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BOTANICALS are her thing

Marion Watlington has a passion for art. Watercolours are her medium, and botanicals her favourite theme, and specifically Bermuda's signature flora. Palm trees, loquats, Easter lilies, crotons, life plant (floppers) and more have all been the focus of her palette.

“I have always loved plants and gardens,” Dr Watlington said. “Sometimes I will sit down outside and start sketching a plant, because I love looking at plants.”

Entirely self-taught, her paintings are much admired and sought after by art lovers and collectors alike so much so, in fact, that whole bodies of her work have been known to sell out within minutes of an exhibition opening.

Dr Watlington has participated in both group and solo shows at various Bermuda galleries. Friday's opening at the Rick Faries Gallery in the Botanical Gardens marks her second solo show hosted by the Masterworks Foundation. Part of its 'Artists in the Garden' series, the exhibition will feature approximately 25 botanicals.

“My exhibition is an extension of the current Floral Lane exhibition in the main gallery,” she said. “I was asked to be a contributing artist in this show, and it was an honour not to be ignored.”

Typically, Dr Watlington's search for subject matter occurs during long walks with the family dog in Somerset, where she resides.

“I am looking for plants, and the dog is looking for bones,” she explained.

During such forays her eyes are constantly peeled for plants to paint, and her ever-present camera is at the ready. The same also applies as she drives around the Island.

“My art relies on observation in nature, and taking plant samples home with me. As each piece takes weeks or months to complete, I also rely on photographic reference to capture the light and detail of the moment.”

Sometimes the artist will return to the original site or a similar one, to further study how a particular plant loops over, fans out, or catches the light.

An early riser, she enjoys working in the morning, but as the date of a show draws nearer time spent at the easel lengthens accordingly.

Working in the quietude of her gracious home, where rolling lawns go down to the sea, Dr Watlington can hear the water gently lapping on the coastline, and breezes ruffling the trees. She is focused and at peace.

Her approach is as meticulous as her finished work. Each painting begins with “a painstakingly exact” drawing, followed by application of the lightest shades with a type of wash. Additional colours, from light to dark, are then applied until they are built up to the correct hue. As a final step, more detail and colour are added to ensure that the finished piece is at its most eye-catching and appealing.

Working on several paintings simultaneously is this delightful artist's way of keeping herself “fresh” and energised.

“Art is a type of sustainability for me,” she says. “It is a meditative process, where inner struggles and thoughts clarify and give way to peace.”

After many years spent in a demanding career as a medical doctor, and raising her family, Dr Watlington decided it was time to cut back on the stresses of her profession.

She returned to her art, the passion for which was originally kindled during her early years as a student at the Bermuda High School for Girls. That she is thoroughly enjoying the transition is abundantly clear for various reasons, one of which is our environment, about which she cares deeply.

“I love art more and more, and I am very excited about the show because it is an extension of the botanicals that I love,” she said. “I think [we have] a diminishing world of nature. Man is doing increasing damage to our environment. The natural world is undervalued and under-appreciated, so I hope this show will remind people of how wonderful our botanical world is. We need to think about preserving it, and to be part of that process. We are putting up cement walls instead of beautiful hedges. Everything is cement, cement, cement.”

Another reason is being invited to participate in Masterworks' historic 'Floral Lane' exhibition.

“I am thrilled to be part of the exhibition, and I welcome anyone who would like to come and see it,” Dr Watlington said. “The whole museum art show is really a story about Bermuda's history, focusing on nature that we all grew up with, and which we see slowly disappearing. If you haven't seen 'Floral Lane', in the main museum, now is a wonderful opportunity to see it before it closes down.”

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Dr Watlington's exhibition in the Rick Faries Gallery runs through March 16. For more information telephone 236-2950.

Artist Marion Watlington with some of her paintings which will be on display at the Rick Faries Gallery in the Botanical Gardens from Friday

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Published March 02, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 02, 2011 at 8:45 am)

BOTANICALS are her thing

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