A Central Alberta artist Marianne Harris has a mesmerizing way with capturing what she describes as abstract scenes that are superimposed by realism.
Her remarkable capabilities as painter aren’t limited to that concept by any means – as any visitor to her home can see, she captures all kinds of scenes and images in a range of compelling ways.
She has an exhibit coming up at The Gallery on Main in Lacombe, with the opening reception on July 17th from 5 to 9 p.m. That exhibit runs through to Aug. 7th.
Harris, who is originally from Edmonton, said her love for artistic expression was sparked back in her elementary school years. Where this knack came from is anyone’s guess, as her folks weren’t the ‘artsy’ type. But as the years passed, she kept at it and her skills flourished. She took courses but mainly Harris is self-taught, with an obviously natural flair.
“Currently, I really enjoy the more abstract with realism superimposed – if there is an actual name for that, I don’t know what it is,” she explains with a smile. “You can, for example, still read it as a landscape of sorts,” she says, referring to a specific painting hanging in her kitchen area. “You can see trees and rocks – but then you look around those and see these other things.
“So the process for me is interesting – it can be a trial and error kind of thing – but then there’s that (great) feeling when it does come together.”
Harris has said she is inspired by a variety of subject matter, but that adventures from her travels and people in any setting are among her favourite subjects to paint.
“I strive to depict their story and personalities with paint on paper. My artwork is a result of my personal impression of nature and people’s activities, and I trust it will evoke an emotion in the viewer also, and through the pieces be able to catch a glimpse of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen,” she notes on her web site.
Years earlier, she focused more on high realism, based on photographic images. “Can I reproduce this photograph? That’s how I started, and I did that for quite a few years.”
These days, she can work from home so it’s a nice balance of managing the house, doing her day job and pouring out her inspiration into an array of paintings. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of limitations in terms of what she can do – her paintings are a wonder in balancing both subtle and bold nuances of shimmering light and vivid colour.
“I took a beginner workshop course in Stony Plain, and that really got me going,” she said. “That would have been in my early 20s,” she recalls, adding that along with a growing passion for painting came marriage, the raising of three sons and a career in medical transcription. So finding time to fit in some painting has, at times, been something of a challenge. She’s also taught several courses and classes over the years, and loves sharing her skills with others in a number of age groups.
Still, she finds the pursuit absolutely exhilarating – and fulfilling.
“There is so much that is exciting about it,” she said, referring to the multitude of styles and media that an artist can explore. “I also think that what has kept me going is that my student base was such that they always wanted to try something new, too. So I always had to keep a step ahead of them,” she said. “Consequently, I started taking a lot of workshops myself and I still do.
“I’d learn a new technique, and then share it with my students in workshops.”
The positive feedback she has received from students over the years has also been a source of rich fulfillment.
Meanwhile, Harris firmly believes that virtually anybody could learn to paint in a skillful way. It’s a matter of desire, discipline and time.
“If there’s a desire to learn, I can teach you to do everything I do.” Of course there are variables to that – there is no strict formula that would apply to everyone. “You might have mentors that encourage you along the way more so, and that might shorten the learning curve, but you still have to have that desire to do it.”