Thursday, December 10, 2009


Matin, 2009, oil/canvas, 16" x 22". (click on image to enlarge)

I'm just beginning a new series of paintings that will include water as a key visual element in the compositions. Matin is and early example. I have been excited by the idea of water for years. Often, I will stop when traveling and just stand still before streams, marshes, rivers, lakes and the ocean; absorbed in the light and reflections of water in all its forms. Water is a recurring theme in my dreams. I think it represents the flow and spirit of creativity for me.

Avalon, 2009, oil/panel, 42" x 64". (click on image to enlarge)

Another "muscular tree", as my partner Teresa Cullen, refers to these paintings with full foliage. This one is based on apple trees I saw at the Avalon Organic Apple Orchard in Innisfil. Needless to say, I have synthesized this particular tree from many that I looked at.

Artemisia, 2009, oil/panel, 16" x 21.5" (click on image to enlarge)

This a a new piece in the dusty sage brush series. I am excited by the loose brush work in the woody base of the plant and how it plays off against the defined masses of the foliage. The low point of view is based on my interest in how smaller animals see sage plants as trees, whereas we humans see them as bushes. The idea of these things being "wind whipped" for years is still a driving force behind the composition. As I design the painting I imagine how the wind might shape the plant.

Chakopaki, 2009, oil/panel, 36" x 48". (click on image to enlarge)

This new work is really about mass presented in light. I love bushy trees and the sculptural forms they can take. Nature presents endless variations and I am inspired to make paintings that celebrate this. The golden evening light warmly caresses the form and sets up an envelop that surrounds it.

Esperanza, 2009, oil/panel, 16" x 24". (click on image to enlarge)

The title of this painting speaks to my feelings when creating it. The formal shape and the high key colors work that end of the emotional spectrum.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Yermo, 2008, oil/canvas, 30" x 60". (click image for larger view)

Last day of November and winter has continued to hold off (so far). This might be a good time to post a photo of "Yermo", with its sunny dry feeling. The piece was recently sold to the collection of the Toronto B&R Club after being shown at a members' cocktail and banquet. It was fun to meet the folks at the event, many who have been collecting my work for years, and put faces to names I only see written on gallery statements.

The painting now has a home; and knowing how these clubs work, it may live on the wall there for much longer than I live on this earth. The painting is one of many "desert pieces" that I continue to create based on my travels in the drier parts of the world. This one draws it's components from the Mojave Desert in the area near the California Arizona border. I just love the scrubby brush peppering the desert gravel - surviving the hot arid conditions. The metaphor is about endurance and beauty rolled into each other.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morgan Forest

Morgan Forest, oil/panel, 24" x 24"

I'm interested in form as mass. But I'm also interested in light. Often the light in my landscapes is both from an external source and an internal glow. There are times when haze in the air allows me to get a handle on daylight. I kept working on this smaller painting with rapid over-washes until the blues, greys and yellow-greens met at the right value and felt like the kind of light you get on a summer morning. ....A summer morning in Morgan Forest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


28" x 72"  oil  SOLD (Click any image to enlarge)

All the paintings in this post are variations on an imaginary river that I've called the Tara River. The paintings are large, so these little thumbnail pics should be clicked on to see a bigger version.

48" x 72" SOLD

The idea is to create an image that draws the viewer into a vast plane that recedes into a very long distance. The river metaphor is strong and suggest passage through life's years.

24" x 72" SOLD

The playing of billowing clouds against the land with river presents my version of yin and yang inter-relationships.

48" x 48" SOLD

There are no people and only a hint that they may have been here in the form of patterned crop fields. The glowing ribbon of river pulls us, dream-like, into a hazy unknown. There is uncertainty, but no fear.

48" x 48" SOLD

The viewpoint is from above. The viewer has no idea if they are standing on a cliff looking out over the river or if they are floating, like a deceased ghost, pushed by gentle winds, never cold.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More stupas

Grafton Peace Pagoda 2009. (Grafton NY)

The book project continued this fall as Chado and I swung down to the eastern part of New York State to photograph three stupas. The fall weather was perfect, sunny and cool, very fresh. The stops we made were at the Grafton Peace Pagoda, The Enlightenment Stupa at Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery, Wappingers Falls, and the Stupa at Orgyen Cho Dzong, Greenville.

We are delighted to be able to photograph these sacred sites. Over the next 6 months we'll try to get to stupas in Cape Breton (Gampo Abbey) and as far west as Arizona and California. There is an ongoing effort among many sangas to build stupas; so it looks like we'll have to make our book a "selection" of North American Buddhist stupas rather than a comprehensive compilation. It's nice to see that the sangas are building them faster than we can keep up.

Orgyen Cho Dzong, Greenville

Enlightenment Stupa at Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery


Toojiskeha, 2009, oil/panel, 48" x 36". (click on image for enlargement)

You might call this a Marchessault "Unframed". It's my first try at publicly dispensing with a picture frame. I actually painted right around the edges. This is nothing new in the world of fine art painting where many artists do not frame their work. However, in the commercial world of selling art in galleries and the like; once you've started to present your work with a frame it's hard for the sales teams to wean collectors off of them.

In fact, some of the galleries that represent my work actually photograph them in the frame and show the image with the frame included on their web sites. They know that their clients are attracted to nicely crafted picture frames. I sometimes joking refer to this as buying nice "furniture" with a free painting inside :-) But joking aside, the dealers are dead serious in their desire to present art in a package that is expected by the types of clients they serve.

I honestly find this discouraging. I work hard on the pieces in my studio. No frame is involved in the creation of the art. When the painting is completed, that decision is made without the influence of a hand rubbed picture frame. I would love for people to engage with the work as it is. But for many, collecting art is about decorating the home or office. People who can afford high priced art have beautiful homes and for many of them there is a need to maintain conventions - art is housed in frames period. It's how things are supposed to look.

So how to cope with the pressure to sell art (and stay alive financially) yet present my work as I'd like to? Here's a first attempt. Hopefully, it will work out well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Toronto International Art Fair 2009

Three Marchessault's at the Bau-Xi Gallery booth, Toronto International Art Fair 2009.

The annual art fair in Toronto was a success. My paintings were shown at two booths (Bau-Xi Galleries & Gallerie de Bellefeuille). The visitors were numerous and appreciative. Sales were concentrated in the mid-size range. I'm looking forward to TIAF 2010!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Hidden Gates

There is a new book available of selected paintings from 2009. The hardcover book is 13 x 13 inches and presents over 20 images in color. You can preview the entire book online in hi-resolution full screen format. Just go to:

Included in the book is an artist's essay in which I explain what I mean by "the hidden gates".

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tierra Sacra

Tierra Sacra, 2009, oil/panel, 32" x 42". (click image for larger view)

On my last trip to New Mexico, I spent a lot of time visiting various places in the north of the state. In the driest parts of the landscape, the only trees that survive are stunted piñon pines and junipers. These trees pepper the bleached land with a poka-dot pattern.

On one walk, I paused to look around and catch my breath. Before me was something like the image in this painting. In this work I tried to convey the special sense of a moment out of time. I can't explain it really, except to say that for a period I just stood there in silence and was in the presence of this beauty. The quality of the experience was sublime. It was like a glimpse into something very wonderful.

NB* This painting will be presented at the Toronto International Art Fair - 2009, in the Bau-Xi Gallery booth.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Choktaw, 2009, oil/panel, 54" x 48".

I had this vision for a swaying tree. It was lush and fully foliated against a spacious sky. The shape needed to suggest a caressing wind. Distant fields and low hills were visible on the horizon.

In the studio I was able to map out the general theme fairly quickly, but it took many weeks before I could back away and see it as complete. I'm learning to know where to add detail and where to keep things only suggestive. This guides the viewer's perception to the important elements.

This painting will be presented at the Toronto International Art Fair - 2009, in the Gallerie de Bellefeuille booth.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Witchitawan, 2009, oil/panel, 42" x 48".

The last day of August is here! Hard to believe we're about to enter September. The summer has just whipped by. The trips, painting and gardening have filled my time wonderfully.

All the paintings for my up coming show in Vancouver (Bau-Xi Gallery) are completed, framed and delivered to the gallery. I think it is a pretty good exhibition and hope the collectors agree.

Witchitawan is the first piece that I've made for the upcoming Toronto International Art Fair TIAF . The fair runs from Oct. 22-26 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The gallery booths are located in the North Building. The entrance is located at 255 Front Street West, two blocks west of York Street. The floor plan is viewable here. My paintings will be displayed at two booths, Bau-Xi Gallery and Gallerie de Bellefeuille.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stupa Project Continues

This summer has been busy with driving trips to North American stupas. We travelled to New Mexico and Colorado in June and July (see my blog post from earlier this year). This month we went to Poolsville Maryland, New Jersy and Niagara Falls. Where we photographed some beaututiful stupas. In October our travels will continue with a trip to New York State. In the winter we'll visit Virginia, Arizona and California.

The project is flowing smoothly. At every stupa we meet sanga members who are welcoming and provide both access and a wealth of factual information. Our hope is to begin work on the book itself around Spring time 2010.


New Jersy

Niagara Falls

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tierra Amarilla

"Tierra Amarilla", 2009, oil/panel, 40" x 46".

This summer has been exciting; including two trips south into the USA. In June and July I was in New Mexico and Colorado. I saw some very nice bushy plants in that dry region that inspired this painting. The light in that part of the world is different from Ontario. The contrast is more intense. I've been working on developing a way to represent that light in paint. The two small studies below are examples.

All of these works will be in my upcoming show in Vancouver begining October 3, 2009 at Bau-Xi Galleries.

"Chama", 2009, oil/panel, 11" x 14".

"Sand Bar", 2009, oil/panel, 11" x 14".

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back from NM

I spent a great 3 weeks in Taos NM in June and July. Chado Cullen and I began work on our project to photograph many of the Buddhist stupas now located in North America. We were able to shoot 13 sites in NM and Colorado this visit.

The photo shoots involved a lot of research to locate the sites and get permission to make the images. getting to some of the sites required a lot of driving and some luck!

The book project continues later this summer and fall with trips to stupas in Maryland and New York State.

New work for Vancouver

The paintings below are on their way the Bau-Xi Gallery Vancouver for my exhibition there that begins on October 3, 2009. These will accompany another group of works currently underway in the studio. Hopefully the show will have about 20 new paintings for collectors to consider.

These four paintings are inspired by my recent stay in New Mexico (Taos) and visits to Colorado.

South Platte, 2009, oil/panel, 24" x 40"

Pagossa, 2009, oil/panel, 36" x 36"

Kalkassa, 2009, oil/panel, 36" x 36"

Jacarilla, 2009, oil/panel, 40" x 48"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Near Epping

Near Epping, 2009, 11" x 14", oil/panel.

You would think that small paintings are easier to do than larger ones. Wrong. Every time I start a small panel thinking, "this won't take too long to finish", it ends up that many weeks pass before the piece is done. I'm not sure why this is.

In the case of "Near Epping", I think I painted 10 layers (variations) before I got the painting to present what I had in mind. I am now content with the work. The hardest part was getting the contrast right. The dark of the shadows against the lighted foliage is the trick to making this little painting sing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


L'Arida, 2009, oil/panel, 42" x 64". This painting is a commission for a client who lives in the Santa Fe area of NM. It is a variation on a theme and is based on an earlier piece titled "Dusty Chaco".

It is interesting for me to watch certain paintings that I make. They enter the market place and sell quickly. Often there is something about the work that strikes a cord with many folks who ask for something "like it". Since I do not have giclee prints made of my art, the best I can do is oblige with variations on a theme. There is a long history of this among artists and musicians who often compose and play variations on established motifs that they have originated.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Arbouri Mura / Tajoulii

Arbouri Mura, 2009, oil/canvas, 28" x 48".

I've been blessed with some extra time and a lot less pressure to paint quickly. The poor art market does have some advantages. The slower pace in the studio means I have time to build more layers into the surface of my paintings. This gives me the ability to get some "aerial perspective" going. Living in a region (north of Toronto) where summers get pretty humid, it's common to see a haze of warm air when looking at the landscape. These two paintings are playing around with the effect.

The above painting is based on a wall of trees I often pass when riding my bike around Oro Township. I like it when the sun is low and the haze picks up a shadow.

The painting below (inspired by the Eastern Townships of Quebec) is based on a really wide tree that sits alone in a field. I've brought that tree close to the picture plane, so the hazing is set farther behind it.

Tajoulii, 2099, oil/panel, 30" x 68".

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Oritaba, 2008, oil/panel, 54" x 48".

This painting was on exhibition in Montreal at Gallerie de Bellefeuille. I've had it shipped onto Toronto where it is currently on show at Bau-Xi Gallery. The painting is for sale. The current slump in the art market means that the inventory of unsold work is greater than anytime since early 2000. It's tough to see one's paintings not finding buyers in spite of the fact that the pieces are good. However, I know most artists are in the same situation.

On the positive side, the extra time I have in the studio is allowing me to work slowly on each new piece. The time for added reflection means I can revise and reconsider each element in a painting. Recent work is now composed of additional layers of paint that enhance colours and tones. The hectic art market of the last 7 years did provide good income for self-employed artists, and that is missed. But the quieter period we are now in provides breathing room and a chance to slip deeper into the world of landscape, art and expression.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chado Flowers - Night Blossoms

Chado Flowers, oil/panels, 10" x 24".

I love to garden. At the house and studio in Oro Township there are both flower gardens and veggie gardens (organic, of course). Flower painting is not something I do often, However, there are times when I want to try and make something a little different. These two paintings are examples of multi panels works where I partly create the painting on individual panels and then attach them together and continue painting until the three panels work together as a whole.

I enjoy the darks and contrast with deep rich colours. The images are not copied from real flowers or from any kind of photographic source. They are spontaneously brought out using a rag, paper towel and daubing. Several layers of over painting and re-composing means that the surfaces are rather painterly.

Night Blossoms, oil/panels, 10" x 24"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Project

This is the Tibetan stupa located north of Taos, NM, in El Rito. "The Kagyu Mila Guru Stupa is a memorial to Herman Rednick. It was completed in 1995 and in June of that year was consecrated by the V.V. Bokar Rinpoche, accompanying six year old Yangsi Rinpoche, tulku of H.E. Kalu Rinpoche.

The 35 foot high stupa contains a small shrine room which has traditionally elaborate images of Chenrezig, Tara, and the Masters of the Kagyu lineage painted on its walls, primarily by Cynthia Moku." (from:

This June and July, my partner Teresa Cullen and I will begin a project to photograph the chortens of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. We will document them, the lineages that they support and the people who have built them. The project will probably be presented in book form as well as online in various formats.

Over the years we have enjoyed visiting these Buddhist stupas along the Rio Grande Valley and in the mountains of the southwestern USA. We have decided to formalize our interest and document the structures and their purposes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Gamba, 2009, oil/panel, 40" x 48", (click on image to enlarge).

I will be visiting New Mexico this summer.  My wife, Teresa Cullen, and I keep returning.  There is some special energy there that we both respond to.  The air, mountains and desert all combine to create a wonderful place for us.  

I love the brushy plants that grow on the plains.  There's plenty of sage and many other scrubby things to interest me. The way these plants grow presents me with a unique subject.  In my paintings based on these plants I try to mimic the unpredictable twists and turns of the many branches and twigs.  Below is an evening photo taken from the front of the house we rented last time we were in Taos NM.

(Below) The artist observing sage brush :-)


Ardistri, 2009, oil/panel, 40" x 48" (to be shown at Vancouver Bau-Xi Gallery exhition November '09, click on image to enlarge).

Over the years, I keep returning to this subject.  The single tree in a field holds a special place for me in terms of iconography.  It is said that ancient north European farmers always left a tree standing in the middle of a grain field to honor the god Wōden, (from where we get the day - Wednesday).  

In my travels I still see many fields where the farmer has deliberatly left a single tree standing.  Perhaps this was for cattle shade, perhaps some vague memories about good harvests and luck.  Nonetheless, I love the spacious feeling of the upthrusting tree set off by a field of grain or hay.  The two elements work together to create a spiritual sense, better felt than explained.

Getting a painting to communicate this special feeling is harder than one might think.  There is a matter of proportions, spacial devisions, atmosphere, color and texture. These all have to work, and then you need a little magic.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Balta, 2004, oil/panel, 48" x 48", private collection. (click image to enlarge) 

It's interesting and useful for artists to record their paintings and save the images.  I was encouraged to do this by my painting teacher (John Fox) when I was a student at Concordia University in Montreal.  One of my first purchases after graduating was a decent 35mm camera.

I shot slides for years and had binders of carefully labeled slide sets.  In about 2002 I got my first digital camera.  For a couple of years I shot in both film and digitally.  But since 2004/05 I've gone exclusively with digital.  Storing and organizing the images is hugely more efficient and useful.  For example, looking back at earlier work is a snap, no slide projector needed, no thumbing through binders.  The currently quality of my digital camera (Nikon D300 with a Sigma 17-70 lens) is better than any slide I ever took and I can use Photoshop to correct colors.

Today I was reviewing paintings from 2004 and came to "Balta".  I think this was one of the first big majestic sweeping tree forms to come out of my studio.  I still like it a lot and would be happy to painting something like it on any day.

The trees prior to this work were more integrated into the land element of the painting.  Below is an example from the previous year (Orionosus, 2003, oil/panel, 24" x 48").  The ease of backwards reviewing of my own work helps me understand how I am changing as a painter and what remains important.  For example, in 2003 my palette was muted and mono-chromatic. With the painting "Balta" a year later, I see color taking on a key role in defining the roundness of the tree shapes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Keshtua, 2009, oil/panel, 40" x 48".  This is an ad placed in Seattle's "Where" Magazine (click on the image to enlarge).  It's to announce my exhibition in that city.  The show opens on June 4th.  

This painting is an example of a blended approach to foreground and distance.  I am enjoying the use of aerial perspective with the foreground iconic shape.  I have set the view point as though you are sitting in a field of cut straw.

The bent tree trunk is a symbol I often use.  I like the curving support structure.  (I love bonsai trees too.)  Curving trunks are both aesthetic and suggest the ability to bend without breaking.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Feather the Sun - Chia

Feather the Sun, 2005, oil/panel, 36" x 48", private collection.  The current focus on trees is actually an ongoing process.  Here is an example from 2005.  I introduced the hazy sun idea as a way of responding to the contra jour effects I observed on many evening bicycle rides.  The road home was from east to west, often with a setting sun in my eyes.  This made an impression on me and I began to paint suns into hazy ochre skies.

Ilse Grassinger, the director of the Durham Public Art Gallery, wrote the following lines in 2009 for a group show I was in titled Arboreal.

"Robert Marchessault explores contemporary sublime landscape in paintings that repeatedly foreground a single tree, stripped of non-essential visual elements and emptied of any human presence. Poetic and meditative, these trees are the quiet centre of being and a visual invocation of human self-awareness."

Chia, 2005, oil/panel, 60" x 48", private collection.