Artist of the month

Marilynn Davis sits at her drawing desk while perusing ideas for a new work.

LaVerne Kyriss

“I do art for myself. It’s a way of self-expression, a way to visually share ideas. I’m drawn to the physicality and the mental stimulation of creating something,” reflected Marilynn Davis, as she showed some of the many drawings and watercolors she’s created. “I’m finding that I can’t separate my intellect from the creative process.”

Davis said that while her art is not inherently political, sometimes the politics comes out—particularly when she’s creating a piece that reflects some of the challenges in today’s world. “My husband subscribes to the Wall Street Journal and I read it every day. Some of the issues that I read about and then think about are reflected in the art I subsequently create,” she explained.

A recent piece, The Dreamers, was selected for the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild’s spring show. Done on watercolor paper, the haunting portrait reflects one of the immigration issues faced in southern border states, including Arizona. Another work, Flight, speaks to the plight of the refugees fleeing Turkey into Greece. “I bring myself into the work. These pieces express conflicts as seen by the people experiencing them,” Davis noted.

“I’m drawn to people. I use portraits as a way to explore interesting ideas and ways to express those ideas. I can’t just draw a pretty picture. It has to say something to me and to the viewer,” she said.

Davis began her career as an art teacher, but as budgets got tighter and fewer schools continued to offer art classes, she took up interior design. “I didn’t really draw during those years, except for an annual Christmas card sent to all my clients,” she remembered. “I created a finely detailed line drawing each year, similar to an engraving which could have illustrated a Dickens novel. I printed them in black and white as a cost-saving measure. My customers loved them. Several even had them matted and framed.”

But it wasn’t until she retired and moved to Arizona that Davis once again picked up a graphite pencil and began to draw. “I took some classes and joined the SaddleBrooke Art Guild. It’s been a wonderful experience to have other creative people around. I love the non-critique that Jim Morris leads. Everyone is so helpful and caring.”

Today, Davis finds that she’s more confident about her creations. “I still find myself challenged to improve my skills. I want my work to have an effect on the viewer. Creating a work that’s both technically ‘good’ and evokes meaning in the viewer, is my definition of a successful piece of art,” she said. “When I’ve pulled the viewer in, that’s when I’ve got it.”

“But today, I don’t worry so much about following strict guidelines,” Davis added. “I experiment more with mixed media. I might start with graphite as I’m drawing. Then I’ve been known to add pastel, collage, watercolor crayon, whatever is needed to tell the story.”

Davis has also circled back to teaching art by volunteering in the Oracle schools where she brings art lessons to fourth graders once a month. “It’s a joy to give back to the community and to help unlock a love of art in these youngsters,” she said.