studio visit: mary garoutte

Recently, I spent a hot early September morning in the North end at the adorable studio of Mary Garoutte. We talked short but ‘not matronly’ hairdos, busy schedules, and, of course, art. Mary Garoutte was putting the finishing touches on some works for her upcoming feature showcase, Seeing Red. And lucky me, I got me a sneak peek.


 MaryGaroutte-RedBicycle MaryGaroutte-RedStairsHennessy

{Red Bicycle, Young Street; Red Stairs, Hennessey Street; both paintings oil on cradleboard}

I see the red elements in these new works. Is Seeing Red about anything more than highlighting the colour red?

The colour red acts as a visual aid, drawing in the viewer’s focus. And it is aesthetically fun. This grouping of paintings is a sort of visual diary of one day in the North End [of Halifax]. It is a subtle narrative that takes place within two blocks. It is more than building after building. I am walking with the viewer and drawing their attention and demanding their focus. 


So is the North End your muse? Did it inspire this work?

Yeah. Funnily I don’t live here. But my studio is here. But I love it. The North End is a muse to carry on. It is the underdog, even through its gentrification. I love its artistic spirit. The area is so colourful and historically rich. Just the other day I went for a walk and ended up chatting with the widow of Buddy Daye, for two hours!

It seems that this showcase, Seeing Red, is growing on your previous ‘landscapes with structures’ theme? Is that your thing? Buildings?

Last year I really focused on what was behind structures: alleyways, backyards. With this group of work I am looking from the street.  I am drawn to architecture and structures. Perhaps it is the symbolism, you know, home, the idea of taking pride in your home, memory. I am old fashion that way. I am not cutting edge. I just find homes and architecture beautiful. Beauty is my main drive. Architecture is my pretty. 

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 MGaroutte-tools MGaroutte-plant

On top of creating art and working, you are now teaching one-on-one in your studio. Is there anything you have learned about your own art / art practice from your students or from teaching?

I think simply to have an art practice, simply doing it, is a learning experience in itself – and must always be. The act of making art is what dictates what an artwork will become. No amount of planning or thinking about what you are going to make, can equate to the magic that happens and how unpredictable and organic art becomes once you start the execution process. 

In terms of what I have learned through my teaching and my pupils, it is to become more disciplined in my own practice. We all can become lazy but you realize when you teach that you need to practice what you preach. Teaching privately from my studio has also taught me to be less of a perfectionist. It reminds me to immerse myself in the act itself rather than an end product.  


“The act of painting is rather sacred to me.”

Tell me about your art heros, those that inspire you and your work.

Edward Hopper is a huge influence. His re-evaluating and shifting the focus on what’s important. I love Jeremy Miranda. He also looks at structures, in a way that is so playful. And David Hockney. He depicts an object in such an abstract way. I look to him for that. But I just keep adding detail. {giggle}


So looking forward, where are you looking to take your artwork?

I am really trying to get beyond the literal. My hope is to build in more playtime for myself and to loosen up. I love painting in a state where you aren’t completely sure where [the painting] is going to go. I am hoping for more of that. And maybe some travel {smile}…an artist retreat. 

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 “Beauty is my main drive. Architecture is my “pretty”.


Speaking of loose, your experience with Art Battle Canada must have been wild?

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The Art Battle experience is one that I am and will always be grateful for. However, I am a bit relieved that I have resigned from it, as I was no longer feeling that it was an environment that I was benefiting from artistically. I definitely grew from the challenge of doing something so high pressure. I learned the beauty of the moment, not taking time for granted, and seeing what I was capable of producing in such a short time (20 minutes) with limited conditions (acrylic paint only, limited palette, no use of reference material). [The Art Battle] forced me to dig deeper into myself and my imagination to produce work. It also helped me to overcome a lot of fears – of judgement, of control, of failure, of the public eye. I think the “entertainment” of it all, took away from the experience for me. The act of painting is rather sacred to me. I felt vulnerable [painting] in front of a bunch of people. 


Mary Garoutte is a 2004 Fine Art graduate of Nova Scotia College of Art. She is represented by Argyle Fine Art in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her newest and latest collection, Seeing Red, will be celebrated at Argyle Fine Art on Friday, September 19th from 7-9 p.m.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hang out with Mary in her studio. I have been a long time fan of her work. Maybe one day I will fit in a one-on-one class with her. Thanks again Mary.



One thought on “studio visit: mary garoutte

  1. Mary Cass says:

    I LOVE YOU MY PRECIOUS DEAR NEICE, I am so proud of YOU! How The Lord has blessed your hands & mind with such creative, a truly TALENTED ARTIST you are.

    I Love you always,
    Auntie Mary

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