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Thalo Spotlight Artist Marion Aitken

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 for July 2020!

Marion Aitken -

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. I mostly paint in acrylic and very occasionally I use gouache.


TT: What is your artwork about and what do you want people to take from it?

MA: The focus of my current body of work a bit of a step away from the close ups of nature that I often paint; instead, I feature the human figure in action, preferably in a dramatic natural setting. This recent work celebrates the joy of being active and out in nature. I’m trying to paint figures that lack strongly distinguishing features in order that my viewers can readily be drawn into the action of each painting, imagining themselves as the person in the painting, experiencing the sensations of that moment – the smell of pine needles, the splash of water on their skin, and so on.


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 that I follow that I am reticent to name specific names. All artists whose work I admire are doubtless influences on my own artistic expression.


Marion Aitken -


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 art shows are ideal. While I am very grateful for the far-reaching capabilities of social media, Instagram (or any form of digital media) only captures so much. I want people to be able to get right up close and become 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: Do you feel like your work has evolved? If so, how?

MA: Yes. For one, I used to strongly dislike abstract art, and now I have an appreciation for some of it, and have dabbled in it myself. That tends to influence how I tackle my own paintings - it loosens me up a bit. And in terms of style and technique, my bent towards realism remains, but the subject matter, and my painting methods have changed over time as I’ve learned and experimented with new ones.


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). And, very importantly, paint what you are passionate about. Don’t pander to what society says you should paint. Your authenticity (or lack thereof) will inevitably show through in your work.

Marion Aitken -

TT: What are you working on right now and why?

MA: In the background, as time permits, I’m continuing to work at my outdoors-and-alive action art pieces; however, I have a number of commissions I am committed to completing in the next few months. The subject matter ranges from people’s dreams, to pets, to botanicals, and a portrait.


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 Canada, but also in New Zealand, Mexico, the United States and parts of Europe, brings me great contentment. I’m delighted that more and more people are approaching me to create custom art for them.


TT: What was your first work of art that you were proud of? Where is it now?

MA: My first ‘real’ painting I was proud of was a self portrait (created when I was about 19 years old) and involved a detailed background of architecture and foliage. It was the first piece I’d painted after getting some proper training on the process of acrylic painting. For example, I’d learned about varnishing and I’d never previously done that. It won a monetary award at the school I attended at the time and that was very validating. It is probably in a stack of old work under the guest bed right now!


Marion Aitken -


TT: Do you take commissions? Why or why not?

MA: Yes. 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. I’m a bit picky about what I choose to paint and if a client wants something that’s really not my style and doesn’t interest me, I will pass on the opportunity.


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. Getting lost in a wonderful book is also great fun for me. I do freelance graphic design, photo restoration/retouching, and laser engraving as ‘day jobs’.


TT: How do you overcome art blocks?

MA: Buckle down and push through. Sometimes art is just hard work. Like any difficult task, the best thing to do is simply start. Once I start, even if it’s slow and painful, eventually I get over the hurdle – whatever it was – and painting regains its joy for me.


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. I will continue to invest in building my business so that the dream can become a reality, bit by bit.


TT: Is there something that you would like to share with us that we have not covered, that pertains to you and your work?

MA: I am extremely grateful to be able to do what I love and am so thankful for everyone who supports me along the way.


Links to Marion's social media: