A professional art career of firsts by Maxine Marsh

Art, in all its forms, can move us all in all of those mysterious ways. For some, the sound of the symphony takes them to a different level. For others it’s the joining of words and action (be it on stage or on screen) that feeds the soul. Or it could be dance and the beauty of movement that raises the spirit.  

For me, it has and always will be the alchemy that unfolds when brush, pigment and paper come together – it’s that intangible magic of painting that takes me to another plane. This is what we practice in my studio on the edge of the New Forest. We learn, refine and advance our techniques. There is always something new to try – knowing that in our own way we’re producing something that is unique; that carries a little bit of us; that comes from within.    

I was always the arty one at school. Whilst others excelled at numbers or sport, none of those subjects fired me up. Art did. This creative world was the one where I wanted to be. Initially, I worked as a graphic artist, laying out designs ‘the old-fashioned way’ with those ‘magic markers’ that computers have long since replaced. It was intensive, it was hands-on, with nothing left to chance and every aspect of balance, spacing and colour considered.  It provided me with invaluable experience for a move into illustration. Sometimes by necessity and other times through choice, as a freelance illustrator, I had the opportunity of working on a creatively wide range of projects from stamp designs to brochures to adverts. And this time everything was to deadline – fast and furious!  Then came my family – three young children and the world of advertising is not necessarily a combination that works well. So, it was time for a change. 

As an art teacher it’s clear to see – especially with the events of the last two years – how art can bring happiness into lives. We don’t have to be a Turner, a Constable, or a Monet for the magic to happen. 

To keep spirits up and communication going we had class WhatsApp groups, weekly Zoom chats and other arty based challenges. The artistic ingenuity displayed by all of our fantastic artists never failed to amaze!  We prepared showcases of the artists’ work on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone joined in no matter what their level of artistic experience and often the more advanced painters would learn from the spontaneity of the beginner. The results of all their dedication can still be seen at maxinemarshart on Facebook and Instagram. I promise you’ll be inspired! 

The highlights of my career are summed up in the word ‘first’. My first job as an illustrator; the first time I stood in front of a group of students; the first commission; the first painting sold; the first exhibition held; the first workshop invitation. For each ‘first’, first came the nerves – of course. And then the confidence – growing; the new opportunities emerging; my knowledge increasing. What I’ve truly discovered is the unique quality of art as a dynamic conversation, an exchange. With each brush stroke comes the opportunity to respond, a chance to shape the next move, a moment to change ideas. 

Art has shaped the way I live my life and it will yours too – just pick up that brush!