ST. PETERSBURG — Gallerie 909 will feature the vivid and absorbing watercolor paintings of artist Marian Howard starting Dec. 13 and running through Jan. 4. Howard, a native of Savannah, Ga., depicts scenes of the South in much of her work.
“I love the South and I love the exposure of the South,” said Howard, who is now dividing her time between Pennsylvania and Florida.
In works such as “Fields of Cotton,” “Grandma Hanging Wash” and “Thirst From The Heat Of The Sun,” the subjects are ordinary workers performing ordinary chores, but these striking rural snapshots transcend time—they could be set in this day and age or lifted right out of the Antebellum era.
“I love to do everyday people and experiences,” Howard affirmed, adding that through these paintings she aims to tell “stories of the past and the present.”
Many of her paintings are drawn from childhood memories, and feature young and old generations alike. The lone subject of “Young Girl In Field” seems to exude an awakening and sensuality, as she stands smiling in a field with her white dress pulled down over one shoulder, against the backdrop of a virginal blue sky. In her painting simply entitled “Time,” an old woman looks off into the distance, her compelling, wizened face a testament to her long life’s journey.
Howard’s paintings also depict African subjects, such as the arresting “Massai Warriors” and the beautiful “African Mother and Child,” which provide striking glimpses into a distant, ostensibly ancient world.
It is no surprise that Howard paints her down-to-earth subjects with earthy tones and colors, as she strives to emulate her favorite artists, which include American masters Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth.
“I absolutely love their style, and the eloquence of their pieces!” she said. “Wyeth’s are a little bit more detailed, more illustrative and I love the colors he used. Those are the colors that I am so drawn to—so earthy—and the tones really speak to me.
So those are the same tones that I always used in my pieces as well.”
With a background in fashion advertising and illustrating, Howard sees the importance of laying down the groundwork first in a drawing.
“My style is very realistic when I do figurative drawings,” she explained. “Illustration is my background.”
Though the overall construction of the watercolor paintings may be meticulous, their relative simplicity and immediacy often give the impression that they could’ve been the fruits of a single afternoon’s work.
“The misconception when people see a finished product,” Howard said, “is that they think it takes two or three hours, especially if it’s a watercolor. But with me it takes a lot longer. I was really taught drawing and illustrating and how important it was to have a good drawing under the body of a good painting.”
Howard admitted that she might do one, three, 15 or even 20 drawings of a piece before she even touches the original. Then she takes that drawing, transfers it and starts the original. Some may take days while some take longer.
“I could start a piece one day and finish it in a month or two,” she said. “It all depends on the piece.”
Howard, who has been a full-time artist for over 43 years, admitted that sometimes the ideas don’t always flow and she can find herself in a “stalemate” of sorts.
“You’ve heard of writer’s block? Well artists have artist’s block!” she attested. “Sometimes when you haven’t done anything creative for a while, you get to a point where you develop this fear that maybe you can’t.”
During a recent period where she had overworked her hands and needed to take three weeks off, Howard said it was a challenge getting back into the stroke of things.
“You look at the paintbrush, you look at the drawing table and you look at the paper and you have to mentally put yourself there,” she said.
But she just picks up the paintbrush and strokes with various colors, not looking for anything, until things start flowing again. In fact, she said one of the most rewarding things about her craft is having “a communication with the watercolor and the paintbrush.”
Howard’s works have a home in numerous private collections in far off locations such as Russia, Africa, Spain, Japan and throughout the United States. Her paintings also hang on the walls of colleges, offices and even city halls—most recently in Apopka, Fla. Wherever her works may hang, Howard finds great satisfaction in witnessing firsthand people’s responses and reactions to her art.
“When I complete a body of work and I go out and exhibit it, it’s so wonderful to stand back and listen to people’s comments,” she attested. “They become emotional. It’s very rewarding to me to see people’s emotion. I feel very privileged and very blessed to have been able to do this so many years and to have touched so many people around the world.”
Come out and meet Marian Howard at Gallerie 909, located at 909 22nd St. S. on the Deuces, this Fri., Dec. 13 from 5-9 p.m. See ad on the front page. Howard’s work can also be viewed and purchased at marianhowardart.com.