Painting opens new world for artist

“Flowerfish,” by Marion Moir, is a collage from her paintings. “Chelsea Rose,” is a watercolor by the Newport artist.

“I believe that when a person begins to paint, everything in life changes. You never see an object the same again. You see it in your own terms of ‘how do I interpret this — what colors, textures, feelings can I convey.’ It’s a balancing act where intuition takes over.”

Those are the words of Marion Moir, who began painting when she moved to Newport in 1973 and since then has become a fixture in the local arts community.

“Painting is really important to me,” she said, explaining that what once was ordinary, a normal place to pass by, becomes much different when she paints it.  “Painting opens a whole new world for me.”

Moir has managed to keep that world intact in spite of a serious accident in December 2019, when she missed a step at home and broke her knee and tibia. The injuries kept her from walking for three months.

As if that were not enough, shortly after her fall, a windstorm took the roof off her Nye Beach studio and within days, the studio she has worked in for more than 25 years flooded.

But not one to be kept down, Moir continued to paint at home, starting with whimsical images using Sharpies on 2-inch-square canvases.

While the Newport Bayfront, brightly colored flowers, fish and birds — often whimsical — are major subject matter for Moir, she is also known for her cowboy images, which hark back to her ranching roots. Originally from the bay area of California, she moved to a ranch near Redding when she was 5 years old.

“We would keep going back to San Francisco for the opera, so I got the best of both worlds,” she said. Growing up on her brother’s ranch has left her with lasting good memories of that lifestyle, from rodeos to white-haired hula dancers, and they appear in her work to this day.

Moir took the memory of those dancers to heart — she learned hula dancing when she turned 60 — and noted, that in spite of her injuries, “I’m even hula dancing again.”

Moir is always finding new and exciting inspiration for her art. She took part in a plein air — painting outdoors — exhibit featuring the Yaquina watershed that was part of the Toledo Art Walk and sponsored by the Yaquina River Museum of Art, and found it changed her perspective on places she had seen for years.

“I love it,” she said of the Yaquina Bay Road area. “It was a normal place to me before, but when I started painting there, it became much different, a whole new world.”

Moir hopes that when COVID restrictions ease, she can return to teaching at the Newport Visual Arts Center as well as at Bloom! in Yachats. She has taught acrylics, shell printing, collage, watercolor, drawing and mixed media to all ages.

She began offering classes in 1990, and said, “I learn as much from my students as they do from me.

“Before the accident, I was painting five days a week and doing Saturday Market,” she said. Often called the “Puffin Lady” because of her numerous puffin images, Moir was a fixture at the Newport Farmers Market, easily recognizable by her bright red hair.

“I took my first art class when I moved to Newport,” she said, noting her instructor was Harry Niemela. She finds it interesting that now, when she paints at her home overlooking Yaquina Bay, she does so in the same room where she would finish her painting following her class with Niemela decades ago.

“I started painting because I had seen a Niemela show,” she recalled. “I wanted to learn what he was doing — I had not seen anything like that before.”

And then instruction from artist Nelson Sandgren changed her life, she said, adding, “I’ve had all good teachers.” She has studied with several local artists, as well as artists in Kansas and Japan, and has shared her knowledge as an artist in residence for the Lincoln County School District and offered “art and healing” lectures for the Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital Foundation and other Oregon hospitals. She designed the 25th anniversary Newport Seafood and Wine Festival poster in 2002, and is a member of both the Yaquina Art Association and the Watercolor Society of Oregon.

While it’s hard for her to choose, Moir said collage is her favorite art form. “It makes you feel like a kid. You get to rip and tear and glue,” she said. “It’s so freeing.”

Her new work involves mostly simple things like landscapes, Moir said, and is predominately watercolor or pen and ink, along with her favorite, collage.

The type of paper she has at hand and whether she wants to use a canvas play a role in her choice of subject. In one of her collages, “Flowerfish,” all the elements are pieces of paper she made herself.

Her studio is now open by appointment, and she offers notecards, original paintings and limited edition prints of her work, as well as wearable art — including T-shirts and tote bags. And she stays busy with commissioned work and is working on three commissions at present.

Moir also creates cards for holidays. She drew 10 new designs for this past Christmas and will be doing pen and ink drawings, with fill-in color, for Valentine’s Day, as well as commissioned cards for the Chinese New Year.

“I love designing more than anything but collage,” she said.

Moir is entering “Mark the Mailman” in the annual PushPin show at the Newport Visual Arts Center, which opens Jan. 16, and has illustrated five books, including “Earl, the Bear from Nowhere,” a children’s book written by Jim Kennison about a 10-year-old girl. Models for her illustrations were youngsters from the Saturday Market. The books are available from Moir and at JC Market in Newport.

Moir also is one of three artists chosen to create murals in Lincoln City — her three-paneled mural is in a bus shelter in front of Starbucks.

And her work will be shown in the annual exhibit of bird art, one of her favorite collage subjects, at the Lincoln City Cultural Center in April. 

To contact Moir or to arrange a visit to her studio, email her at [email protected] or call 541-961-1295.

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“Flowerfish,” by Marion Moir, is a collage from her paintings. “Chelsea Rose,” is a watercolor by the Newport artist.