About Art Interview with Marilyn Whalen


Born in Corner Brook on the west coast of Newfoundland, Marilyn Whalen developed a deep appreciation for the beauty of the mountains, rivers and forests of that inspiring province. The love of earth and creation touches all of her work from her functional pottery pieces, to her paintings, sculpture and jewelry; there is always a connection to the land and sea. Whalen’s work has been published in the book ‘From Land and Sea Nova: Scotia’s Contemporary Landscape Artists’. She has won a number of awards for her artwork, including a painting in the permanent art collection of the County of Colchester. She has been a sought after art instructor for more than twenty years and continues to teach watercolor and acrylic painting in her studio in Truro, Nova Scotia.

How did you start making art?

When I was a child I wrote and illustrated books. I loved to create and explore new ways to look at things. I still do.

How do you work?

I work either in plein aire or from photographs. My inspiration comes not so much from the actual view in front of me, but from my reactions to it. The landscape changes to vivid colors; light is exaggerated. Color is applied with a cloth, palette knife, and occasionally, with brushes. I often scrape through the wet paint to reveal portions of the under painting which become part of the movement in the painting. I work quickly and focus on the expressiveness of line and form rather than making an accurate pictorial representation.

How has your practice changed over time?

Working as an artist is hard work. It takes time; time to learn the basics, time to be inspired, to think and to be creative. It takes years to master your craft. The defining moment for most artists is when they decide that what they are doing is no longer a hobby. When I began painting, I painted once or twice a week, took classes and painted with art groups here in Truro. Over time I took workshops with artists from other parts of Canada and the United States, took courses at art schools and became serious about my career as an artist. I exhibited in galleries and regularly sold my artwork. Like most professional artists, it is difficult to make a living through art sales alone. For the past twenty years, I have taught and given workshops in watercolor and acrylic painting to many wonderful aspiring artists.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

As simplistic as it sounds, the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given has been “make the mark”. The deeper meaning of that statement, of course, is to be confident. Make the mark, make decisions and move on to the next opportunity that mark gave you. Not always easy to do, but that one simple statement has helped me tremendously throughout my career.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just completed work for a solo show called “Colorful Spaces: Views of Newfoundland” currently on exhibit at the MMFI Gallery, in the Marigold Cultural Centre, 605 Prince Street, Truro. Many people refer affectionately to Newfoundland as, the Rock, but Newfoundlanders know its geography is as unique as its culture and history. Capturing the colourful towns, fishing villages and landscapes from my home province has been a wonderful experience for me. Paintings, pottery, felted scarves and abstract felted artwork are featured in the exhibit. The show runs December 2, 2016 to January 2, 2017, from 9 am to 5 pm daily and during special events. Hope you can drop by!