Self-taught artist Marion Di Quinzio doesn’t believe in giving unsolicited advice, but leads by example

What do you do when your creative side is bubbling in you like volcanic lava, but you don’t have a formal outlet to let it pour out and take shape?

Self-taught artist Marion Di Quinzio was always aware of her artistic side although she had never been influenced by family or teachers. On the contrary, she carried in her mind a childhood conviction, born after a teacher’s thoughtless remark, that she could not draw. Also because of that, she had wanted to do abstract work one day, apprehensive of criticism. Passionate, curious, and appreciative of others’ artistic expressions, she and her husband, also a self-taught artist, Salvador Di Quinzio, had been visiting museums, galleries, and traveling to see exhibitions for years, but both had very corporate professional careers. When Marion finally decided it was time to leave her job, without hesitation she knew where she was headed. However, determined to become an artist, she knew not where or how to start.

Upon a friend’s suggestion, she began with a basic art principles class at the University of Miami, a total of 10 hours in a span of 6 weeks. Marion was the best student, but she still had doubts about her innate abilities thinking that she was praised only because she was a paying student. “That’s the only formal education I had, I basically taught myself.” Marion and her husband are true partners in crime: seeing her class work one day, Salvador suggested going to an art supply store to get her an easel, paints and everything else an artist needs.

When I met Marion two years ago, she made an unforgettable impression – striking personality, confident, vivid, full of life and energy, she comes across as a woman who doesn’t need any hand holding or encouragement to achieve her goals. And it is her, through and through.

Early portrait

She started with portraiture, drawing first. “You have to learn to see in order to be able to draw.” Realization of importance of actually looking at what you are drawing and not what you think you are drawing was paramount. “One has to detach from a  preconceived idea of what something should look like, and rather discover what it really looks like,” says Marion. Learning to consciously see an object from a different angle, noticing many changing nuances and registering the vantage point, from which everything makes total sense, helped with the break through. “Once I grasped that concept, all of a sudden I knew how to draw a face. My results before and after were so dramatic.”

Marion started painting very realistic portraits. Learning that was a frustrating experience. “With portraiture, I learned how to work with the medium, how to mix colors, what worked and what didn’t. It is kind of crazy to start with portraits because it’s really not that easy to do a good one, it has to look like the sitter, whereas if I paint something abstract you can’t tell me it’s wrong because I’m telling you it’s right.”

Early figurative work
Early figurative work

Marion loves a challenge. Once she grasps a concept or a method, she needs to always up the ante. The next dare, after capturing faces, was to paint animals and fur was really hard to paint at first. For the next 5 years or so, she painted mostly realistic work, based on photographs of people she took traveling abroad. “I started with using photos mostly because people would die before I’d finish something. I couldn’t use live models. And of course there was another limitation to using photos: the image is very static, so I had to overcome that little obstacle. I was doing my own interpretations, changing colors and a lot of other things. It was a starting point. I did’t use books. I learned by doing.”

Marion is a perfectionist and doing portraiture became extremely tedious and time-consuming because if something was slightly off, she worked on it until it was exactly right. “Once you learn how to do a portrait and do it well, then you can paint pretty much anything. Doesn’t mean you have talent, but you know the technique.” To keep the spark in her work and her love for art making, she started working in abstract, which for her was “liberating, freer, and more intuitive.” She works in oils exclusively, seeing acrylics as very unforgiving. “You have to have an idea of what you want because it dries very quickly. Oils allow you to change things, working with you rather than against you. I don’t have a clue when I start painting and I may change course in the middle of doing something. With oils I can just wipe it off or change the shape and not leave marks from what I was doing earlier.”

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Marion also loves photography, it is not her artistic medium, but she doesn’t discard the possibility. Never walking out without a camera, she takes countless photos always looking for things that are not easy to notice or an unusual angle. In addition, she does mixed media works on paper (a challenge here was to learn to paint with white as the dominant color) and on light silk, doing the outlines with gutta before painting to prevent bleeding because silk paint is like ink. “I like mixing things up. Always looking for different things to do, that’s what keeps me going.”

Her latest enterprise is digital painting on her iPad, started about a year ago. It is fun and allows her to explore more complex images. “Digitally, I can do many layers and get very complex, which with a brush wouldn’t work for me.” She uses her oil paintings as a base for her digital art and works in series to explore shapes and concepts.

Very first attempt at digital art a few years ago.
Marion used her original oil on linen painting  30″ x 15″ (left) as a base for these digital works (middle and right).

“Every painting is different because I always like to start with a color that I didn’t use in my previous painting. That changes the whole color palette.” She doesn’t have a method and believes she would never be able to reproduce any of her works. “I would have no idea how I got there, I just fiddle around with it until I like the image.”

Marion is a night owl. “Sometimes I paint during the day, but mostly not. I do other things.” Like art-seeing. She avoids routines and rituals in the studio, no set number of hours or clocking in and out. “I want to be in the studio when I want to be there. I decide. It works for me putting in as many or as few hours as I want. I won’t feel guilty if I want to take time to do something else, otherwise it becomes a job. There are other things I do routinely. But not this.”

When I asked her if she had any word of advice, she dismissed any thought of giving one as she believes everyone has do what works for them. Her confidence and trust in her approach to her work is courage-inducing in itself. She is not influenced by opinions of the art-market. To me, hers is a remarkable and inspiring journey, and a lesson in itself for anyone who needs to be inspired to persevere in achieving their goal of expressing their true self.

Follow and connect with Marion on Instagram @mariondiquinzio and through her website



Author: YABNYC

Passionate about people with passions, I write about artists, their lives and artistic journeys; sometimes, I post my musings on exhibitions that speak to me. I don't believe in critiquing, but I believe in connecting. Knowing someone better hopefully leads to understanding, which also gives rise to a connection (intellectual, emotional or spiritual). People, who establish such a link with an artist, are more likely to want to live with their art. And, not only, often buying an artwork is a gesture of support for the artists we like and encouragement to keep creating. To quote Swiss curator, artist and art historian Harald Szeemann, "If the personal relationship is taken out, the dimension of intimacy, then the museum and art business gradually starts to become annoying."

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