Artist of the Month

Marilynn Davis pauses in her studio surrounded by tools and partially created works.

Marilynn Davis pauses in her studio surrounded by tools and partially created works.

Marilynn Davis – Visual Storyteller

LaVerne Kyriss

The pieces (mostly in pencil, chalk, watercolor and mixed media) by Marilynn Davis tell stories. “I mostly draw people. The settings and mediums vary, but each piece tells a story.” Just look at any of the pieces hanging on the walls of her SaddleBrooke home and the viewer is drawn in to the emotion depicted in her work.

“I always had a passion for the use of line and have loved drawing since I was seven,” she said. “I came up with ideas, made up things and illustrated children’s stories.”

But she was also passionate about dance, studied through high school and earned enough money teaching children’s ballet classes to pay for a teaching degree at the University of Minnesota. After teaching elementary school for a year, Davis pursued a degree in art education and then taught art in junior high and high school, while occasionally creating her own work just for the love of drawing.

When art curriculum cutbacks reduced her teaching hours, she explored other opportunities, eventually earning credentials as an interior designer and opening her own studio. “I really liked the freedom of running my own business and relished problem-solving and interacting with all kinds of people. It was a perfect outlet for my creative side. Other than our annual Christmas card which I drew for 25 years, I created very little artwork.”

That changed in 2008 when Davis determined to take up drawing again and took some classes at Highland Park Art Center, in the community where she had lived for 37 years. “I’m fascinated by line and shape,” she said. “I come up with an idea, often sparked by something I’ve seen and taken a picture of. I’ll rough out an idea in a thumbnail sketch. I move figures and elements around while I’m building the story in my mind. I see how the pieces relate together and when I’m satisfied, I move the idea to good quality watercolor paper. That’s when the fun begins.”

From there Davis picks up pencil, graphite, chalk or various other drawing tools and begins to weave a visual tale, filled with emotion. Some of her pieces are soft and mostly black and white, with pastel shading giving hints of the story. Other pieces are sharp and bright with primary colors applied with watercolor crayons. “You can get such intensity with the crayons and I like the feel of them,” she reflected.

“I would describe my work as stylized. While I do depict people, I’m not representational in style. There’s a certain impressionistic approach. I’m more about creating the mood or creating a tension that gets someone to react to the piece, than about drawing a scene,” Davis explained.

Davis continues to take art classes offered by the SaddleBrooke Fine Art Guild and participates in critique sessions where she learns from fellow artists while she muses about what story she’s going to tell in her next piece. “I’m really exploring art as an outlet for expressing myself,” she summed up.