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Getting Personal with Talents | Artist - Marla Gill

Posted by Lois Chan on

How did you become an artist?

I honestly can not remember a time when making art did not occupy a large part of my being. My earliest memories are of me and my cousins playing with our paper dolls. I would create designs and patterns on paper, then use these patterns to cut out little dresses and other article of clothing with those little tabs that allowed you to attach them to your little paper doll.

I still remember vividly the day I sat with my aunt as she showed me how to fill in an image in my colouring book, then go over the areas close to the lines and re-color in with a darker shade. I thought it was the most magical thing I had ever seen, and is still a technique that I use today.

My mother was very artistic, my aunt, and my sisters and cousins are all accomplished artists. Being an artist was never a choice. It came built into my heritage, inherited like the color of my eyes. Despite having studied art history and design in college and commercial art in Montreal, I am mostly self taught.

I am always experimenting, and learning from fellow artists and the web community. My first love is the fluidity and unpredictable nature of watercolor. I am also drawn to the illustrative style of painting with acrylics. For the past five years I have been captivated by digital art, and a large percentage of my illustrations are created on my iPad.

"Exotic Bouquet" by Marla Gill
What inspires your art?

Color light and a strong design. I grew up in the Caribbean, so I am not shy of exploding vivid color. I manipulate color to set the mood and focal point. I guide the viewers eye through the painting with repetition and juxtaposition of hues and tones. Color harmony and cohesive pallets are also major considerations. I draw inspiration from nature. My garden is a source of subject matter, and I of light in my subject matter. Light is elusive, but can magically transform a flower in a matter of seconds.

What does your art mean to you?

It is what helps me to embrace every day. It is what provides me with joy and contentment as I advance in age. It is what challenges me to keep learning, to keep expanding my consciousness, and propels me to keep striving for excellence and allows me to contribute and to share.

What is the most valuable piece of art to you?

My last failure. Embedded in the disappointment, and the loss of investment time and energy are the most valuable lessons. Being a self critic is difficult. One has to put ego aside, be humble, be grateful and be opportunistic. Retracing one’s steps, evaluating those elements and techniques that led to fresh eye.

How do you overcome your creative blocks?

This is where having a large repertoire of techniques helps. If I can not get started on a large watercolor painting, I will sit and doodle in my sketch book, and invariably some of those doodles will lead to elements that find their way into my surface pattern designs. Switching mediums also helps. I will close up my pallets of watercolors and “play” with small gouache illustrations of whatever comes to mind. Or, I will hop on to my iPad and start creating a vector illustration. Removing the pressure of the end game helps. During this period, I make marks in whatever medium I have chosen with no particular result in mind. It is a very effective way to recharge my battery and even open a new and unexpected door.

Would you describe the experience or feelings you have creating your art?

I chuckle when I think of the evolution of a piece of art, and the gambit of emotions that I usually experience.

First, Excitement, anticipation and a feeling of high energy. The blank canvas or sheet of paper promises an outlet for my imagination. I have a clear idea of what I wish to achieve, and it is going to be the “best one yet”.

Once I start executing the work flow, I enter a zen like place of pure contentment. I don’t what to talk to anyone. “Please don’t let the phone ring”, and I do not want to stop for anything. Not hunger, and certainly not for any mundane household chores. Time freezes and nothing exists but me and the enfolding work before me.

Then, a bit of evaluation creeps in. “That value is not quite right, should be darker” “Now I have made it too dark”. The irritation and self doubt starts to grow.

Then comes the period of growing disgust. “I am starting to mess this up”.

That is the time to take a break. Leave the studio, check emails, go for a walk. Abandon the painting for a period of time….even a day or two.

I then steal a peek at the offending work that is sitting on my easel obediently waiting for my return. Without fail, I am usually surprised. “It’s not so bad! Actually, I like it. Just have to tweak here…” and peace is restored. I continue working on it but now I am calmly evaluating, keeping a more technical and less emotional attitude as I come close to completing. Then the big decision is made, to call it finished. “Not quite the masterpiece that I had in mind, but I am rather pleased with it, and there is always the next one!”


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