain, where she met Picasso. After the war she continued to work with ballet and theatre productions and kept up with her painting.

She became secluded in her Paris apartment not able to return to Russia due to the Russian Revolution and not feeling part of the city’s art scene.

During World War II she traveled and designed for ten ballets in South Africa, and, after the war, divided her time and work between London and Paris. During the 1950’s, she suffered from severe arthritis and had to tie her brush to her hand but she continued to paint and sought inspiration from current events. Her later work is an exploration of abstraction, including a series dedicated to the Russian satellite, Sputnik.

Her work was rediscovered in 1954 and in 1961, a year before her death the British Arts Council mounted a retrospective of her work and Larionov’s work that included paintings and theatre designs.

Quote: “ Decorative painting? Poetic poetry, musical music. Nonsense. All painting is decorative, if it adorns, beautifies.”

Born: June 21, 1881 – Nagaevo, Tula Province, Russia

Died: October 17, 1962 – Paris, France


Thrive Talk by Marlene Lowden – My personal artist story

Meet my teachers and hear my very personal story on becoming an artist.

This is an audio recording (with slides) of my talk for Thrive on March 29th, 2017.

Public speaking is pretty scary and sharing your personal story adds another layer of vulnerability. I want to thank the Thrive network for the invitation to speak because I learned so much about myself in the process.  It was an incredibly supportive audience and I recommend that you take a peek at their blog to hear more stories from that night.

I hope that there are bits of what I share that help you reflect on your story and discover the beauty even in the dark and seemingly insignificant parts.




Thrive is a network for female and femme-identified artists based out of Vancouver but has members from around the globe.


To stay connected visit me on Instagram – marlenelowden and sign up for my monthly newsletter.



Painting with an audience is like stepping up to the plate – all eyes are on your every move!

opusandlibreteaPainting with an audience is like stepping up to the plate – all eyes are on your every move!

It is exhilarating, challenging
AND very vulnerable!

I’m so thankful to the staff of the North Vancouver Opus who welcomed me and helped me set up the demos that I hosted in the store.
Waiting with my tea in hand and what seemed like a very BIG blank canvas was probably the hardest part.





demo at opus
This is the 2nd painting that I started that day.

I have been practicing the art of letting go of outcome and since that was my major message for the attendees, behind the guise of a mark making demo, I took a few calming breaths and did my best to practice what I preach!

The fabulous dialogue and support of the people in room helped me put my worries aside and in no time, it felt like everyone at the demo was painting along with me!  They stepped on the field and we were in this game together!
I ended up with 2 canvases at the end of the day that I wanted to finish and share with everyone who came to witness the start.

Here’s a little play by play while I worked on the demo canvas from the morning session.


Running commentary of a painting in process:


To give you a little back story.  I demonstrated a whole series of mark making ideas with red, orange and pink acrylic paints.  I dried the paint with a hairdryer then used white and black oil based markers on the canvas. I then spent the 2nd part of the demo working in oil (my preferred medium), using complimentary blues.

This is how it looked at the end of the demo.  We all played with the orientation but when I got home I flipped it around again and blocked out some areas.




IMG_5153 IMG_5152These are a couple of sweet little details – we used some matte boards in the demo to find pleasing compositions.  It helps me to take close up photos or use the matte boards, especially when things start to get a bit chaotic, so that I can see some of the beautiful details.




I started to soften the piece with whites, creams and light blues to see if I could calm some of the chaos and allow some resting space for the eye.  This ended up being the final orientation but I flipped it around quite a bit while I worked on it.





It got too washed out at one point so I went back in with a dark marker and made very distinct shapes, then I filled them in with soft pinks & creams. The shapes seemed to float on top of the underpainting.






I knew that I needed to integrate the new shapes so I used a white oil based marker, oil pastel and white paint to blend and link the underpainting and the shapes together.   I also felt like I needed more colour so I added the gold bits.  I wanted to pull from the original warm acrylic underpainting that was orange, red and pink!


I’m happy with how it all turned out.  A friend of mine on instagram helped me name it, “Weaving the Tapestry.”  The title feels right to me because I really felt supported by the people in the room. They changed from spectators to team mates.  I like how the multiple layers have woven together to represent the many ‘hands’ involved in the process.

The afternoon session painting is not complete yet.  I’ve been posting work in progress on instagram if you are curious.

And if you are looking to dive deeper into process – take a look at some of the retreats that I’m offering.

Regardless of whether you were at the demo or not, I want to thank you for your encouragement, for being part of the whole story and for being on my team!



p.s. This link will take you to the demo/workshop page at Opus – there are some fabulous opportunities coming up!