Unable to draw in high school, Earlean Marsh is this months featured artist at Spiral Gallery

by: PHOTO BY JEFF SPIEGEL - Earlean Marsh is this months featured artist at the Spiral Gallery. The watercolor shes holding is of her dog and is titled, Hi-Ho Silver.The daughter of two Texans and the product of a generation that didn’t allow many drawing opportunities to girls, Barton’s Earlean Marsh is this month’s featured artist at the Spiral Gallery.

After convincing her mother to move from Texas to Oregon, Marsh’s parents settled down in the Estacada area, where Marsh was born. She attended Barton Grade School and then Estacada High School before moving on to Lewis and Clark.

Eventually, she majored in Art and English with a minor in drama before getting her master's degree in education. After school, she began teaching in Molalla, where she spent her entire 36-year career before retiring in 2002.

As an art and drama teacher, however, Marsh knew full well how fortunate the girls in her classes really were.

Marsh was the daughter of a draftsman for the Bonneville Power Administration, and because of that, she seemed to be born with an affinity for drawing.

By the time she reached high school, Marsh realized she had a gift — the only problem was, there wasn’t much space to explore it.

“They had drafting in high school, but girls weren’t allowed to take it and that was the closest we had to art,” she said. “I was very untrained when I got to college.”

Fortunately, Marsh was exposed to all the training she needed in college, and was eventually inspired to teach art as a career. Unfortunately, with so much time dedicated to her students, however, Marsh went much of the 32 years without creating much art of her own.

“You’re not really doing art when you’re teaching, but I did learn a lot from critiquing work throughout the year,” she said. “I didn’t even have anything framed until a couple of years ago.”

Now that she’s been retired 10 years, Marsh has done her best to find time to create art of her own, which she displays throughout the Spiral Gallery.

Primarily, her work is done in watercolors, but mostly she says that’s because other mediums don’t pose enough of a challenge.

“I did oils and pastels, but other mediums are too easy,” she said. “I’ve also taught china painting, drawing and calligraphy.”

Through all of those experiences, though, it all comes back to water colors.

“I love the colors and the way they mix with one another,” she said. “It’s a very different style, and yet, it’s not really.”

Despite years of teaching students, Marsh is still excited to educate herself through classes and workshops. In fact, in those workshops, the speed that Marsh learned to paint with in 70-minute classes has become a joke among her peers.

“The joke is that I’m always the fastest because I’d have to do a painting within one class,” she said.

As far as where she gets her inspiration, Marsh credits her surroundings — particularly buildings and homes in the area — for giving her ideas.

“I used to drive past the same house everyday and so I decided to paint it in every season,” she said. “The last time I was featured the theme was butterflies and fairies, but this time there are dogs, chairs and a wide variety of themes.”

Marsh’s show kicks off with first Friday on Oct. 5 at the Spiral Gallery and will be on display throughout October.

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