Painter & Pastelist
I first met Marla Baggetta shortly after my wife began taking classes from her in a community education program. Marla was making her living as a much-in-demand illustrator, while also teaching ,raising a family and carving out whatever spare time she could to more fully explore the pastel medium. She had the technical skills and training to work in a variety of mediums, but pastels became her “addictive” medium of choice.
Marla is incredibly disciplined in her art, yet never loses her ability to be inquisitive. She’s often playful in her approach to a new painting, pushing and prodding, applying under-paintings in water color, oil, or layers of pastels. She is a master of subtlety as she shifts color, light and shadow, employing whatever it takes to accomplish her goal. She may blend with her finger, or spritz with water or solvent; she employs a no -holds -barred approach, and the end result affirms her thorough understanding of value and color. Marla recently challenged herself to complete a series of over 100 studies of the same scene, working daily for 2 months, manipulating color, texture and light in a multitude of combinations. She did not fear failure because at best she would have a successful piece, or at worst, she would learn something. She gave herself permission to break all the rules and the results were astounding, even to Marla herself. Her project caught the attention of the editorial staff at The Pastel Journal magazine and her efforts were featured in the October 2009 issue.
My wife and I are fortunate to own two of those studies. Mine hangs above my desk where I can savor the one out of a hundred that had special meaning for me. In my version, the bright new morning light displays deep shadows and a brightly illuminated sky while in the dimmer light of evening the piece morphs to darkly obscure shapes with a stark flash of an aquamarine stream flowing towards a mystical focal point at the base of tree forms. The crystalline bits of pure pigment reflect light in a manner no other medium is able accomplish—it is dreamy, mystical, moody, and each time I linger by this stream, it is the beginning of a new story.
Novelists employ a technique called the “hook and handle” and as a painter, Marla employs the hook via her ability to reach out to the viewer with a personal invitation to come inside her paintings. You can’t not want to go there! The handle is her thoughtful direction into and beyond the landscape, engaging your imagination to put your own spin on the story. Living with her paintings is an interactive experience; you will be moved and you will learn to understand and appreciate the great skill and sensitivity in her art.
As moody and emotionally moving as her work is, simplicity is key in Marla’s work. Her paintings are never fussy or pandering to the latest fads in the art world. She is clear in conveying the beauty of nature and that speaks to her ability to seek out the core truth of nature. Art is always cerebral, requiring the ability to problem solve. Since she is such a prolific painter (more than 300 pieces this past year) she has gained the experience to quickly resolve questions as they arise. The result is an economy of stroke and a confidence that is the mark of a great painter.
I think many of us believe artists, like writers, wait for the muse to arrive and creativity to suddenly bloom. But, as a writer, I know this not to be true. I asked Marla what she felt was the most important trait an artist should have. She pragmatically responded, “You have to be mentally tough to be a painter so that you keep at the work each day and not be deterred by the daily ups and downs of life. You need to focus and follow through on that focus.” She’s constantly honing her talent but understands that art is not simply emotionally driven.
For the serious art collector, this is an artist to watch as she continues to garner awards and recognition in the art community and representation in selective fine art galleries For those who aspire to paint, she offers workshops, plein air and in her studio. She is a generous teacher, employing a warm sense of humor and a great zest for life.