Marjorie Hicks Responds to Radnor’s Challenge to Painters

by Marie K. Thompson, Member, Chestnut Group Marketing Committee

“As an artist I’m forced to slow down and drink in a sunset, a field at a certain time of day, a single flower, an expression on a human face,” says Chestnut Group artist, Marjorie (Marci, to her friends) Hicks. “Every moment is rare and fleeting. It is here and then it is gone. When I paint I attempt to honor that moment.”

Marjorie (Marci) Hicks Prepares to Plein Air Paint at Radnor Lake

Marjorie (Marci) Hicks Prepares to Plein Air Paint at Radnor Lake

This year Hicks is serving, along with Ed Routon, as Chestnut Group Co-Chair of the Radnor Lake Art Show and Sale. She and Routon have organized several plein air paint-outs at Radnor Lake in preparation for the Chestnut Group/Friends of Radnor Lake Fine Art Show and Sale, scheduled for November 6-8, 2015, at the Radnor Lake Visitor Center. Other Chestnut Group activities that she has been involved in include instructing one figurative “Paint Your Heart Out” Workshop and, along with Haden Pickel, co-teaching another figurative workshop.

Plein air painting at Radnor Lake is very challenging to many artists. Around artists, we hear the challenges continuously–so much green, so much water, and so much sky! As an artist of 20 years, Hicks recognizes that she has to get creative and realize that it’s up to her to search for something that strikes her as standing out, something that catches her attention, whether it is a log in the water, a duck gliding by, a pattern of leaves on the water, the way the light reflects on the water, a tree limb overhanging the lake or one small sliver of the lake. Then the artist must start the process of depicting the selected motif on a two-dimensional surface.

©Marjorie S. Hicks, “Radnor Bling,” 16x12, Oil on Linen Panel

©Marjorie S. Hicks, “Radnor Bling,” 16×12, Oil on Linen Panel

“When I am plein air painting, I’m most attracted to the strongest light and the shadow that it casts on my subjects,” Hicks says. “Usually that would be my focal point. I try to place it pleasingly and properly on my canvas at the very start. I always pay close attention to the perspective. I make sure, as best I can, that it rings true; if it does not, I wipe it off and start again. Then I start looking at the other values and the colors that lie within those values that make up the rest of the painting. I ‘read’ everything off the brightest light and deepest shadow. Toward the end, I’ll check my edges to see if they could be made better by softening them or making them more crisp. Usually my edges are crisper or sharper near my focal point and softer around the outer reaches of my paintings.”

For the first seventeen years of her art career, Hicks focused on fine-tuning her drawing skills through tonal painting. She did that because she absolutely loves to draw. For the past three years, she has devoted her time to learning all things about color and the way it behaves in nature and on her canvas.

©Marjorie S. Hicks, “Let’s Hide Away,” 16x20, Oil on Linen Panel

©Marjorie S. Hicks, “Let’s Hide Away,” 16×20, Oil on Linen Panel

A wonderful high school art teacher first encouraged Hicks to be an artist; she then studied art for two years at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. To enhance her skills in painting, she enrolled in several workshops; one of her most exciting workshops was at the Florence Academy of Art, an atelier in Florence, Italy. She has studied with a multitude of well-known artists. Max Ginsberg of New York City taught her to “notice and honor everyday things around me that don’t fit the typical definition of beauty. He reminded me that everything that exists is beautiful and has worth and value.”

Famous artists who have influenced her work include John Singer Sargent for his figures in oil and landscapes in watercolor and Richard Schmid for his portraits. Other well-known figurative painters with whom she has studied include Dawn Whitelaw, David Leffel, and Greg Kruetz. Landscape artists with whom she has studied are Anne Blair Brown, Randy Sexton, Jason Saunders, and Colley Whisson.

This concentrated study by Hicks has paid off in acceptances in four outstanding exhibitions and two awards. She was accepted to the Oil Painters of America (OPA) 2015 Salon Show and Sale, Beverly McNeil Gallery, Birmingham, AL; 2015 National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society (NOAPS) On-Line International Exhibition; 2015 Women Painters of the Southeast  (WPSE) Juried Exhibit, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, Blue Ridge, GA; and 2014 WPSE Third Annual Members’ Juried Exhibit, Magnolia Art Gallery, Greensboro, GA. She was awarded an Award of Excellence for her painting, “Table for Two” during the 2015 NOAPS On-Line International Exhibition. For her painting, “Ode to Richard MacDonald,” she received the 2nd place prize in the WPSE Third Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition.

This Chestnut Group Board member furthers the mission of the Group—“plein air painters for the land.” Besides the organizations previously mentioned, she is also a member of the American Impressionist Society and a patron member of the Portrait Society of America.

When asked which kind of painting she enjoys the most, Hicks says “The ones that fly off my brush! It rarely happens, but when it does it feels really good. I’ll always feel most drawn to depicting the human form, but I certainly get a thrill with every single painting that I attempt, even if it does not come easily.”

The artist has this advice for wannabe artists, “Sketch, sketch, sketch! Every day, if only for 10 or 15 minutes. In a month’s time, you will astound yourself at your increased abilities. I’ve been sketching my entire life and I’m grateful that I’m usually able to get my subject down quickly. This allows more time to focus on color, values, and edges. I remind beginning artists to keep striving to the next level and to keep trying new techniques. I urge them to never settle for a certain recipe but to be fearless.”

©Marjorie S. Hicks, “Upon the Garden Wall,” 9x12, Oil on Linen Panel

©Marjorie S. Hicks, “Upon the Garden Wall,” 9×12, Oil on Linen Panel

Hicks compares painting to a lesson her daughter learned one day from a violin teacher. He had accused her of being too tentative. He told his student, “I want you to pretend that you are out in the middle of a cornfield where no one can hear you. If you have a train wreck, it won’t hurt anything or anyone, but you will learn the power of your instrument!” Hicks says, “I’m still learning, that’s for sure, and there will be some train wrecks, but I’m grateful to be on this journey to unleash the power within my paints and brushes!”

Lastly, Hicks says she ultimately paints in response to a deep feeling of gratitude. “Being able to see and study all that surrounds us is a wonderful gift.” The artist says that her real claim to fame and an absolute joy was realized in raising three amazing daughters with her husband Guy, her steadfast supporter for nearly 40 years.

To learn more about Hicks’ work, interested parties may wish to check out her web site at marjorieshicks.com and chestnutgroup.org/members/marci-hicks. You may see more of her artwork at the various Chestnut Group shows, especially the Friends of Radnor Lake Show, Walter Criley Visitor Center,1160 Otter Creek Road, Nashville, TN, November 6-8, 2015.