Marie Larkin

April 30, 2017 by Laura Gomez


Artist Interview:

Name: Marie Larkin

How would you define yourself as an artist? I am an Australian Lowbrow/Pop Surrealist.

Why art? How did you get involved with art? I have loved art since I was a little girl. I was always drawing. After school I studied art and became a high school visual arts teacher. I did that on and off for nearly 30 years. In the 1990’s, after the birth of my third child I left teaching to stay at home with him and pursue my own art. The demands of a growing family meant I eventually returned to full time work as a teacher but finally, in 2009, I left full time teaching, to again pursue my own art.

What art do you most identify with? Lowbrow/Pop Surrealist and the Romantic period.

What does “being creative” mean to you? A burning desire to ‘play’ with stuff and make stuff.

What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative? I don’t think anyone has ever given me advice on that and I’ve never asked for it. But as a visual arts teacher of some 30 years I have had to give advice about how to get creative on many occasions.

I was asked to speak at a womens business breakfast about how to unlock creative genius. I looked up the definition of creativity:

“Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions.”

So for me, it’s a process.

To that end you need what I call ‘a wandering mind’. Not necessarily a quick one, or a brilliant one. You don’t need a Mazarati just to get out of the garage and go for a drive. All you need is an open door and a vehicle with a working engine and some wheels.

BUT you need to be prepared to :

– open the garage door and take a risk in leaving the comfort of your driveway,

– take a meandering course and explore down every interesting road and lane,

– stick to a sensible speed by putting on cruise control,

– go off road, getting lost sometimes,

– and take the long way round.


What are you trying to communicate with your art? What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually? What themes do you pursue? I’ll answer these together because they are related. My work is about the female persona, in all its complexities. I think the women are the strength of my work. To me my females are not just ‘big eyed girls’. My women might be aloof, sad, angry, willful, sensual or sassy, but they are never weak and they are never defeated. They are sometimes full of darkness and sometimes filled with light. They strike fear and bring hope. They can be cruel and they can be sweet. They are the engenue and the cynic. They are the destroyers and the nurturers. They have innocence but can tell a story of fierceness and wisdom. They are the devil and the goddess. They are a metaphor for many things. Lately I have begun to focus on broader themes like birth, nurturing, our earth, woman as goddess, nurturer and warrior.

What inspires you to work? The work of other artists and a need to give representation to an idea or vision in my head.

Color: Pink. Light pink, dark pink, rose pink, shell pink, dusky pink, baby pink, blush pink…pink, pink, pink!

Book: Lord of the Rings

Movie: I don’t really have one favourite. I like old Jimmie Stewart movies like “You Can’t Take it with You’ and It’s A Wonderful Life’ and Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracey movies like ‘Deskset’ and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and quirky, feel good chick flicks like ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Notting Hill’. My husband and I love ‘Westwing’ and ‘Deadwood’, ‘Six Feet Under’ and Friday Night Lights.

Food: Almost anything that’s not good for me.

Quote: “I would like them to be the happy end of my story.” Margaret Atwood about her children.

Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it? How do you build it in your mind before you start?

I let my mind wander in the shower. And visualize. I research the idea, theme or subject matter. I let my mind wander when I’m walking the dogs. And visualize.

I make lists or write notes. I let my mind wander when I’m vacuuming. And visualize. I look at how others have approached the same subject matter. GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE

I let my mind wander on the toilet. And visualize.

I print hundreds of pictures off and stare at them for hours, going back and forth, seeing what they ‘trigger’.

I let my mind wander before I go to sleep. And visualize.

I talk to others about the subject and get their ‘take’ on it. Bouncing ideas off people whose opinion I value.

I let my mind wander when I’m washing the dogs. And visualize.

I draw and redraw.

I let my mind wander when other people are talking to me. And visualize. (Very rude I know).

So the initial idea sparks. That idea has to be thought through, taken apart, expanded, until I know for sure I have covered all the bases and exhausted all the possibilities. What if it’s been done before? What if there is a better way of approaching it? What if everything I think of seems rubbish? Have I actually thought of all the ways I could represent it? And then I have to fight the feeling of just wanting to ‘get on with it’. And a struggle because thinking outside the box doesn’t come easily to me at all. And all through this process I’m looking, collecting, drawing and thinking. Back and forth, back and forth… and I have to say that this is the most difficult part of the process, and for me the part that makes me the most nervous.

It’s not a linear process, it’s a fluid, meandering, crisscrossing, overlapping way of slowly moving forward.

Then I begin the artwork. Now it’s ‘Paint By Numbers’. But it’s actually NOT! But it is the fun part because the fun is making those ideas come to life. But if I took the mindless unconnected approach that that phrase suggests, then I would fail to see the developments and changes that need to be made along the way on the canvas itself. I think you have to remain connected to the process all the time in an intuitive way and in a mindful way.

What Role does the artist have in society? Artists should inspire us and strike a chord within us. They should make us think, dream, feel. They should make us see things differently, and make us see things we hadn’t noticed. I think art has become a spectator sport and an entertainment with the popularity of Instagram posts, stories, process videos, so add onto that, artists should entertain us!

Do you suffer for your art? No I don’t think I suffer. Sometimes I make sacrifices in terms of time spent on family things.

What do you think about the art community and market? I think it has changed dramatically since the internet and the rise of social media. The art community is now a global one and distance in some ways doesn’t matter. Members of the ‘audience’ want to be involved much more closely with artists, and are very interested in process videos and hearing their ideas and interacting with artists through social media. I have followers from all over the world and it’s not unusual for me to have an online chat with someone who likes my art, across the world, when I’m up late working at night. I love that! Phenomenon’s like Mab Grave’s ‘Drawlloween’ bring hundreds of artists (professional, emerging and amateaur) fro all over the world together with each other and their audience as they meet the daily challenges. Everyone gives encouragement and feedback and it is a great way of discovering wonderful artists.

Artists can now develop their own websites and sell work from there, or through social media. An interesting thing I have noticed, is the rise of the Artist Collective. Groups of artists who join together and sell their work through online auction. I belong to one called Surreal Harmony Art. I think it is probably a response to the difficulty for emerging artists to show with reputable galleries and also artist’s trying to avoid the commissions galleries take. I still believe very much in the value of art galleries but the internet, social media and the like are taking their toll and we have seen some close their doors in the last couple of years. I don’t want that to happen. Galleries still bring the artist and the audience together in a meaningful way and nothing beats the hype and buzz of an opening reception.

Should art be funded? Why? I’m a bit old school about Patreon and Kickstarter programs unless they are for worthy causes. I don’t like to ask for money from private citizens in return for things like process videos or prints. I believe it is my duty as an artist to share what I do for free. If people want to support me, buy an artwork, buy a print. That will give me the funds to keep going. I think art can and should be funded in terms of grants from corporations or the government.

What famous artists have influenced you, and how? I think early on many of the current Lowbrow and Pop Surrealist artists influenced me. Mark Ryden, Mab Graves, Dilkabear, Greg Crayola Simkins, Brandi Milne, Caia Koopman…but hopefully now I have developed my own recognizable style. I also think the paintings of Fragonard, Boucher, Edouard Bisson and William Adolphe Bourguereau have influenced me. I certainly look to the way those artists depict women.

What other interests do you have outside of art? My favourite past time when I’m not painting is spending time with my grandchildren. I also have three adorable little dogs and I’m a bit of an aquascaper (planted fish tanks). I try to make time for exercise because painting is so sedentary!

You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today?

I am aware of the history of works because I was a senior high school visual arts teacher for nearly 30 years. I have a Bachelor of Art Education. I have always had a passion for art history and understanding what makes art ‘tick’. I have read widely over the years. I tend to spend a lot of time on the internet, researching and learning about contemporary art these days because I live in a rural area. We do have an excellent commercial gallery in Tamworth, run by a very respected gallerist and I go to most of the openings there, an we have a large Regional Gallery. I try to go to the NSW Art Gallery when I am in Sydney or commercial galleries if time allows.

How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art? That’s something I have often considered. Being an artist and creating art is so much a part of who I am, my identity, that I would struggle and feel quite lost, so I guess I would throw myself into the other part of my life and find new avenues of creativity. some short questions now…

Textures: Anything textile based or polished and smooth like the sculptures of Brancusi or Hepworth.

Describe your style: Define yourself… Hmm, I’m determined, self-motivated, focused and goal oriented. I’m quite methodical and organized in my work. But I’m also random, forgetful and eccentric in other ways. I’m a nerd and a bit of a recluse. I am a survivor.

Define your art: Low Brow/Pop Surrealism/Big Eyed Art

Travels: Lol I am an absolute homebody. A perfect day is when I don’t get in the car and I just stay home in the studio all day. Last year I did go to an opening in San Francisco and it was the first time I owned a passport and the first time I ever travelled that far. I met many of my art throbs at the opening and was so incredibly proud to be showing with them. I hated the travel. I feel completely overwhelmed and terrified in airports. They are so busy with so many people going everywhere in all directions. I cried on the plane. But I want to return to the US again because I made so many artist friends when I was there and I want to spend more time with them, so I’m going to have to learn to deal with the travel.

Music: An extremely eclectic mix from Carly Simon and James Taylor, to London Grammar and LP. Anything by Cold Play is a favourite and at the moment I’m singing an old Mama Cass song with my granddaughter whenever she sleeps over.

Who are the artist's you admire the most? I think Jennybird Alacantra, Hanna Yata, Greg Simkins and Brandi Milne are this century’s greatest artists.

What are your next projects? I have a solo show coming up at Swoon Gallery, a number of international group shows, and in November, a show at Bash Fine Art in Las Vegas with Sheri DeBow ad Kurtis Rykovich. I’m really looking forward to that one. A special project for me, and a labour of pure love, is an international group show of Lowbrow artists I have curated for the commercial gallery here in Tamworth I mentioned earlier. It is a mix of well known, established artists and emerging artists.

Define Klassik Magazine for the audience? Awe-inspiring and very visual and creative!