Introducing… – Marianne Vander Dussen


Hey there, and welcome!

Since opening up the studio space last June and beginning to offer classes out of the space in July, I've been trying to define and clarify what exactly it is that I'm doing. Depending on the day, I'm a supply teacher for the Near North District School Board, a piano teacher, art teacher, commissioned artist, (amateur) designer, researcher, and writer. I had considered giving myself an umbrella business title, something along the lines of Whispering Pine Studios or something equally cheesy, but since I dabble in so many things I figured it was simpler to consolidate what I do under my name. Pure and simple.

So who the heck am I, what do I do, and how do you get involved in the fun, creative madness that has been sweeping through the city? Pull up a comfy chair, grab a cup of coffee, and I'll tell you the tale of how I wound up here, weaving in what I plan to offer to the city of North Bay as an artist and educator.


Mini Bio

I grew up all over Southern Ontario, and have lived in nearly ten cities to date (Ancaster, Hamilton, Georgetown, Erin, Stratford, London, Springbrook, Kingston, Toronto, and now North Bay).

In 2009, I graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Drama. When I graduated and headed to Toronto, I endured a few heartbreaking rejections that made me realize I didn't have what it would take to make it professionally in the theatre world. Instead, I put my organization skills to use, and worked in luxury real estate administration for four years. It sounds glamourous, but after a few years, all multimillion dollar homes started to look the same. One afternoon, I got stuck in a $10 million dollar home, after I was taking care of an open house and the seller never came by at the end to lock up. Feeling trapped in the empty, marble-clad halls, I realized that what I was doing for a living was completely out of alignment with my values. So I sold my car, applied to teacher's college, quit my job and backpacked solo through Southeast Asia for four months. Logical, right?

Marianne Vander Dussen - Artist at Angkor Wat

After one year in teacher's college, and another two completing my Master of Education degree, I had rediscovered painting as a passion. I used art as a method of stress release during my degrees. I worked on a barn owl painting to fill an empty space in my residence room, then bought dollar store canvases and paints to continue painting and working in the summer. By the fall of 2014, I was painting frequently, and had started to receive requests for commissioned work. Since then, I've been working steadily as a commissioned artist.

Marianne Vander Dussen - Barn Owl

Marianne Vander Dussen - Tilden Lake for Glen Sharp

These paintings are only separated by one year...practice makes progress.

In March 2016, I travelled down to Mississauga and trained with professional artist Olaf Schneider in a weeklong workshop. Afterwards, I knew that I wanted to switch my practice from working primarily in acrylics to oils. The main problem with that? Oils are kind of smelly. I know that so long as I was renting a two bedroom apartment, I needed to have an external studio space to continue my work without driving my ever-patient fiancé up the wall with how smelly my paints are.

Enter the Tweedsmuir space. When I first started renting the studio, it was with the sole purpose of being a workspace. But after several months of prodding from friends to run a paint class, in July I advertised one on Facebook and it filled up almost immediately. Since then, I've been teaching painting at conferences, special events, bridal showers, birthday parties, neighbourhood get-togethers, pubs, restaurants, and of course, at the studio itself.

Marianne Vander Dussen - Studio Space at Tweedsmuir

In the fall of 2016, my fiancé and I were fortunate to find a home that perfectly suited our needs in the Birch Haven area or North Bay. Not only did it check all the boxes, but it had a perfect in-house studio room for me to continue working on my oils. I was then faced with a decision; do I keep the studio space open, since I no longer have need of it for my own personal craft, or do I go mobile?

After a lot of number crunching and soul-searching, I decided to do the latter, which brings us to where we are today.

What I Offer

I did some soul searching over the Christmas holidays, and decided to encapsulate my efforts into one mission statement:

To create a sense of beauty in every endeavour.

That's it. Kinda corny, right? But everything I do boils down to this. Learning - to me, anyways - is beautiful. To try something new, to engage in that vulnerability, to be open and authentic, is an act of exquisite creativity. I typically only paint things that I find beautiful too; whether it's a colourful twilight, or even a simple still life, I want my piece to be pleasing to look at. It's something I aim for in my painting classes; for my guests to walk away feeling as though they engaged in that act of creativity, and are walking away with something remarkable.

Marianne Vander Dussen - A painting in progress by a guest during an all-day workshop
A painting in progress by a guest during an all-day workshop

Beauty Everywhere

I'm sure I'll get some flak for saying that all of my guests walk away with something beautiful. Without fail, I'll have a beginner artist attend a class and then tell me that their work sucks, or that they hate their work.

It is at this point that it is critical to differentiate between a failed attempt and being a failure. To create is an act of beauty. You'll notice that I said above that my guests walk away with something beautiful, not a beautiful painting (although odds are high that that will happen too). Many new and returning artists at a paint night will experience a psychological state called flow, in which time stands still, and all cares and worries are forgotten as you become fully present in the moment, only focusing on the movement of the brush as the rest of the world falls away.

There is beauty in successful pieces, and beauty in the pieces that didn't quite turn out the way you had hoped (and believe me, I have many many paintings that I've started only to have to begin again). It's my job to help you inch closer to mastery, or at least to have a good time while doing so.

Marianne Vander Dussen - Junior artists at the studio
Junior artists at the studio...always so willing to experiment!

The Blog

One of my great joys is writing, and I'll be using this blog as a way to answer questions, provide and explain art techniques, document my own art journey, and share my passion for creative living. If you're interested in subscribing, just enter your email on the right, and you'll receive updates through your inbox. This will be separate from the newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. The newsletter will be sent once a month, and the blog will be sent to you whenever it's updated. I promise not to spam you, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


So let's get started...

I'm grateful beyond words to be able to share my love of art, education, and creativity with you. Looking forward to an exciting 2017 of creative adventures with you!

Marianne Vander Dussen - Artist at Work 

Yours in Creativity,

Artist's Signature

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published