The Monthly interviews Marion Clarke about her painting

When did you first get interested in visual arts?

I have always been interested in art. I was fortunate to live just around the corner from my grandmother who loved to paint. She joined a local art group and when I showed an interest, she let me loose with her oil paints. As I grew older, I read all her art books on perspective, composition, colour mixing, etc. She had lots of step-by-step books, from which I would try out exercises. Art has been there pretty much since I could hold a pencil or a brush.

Did you paint at school?

At primary school there was a dedicated art room and if a teacher couldn’t find me in the classroom, they knew where I would be. One of my fellow pupils and friend, Anne Quail (who works with Community Arts Partnership) also loved painting and we were considered the two class artists right through school. Our teachers also encouraged us to try various crafts; looking back, the school was very supportive of creative pupils.

You went to school in Warrenpoint?

Yes. Warrenpoint was a great place to grow up, with lots of interesting things to do. It a very pretty location and, being by the sea, was always very busy during the summer months. In fact, people still come here to buy fish and chips and sit down at the marina and look out at Carlingford Lough. The municipal park is also lovely, with its Edwardian bandstand. There is a lot of inspiration around here for both artists and writers

Did you go to Art College?

I studied O level and A level art at school, as I’d always intended to go to art college. However, I had just started a foundation course in art and design in Belfast in the 80s, when my mother heard a news item on the radio about a new course at the Ulster Polytechnic seeking language students. I had French and Spanish A levels, so left the art course to enrol on the European Business Studies degree. My life took a completely different direction. After leaving art school, I stopped painting for almost 15 years. My first job was working for the Channel Tunnel contractors, then I had various posts in the business sector over the next decade or so.

When you did return to painting, why landscapes?

Coming from Warrenpoint and living close to Rostrevor, it is hard not to be inspired by the landscape around here. It is so beautiful, with Carlingford Lough, The Mournes, Cloch Mór (The Big Stone) and these subjects feeds their way in to my work. I grew up on Seaview and for the first eighteen years of my life, my bedroom overlooked the lough. So every single morning I had this wonderful view, and that has stayed with me. Although, I have to confess I’m not very good at painting buildings or straight lines! Natural subjects tend to work best for me. I paint using my hands a lot, especially my fingers, which I use to blend colours and in particular, dramatic skies. Nature is full of soft edges and I think this is what I am better at reproducing.

You recently put up a painting on Blue Monday. How did that come about?

That was a photograph of a painting titled “The Moody Lough” which I had started just after lockdown eased. Local artists were invited to hang work in a pop-up gallery in a vacant shop unit in Newry. I didn’t have enough pieces ready, so decided to finish that painting. I worked on it all day Saturday and when it was finished, posted a photo on my Facebook page. Someone enquired about it and, on Sunday at opening time, this person was there to buy it.

I must say, I was in a very bad mood when I painted this one, and I think it reflects that.

Would you be a painter who works on feelings and moods?

I don’t do that intentionally; my mood is part of me, so it isn’t something deliberate. But I guess how I am feeling is a big part of how my paintings turn out and, with that painting, it was pretty dark!

Where to now?

The situation with Covid impacted me significantly. I really didn’t paint much during lockdown. In fact, I found that I really needed to be by myself to paint. I am a member of an art group and I have found it increasingly difficult to paint while other people are around.

I think I am just going to have to find a routine which will allow me to paint in a number of different circumstances. I am hoping to make time to do that.

To see more of Marion Clarke’s work see the following ink –

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.