What does it take to call yourself an artist? For painter and Beach Guild of Fine Art (BGFA) member Marlene Pape it took the encouragement of others to convince her that her work was indeed art, and that she was indeed an artist.
“I’m still shocked when people say how amazed they are about my work,” she says. She names artists such as Anna Clarey, Shirley Jones and Liz Russ as inspirations, as well as mentors.
“Patrice Carmichael and I met years ago when our children were in Montessori,” Pape recalls. “Years later we met again at a Guild meeting and found out that we both were wanting to become artists.”
Pape, Carmichael and the other members of the BGFA are holding the annual spring Small Paintings for Small Spaces show, May 25 to 27, in the historic Kew (Gardener’s) Cottage in Kew Gardens.
Pape had been many things before deciding to add artist to the list. For 10 years she was an elementary school teacher who found that teaching art to her young pupils was one of the more enjoyable aspects of that career. After the birth of her first child, she ran a children’s clothing store. After her second child came along, Pape decided to stay at home and concentrate on her children.
When the kids got old enough to be less dependent, Pape went to George Brown College to study Interior Decorating. It was there that she learned about perspective drawing and colour theory. While working as a decorator, she found herself spending more time in her personal studio working on paintings. In 2005 she made the decision to commit herself to painting full-time.
Pape’s first show was at Cobalt Gallery on Kingston Road, and with support from gallery owner Annette Hansen and friends, she was encouraged to stay on her artist track.
“Every single new painting is, for me, like re-inventing the wheel,” Pape says. “My art is not pre-planned. I like to start, and just see where it’s going.”
That kind of approach is often fraught with potential problems, and Pape is quick to acknowledge them.
“Sometimes I have a hard time knowing when to stop,” she says. “I have had to go to a lot of work to ‘correct’ mistakes… and sometimes just start over again.”
Marlene Pape has narrowed – if that’s a word that can be applied to art – her paintings into three styles. With one style she calls her ‘scrapings’ she creates large, colourful abstracts in oils and acrylics in which she uses a palette knife to apply and direct the paint. These are the works that people find amazing, and she admits to them being her signature style. Then there are her ‘skies’; again, large, colourful, impressionistic and fanciful paintings that feature a landscape – or seascape – dwarfed by an immense and powerful sky. Their size, combined with a surreal, captivating light, often leaves viewers convinced that there is a religious aspect to these works.
“I’m not in the least bit religious,” Pape states. “But I’ve been told that many of my paintings have a spiritual aspect to them. I suppose that could be true.
“My ‘staircases’ are becoming very popular,” Pape says of her latest subject. “I’m going to concentrate on more of them.”
These, too, are large (Pape admits to having had a tough time creating work for the Small Paintings show) impressionistic renderings of staircases. Pape says she often works from photographs, but that the finished work bears no resemblance to the original photo.
In the living room of her beautiful Beach home, books on the great Italian artist Caravaggio (1571-1610) were seen on her coffee table. Was he an influence?
“My husband and son are huge fans of his,” Pape says. “I appreciate his work but I could never even attempt to do that style.
“How I judge what is successful art is when I look at the piece and can’t imagine how it was accomplished,” she says. “I look carefully and can’t even distinguish the brushstrokes.”
Pape enjoys the solitude required to be an artist. “It’s so nice to be able to work from home,” she says. “The kids still come home for lunch… I can work all night if I’m inspired.”
With the success she is finding as a member of the BGFA, the development of definite styles of paintings, and the joy that comes from the solitary act of creating, Marlene Pape definitely has all it takes to call herself an artist.
For more information on Marlene, drop by the Small Paintings for Small Spaces show in Kew (the Gardener’s) Cottage, May 25-27, or visit her website at marlenepapefineart.com.