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Marylu Downing

Marylu Downing - Sketch of an Artist

Nov 24, 2017

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By Steve Fowler

Marylu Downing is one of Sonoma County’s best-known painters, and with good reason: Her work has appeared on book covers, posters, cd’s, tee shirts and hangs in hundreds of homes here and worldwide. Her paintings are instantly recognizable in group shows or hanging in the Graton Gallery, where she is a founding member.

HeronMarylu describes her style as “mixed media narrative”. She may start with figures of women, animals, flowers, domestic scenes, but then adds what she calls “glyphs” These are highly personal symbols that give a magical resonance to the scene. “It’s fun to create your own world”, says Marylu. Her “world” is positive, playful, full of whimsy and self-confidence. Her inspiration is apparently bottomless. She has been painting for decades and still goes to her studio at the Graton Atelier three days a week to paint for 5 or 6 hours.

Marylu describes her influences as the post-impressionists, like Matisse, Picasso, Mary Cassat and Chagall. She likes the flying around of people, things and animals. “I started with fabrics” she says. “I liked the textures. So for 20 years, I’ve been adding colored stones, cardboard and wire to my paintings.”

Somehow, Marylu finds time to do copious amounts of volunteer work. She supports the Santa Rosa Youth Symphony, Art for Life and Art From the Heart at Sonoma State University. She has been involved in Occidental Center for the Arts almost from its beginnings when there wasn’t even a building. Originally a Board Member who helped mold the vision for OCA, Marylu is now on the Advisory Board. She has been influential in bringing Alexandra Hart’s fabric art to the gallery, as well as Joan Marler’s photographs of Goddess figures and the landscape paintings of Bill Wheeler, Jack Stuppin, Tony King and Adam Wolpert, and bringing in the art of past and present students at
Harmony and Salmon Creek School.


Marylu Downing was a juror for the current exhibit at the Occidental Center for the Arts Galery called “The River” which runs through January 14, 2018. Visit Occidentalcenterforthearts.org/gallery for information. The OCA Gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4 pm, and during Occidental Center for the Arts events or by appointment, at 3850 Doris Murphy Ct, Occidental (707) 874-9392

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