Thalo loves to promote artists and each month, we spotlight a member of our community!
This month we are pleased to have Marion Aitken as the thalo Spotlight Artist.
THALO TEAM: Can you give an "elevator pitch" of your work?
MARION AITKEN: My post-secondary education was in Scientific and Technical Illustration, because I love detail, accuracy and ‘functional’ art (art that communicates clearly). Though my subject matter varies widely, my work generally contains these elements: Realism; minute detail; vibrant colours/strong tonal range; and unique angle of view. My work tends to highlight a small section of a greater picture. For example, I prefer to paint an insect on a petal on a flower versus a flower garden landscape scene.
TT: What is your artwork about and what do you want people to take from it?
MA: I appreciate the small things in life – the little joys that are easy to skim over or miss. My paintings celebrate and draw attention to those small details. Without a vast number of intricate pieces, we wouldn’t have the grander “big” things in life, nature, or relationships. I hope my work can cause viewers to pause and observe some of those intricacies and therefore to see the value in little things.
"Opening Act" | Acrylic
TT: Which artists do you feel have influenced your art the most?
MA: I’ve always admired the realism that Robert Bateman captures. I love the clever, life-like, yet impossible mind-bending work Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher. There are so many amazingly gifted modern Artists, I am no doubt influenced to different degrees by all artists whose work I admire.
TT: Do you have a preferred method of presentation for your artwork and why? (Examples: workshops, gallery shows, Instagram, etc.)
MA: I like for people to be able to see my work in person, so gallery exhibitions are ideal. Instagram or any form of digital media only captures so much. I want people to be able to get right up close and get lost in the detail. Once a man brought a magnifying glass to a vernissage of mine and, though it was odd, it was a big compliment that he wanted to spend the time scrutinizing the paintings that I had pored over to create!
TT: Out of all of your creations (or bodies of work) which one did/do you find the most cathartic in creating?
MA: No creation was especially cathartic to create. Almost every piece has a stage of being frustrating and challenging (tempting me to quit), as well as a much more enjoyable stage of coming together and fulfilling the vision I had before starting. To truly contain a “piece of me”, my work contains a range of my experiences, from the struggle to the satisfaction.
TT: When was your “Aha!” moment that led your work to where it is now?
MA: Late in high school when I learned there was such a thing as an Illustration Program, particularly a Technical Illustration program, in college was my “Aha” moment. I realized I could train in order to make a living creating functional, necessary art. It seemed to me that was a good fit for my dreams.
"Sumptuous" | Acrylic
TT: How has your work (or technique) changed over time?
MA: I’m getting faster! I have become less reliant on hours’ worth of penciling out my art on canvas before loading up a paintbrush. I still use temporary pencil grids and other techniques to accurately portray complex elements of a piece, but I’ve become more confident about following my intuition, and going with the flow more than I used to.
TT: How do you promote yourself and your art?
MA: My work can be seen on my Facebook page, as well as Instagram, and my website. I am working towards regularly posting videos on YouTube about my creative exploits. Occasionally I enjoy unexpected promotion when photographs of my exhibitions appear in local papers or magazines.
"Fantastic Fungi" | Acrylic
TT: Do you have any tips or advice for fellow artists based off of your experiences thus far?
MA: Document your work. I make sure to get a high quality photograph or scan of all my work before I sell it. I keep both a low-resolution version and a print-quality version of every piece for ease of all future tasks related to that piece (applying for shows, providing images for promotion purposes, and even just so I remember what I did and when I did it). I always record the date I painted it, and the dimensions of the piece. Always sign and date your work (for your own reference, even if you don’t sell it).
TT: What are you working on right now and why?
MA: I’m working on a series of mountain biking paintings. I’ve painted one so far, but would like to have a collection of them. I love the outdoors and biking, so it follows that I enjoy putting the experience in paint. It is a fun challenge to capture the usual "Marion elements" (detail, vibrancy, cool perspective), while persuading viewers to find themselves in the piece. I don’t want these to be portraits such as “Julie Riding A Bike”; I want viewers to feel like they could be on the saddle taking that ride.
"The Mountain Biker" | Acrylic
TT: What would you consider to be your "biggest achievement" with your work thus far?
MA: Just the fact that I am selling my work (that means others see the value in it that I do) is an on-going “big achievement”. Knowing that my work is out there brightening lives not only in my own country, but also in New Zealand, Mexico, the United States and parts of Europe, brings me great contentment.
TT: What was your first work of art that you were proud of? Where is it now?
MA: I have no idea. There were so many. Our whole kitchen wall was a gallery featuring the art of my siblings and me. My mom no doubt has a number of them squirreled away for posterity.
"Morning Shadows" | Acrylic
TT: Do you take commissions? Why or why not?
MA: Absolutely. It’s quite special to be entrusted with sensitively representing on canvas a person’s vision or memories. I consider it a privilege to bring to life something that is precious to a client, knowing that it will bear tremendous significance in their life for years to come.
TT: What do you do when you aren't working on artwork (hobbies, job, etc.)?
MA: Outdoors activities like hiking, snowshoeing, rollerblading, biking are all things I love to do. I do freelance graphic design and photo restoration/retouching as a ‘day job’.
"The Love Letter" | Acrylic
TT: What is an area in your work that you feel weak in that you want to improve upon and how are you going to get there?
MA: When it comes to quick, accurate sketches, especially of people, I am very rusty. As well as being intentional about sketching much more regularly, I’m considering taking some Life Drawing classes to brush up.
"Untethered Bliss" | Acrylic
TT: How do you overcome art blocks?
MA: Deadlines help me. Sometimes a bit of pressure forces me to push through and once I’m creating again, I remember how much I enjoy it and am reinvigorated to pour myself into art again.
TT: Where do you see your work taking you in the next 5-10 years?
MA: The dream has always been to make a living entirely through producing art. One key goal for this year (towards that end) is to build an e-commerce platform through which to sell my work (prints, originals and commissions) internationally. I will be investing more time in building the business so that the dream can become a reality, bit by bit.
TT: Check out Marion's profile on thalo!
TT: More of Marion's work can be seen at:
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