The cool thing about artists is that art permeates their life. Everything they do has a special flair. When I'm in their environment, I feel like I'm in the land of creativity.
The studio of Maralyn Miller is a good example. From the moment I located her address across from Los Gatos High, I knew I was entering the world of an artist. Instead of having a conventional lawn and a clear path to the front door, Maralyn's front yard is a woodland glade of gnarled old trees and thick shrubs, with paths paved by natural stone. An unobtrusive sign points toward a rusty iron gate with a branch-like design. The interior garden has several nice sculptures in different styles mixed with a variety of potted plants—all in a careful, but informal, arrangement. A natural stone path leads around the house to the studio in the back. In the inner garden, the fence is adorned by a large painting of the hills of California in the summertime.
You could say Maralyn's studio is perfect, the dream studio. It is large; it gets lots of natural light from a skylight; it has a variety of well-designed storage both for her supplies and for her inventory of work; it has lots of display space for her paintings and pastels. What more could you want? You could want even more space, and that's why Maralyn later converted her garage to a second studio, also very well planned for display and storage of her work. The atmosphere in both studios is softened by decorative mementos and a crowd of impressive awards and certificates.
What I like best about Maralyn's art is the way she captures romantic light effects with pastels. Maralyn has painted with both oil and acrylic paint, and sometimes a combination of the two, but for the past year or two, pastels have been her main medium, and when she talks about "painting," she may mean creating a picture using colored chalks. The quintessential driving force in Maralyn's art right now is the technical challenge of capturing tricky light effects, such as sunset on a stream in a snowy canyon or the reflection of a crane and puffy clouds in a woodland pool. She explained to me that pastels seem more appropriate to create romantic light, whereas heavy textures can be conveyed best in oil. She added, "That's from my point a view. Another artist might see it differently."
Maralyn's favorite subject for some years now has been golden California—the hills and valleys of Northern California and other scenes she runs into while exploring them. Her approach is romantic and idealized—no telephone lines, no rust heaps, no fences. Maralyn was born in Fresno, and she paints California as it exists in her memories and dreams, expressing her love for the landscape rather than depicting objective reality. Her style is representational but not detailed or specific. Though she sometimes gets into hard-edge photo-realism, her usual work has soft edges, expressing the softness of her feeling for nature at its best in her home state.
As an artist, Maralyn is the complete professional. She photographs every painting and records sales and buyers. Her work has shown in more galleries than she can count. She is a proud member of several local and national artists' organizations, and for many years she volunteered in the gift shop at San Jose Museum of Art. She studied art in high school and college, and has taken many workshops since then, ever eager to improve her technique. "I'm still learning new things," she said eagerly. During her family-raising period, she owned shops that sold art supplies and picture frames, but she always found time to make art. For many years now, she has been able to put art first, living her dream of the artist's life. She says, "Art is my whole life. Always has been and always will be."
In case you've been wondering about my spelling, the name really is Maralyn, not Marilyn, and it is pronounced "Marlon," like Marlon Brando. These photos are just iPad snapshots that I made during the interview. You can see official photos on the SVOS website (see sidebar) and Maralyn's website.
|Maralyn's studio is hidden by a shady front yard.|
|Maralyn designed this gate herself and had it fabricated.|
|Her front garden contains sculpture by other artists.|
|Paintings are not as fragile as you might think.|
This 2-part oil has a typical subject for Maralyn,
but it is much larger than she usually paints.
|As an artist, Maralyn Miller is the complete professional.|
|Maralyn expresses her love for the landscape of California.|
|The reflection of a sunset in an icy stream is a difficult technical challenge.|
Maralyn used pastel to create this magical effect.
|A perfect moment to remember|
|An idyllic scene, softly recalled.|
|An unusual foray into photographic realism.|
The complex play of light and shadow is irresistible.