Where Fantasy Meets Realism

The following guest blog post is contributed by Huron River Art Collective member Marilynn Thomas. Marilynn’s painting Sky to Sea was accepted by Juror John Gutosky into the Collective’s Fall Juried Exhibit, 2022.

Marilynn has been painting and making things out of any supplies she could find since age 5, eventually getting a  B.A. in Art Teaching and Fine Art at Eastern Michigan University. After university, she worked in oil,acrylic,clay, batik, and jewelry-making but her first love has always been watercolor. She dabbled for the next 25 years, but  in ‘99 decided to go professional, creating a body of work and doing art fairs in Michigan and Florida. 

Marilynn began entering national shows and has signature status in American Watercolor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society of America and Michigan Water Color Society.

To purchase Marilynn’s artwork, email her at tmarilynn@hotmail.com

I don’t tend to speak a lot about my watercolors; I feel they should speak for themselves, but given a chance for a guest blog for the Collective, how could I say no?

I’ve always strived for realism in my work.

My first accolades as an artist happened when I decided, around age 5, to draw a baby in a buggy, not from the side, as I usually saw done, but straight down from above, my obvious vantage point.

Here you can see what I discovered as, at age 7 as I tried to draw the house across the street through my bedroom window and realized there were also trees, electrical wires, and strangest of all, the slats on my venetian blinds that covered part of the scene.

This realization opened me up to the concept of ‘getting everything down on paper which has followed me throughout my life as an artist. Realistic watercolor is also what I fell in love with in the years since my dad took me to my very first Ann Arbor Art Fair at the age of 13.

Though I believed (was taught), at an early age, all art should be a product of one’s mind and emotions, not a representation of something seen and loved, those are the very things I wished to capture on paper or canvas, not something out of my head.

Grackles’ Delemma

The best way to do this was to photograph the image, then work from that, so as not to miss any of the details.Working from memory just didn’t do it for me.

For the last 20 years, I’ve come to love birding and natural objects. Walking in the woods and taking photos has provided some of the most enjoyable times in my life.  Some might ask how painting from my photos is more artistic than simply taking the photo and enlarging it. But, often a photo simply does NOT show the true nature of a bird. It misses a lot.

No matter how good the camera and how cooperative the bird, feather or plant, the sense of life and dimensionality simply does not come through in a two dimensional photo. More is required. If the painting does NOT reflect the liveliness and beauty of the subject significantly better than the photo, there is no point to painting it.

Still, after more than 15 years painting birds, realistically, in their natural habitat, I feel the need for something more. Can I manage to both capture the reality of the subject AND my inner thoughts and feelings about its place in the Universe? “Sky to Sea” is an attempt at that amalgamation of realism and fantasy. I’ve done a few of these types of paintings and feel they are my best, and more importantly, my favorite pieces.

Marilynn’s painting Sky to Sea 34×28″
Some of my favorite things painted on a full sheet of Arches watercolor paper. I often like to work all the way to the deckled edge, so the painting can be framed without a mat, showing the entire paper. I’ve also used stencils, erratic brushmarks, and a mouth atomizer combined with my more usual realistic style as an experiment.

I’ve also written down my dreams for years, especially the ones that contain original paintings, and hope to combine those with real objects in new work. Deciding whether to paint them in watercolor or oil has been a dilemma. My work in oil is quite a bit looser and freer than my watercolors, so perhaps oil would be a better choice?

Crane Kimono

Currently I’m working on a watercolor dream of a chair upholstered in 1940s barkcloth (weird maroon-grey background with teal and ochre tropical plants) where the cloth continues past the chair and onto the wall. I’m finding this interesting but difficult and I’m not quite sure where it’s going artistically. That’s one of the fun things about art: working with the uncertainty of exactly where one is going! 

And I’m really not yet sure where the birds will fit in!

Huron River Art Collective’s Fall Juried Exhibit can be seen at the Ann Arbor District Library (lower level) through the Reception on November 13th, 2-4p. Artwork is available for purchase directly from the artists with no commission. Join us at the reception to hear from the Juror, John Gutosky, and for awards.

All members are invited to submit guest blog posts. For Guest Blog Post Guidelines, please email communications@huronriverartcollective.org.

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