Happy Family Day! Oh, and I’m Having Twins.

Me with twins

6 weeks ago…

“Okay, Marianne, I need to show both you and your husband this. There’s two.”

“Two what?” I ask.

The ultrasound technician looks at me, like she can’t believe she has to spell this out. “There’s two,” She repeats, pointing to the screen, which shows two tiny blobs. I still don’t get it.

“Honey,” my husband says, looking like he’s won the lottery, “it’s twins! We’re having twins!!!”

I look at him. He’s not joking. I look at the ultrasound technician. She’s not joking.

See my reaction below:

 Twins. Oh. My. God.

I should note at this point in the story that it took me about a week to get over the shock, and I’m still slowly coming to terms with it, but overall I’m very happy. I’m going to be having beautiful little twin children. Despite my frequent occasional panic about the logistics of managing two newborns simultaneously, I’m fairly amazed at what’s going on inside my body right now. Neither my husband or I have any history whatsoever of twins in our families, so while the presence of one baby is miraculous enough, two at the same time seems like a once-in-a-lifetime gift.

I’m not going to go into details about my challenges during the first trimester, but needless to say, having double the symptoms made it difficult to function. I’m now 13.5 weeks in and am doing much, much better than I was, but I’m still in the process of having to adapt to my new reality, which includes having to take a hiatus from teaching paint nights. 


New Priorities

While I knew that a family was on the horizon, I had no idea they’d come so quickly, let alone as a pair. As a result, I’ve scaled back my paint nights almost entirely, and am hosting my last event on March 7th. After all: I can’t really lift heavy things, or move in tight spaces once my belly really starts to grow. 

While I’m still going to be working on some paintings, I’ll be putting the majority of my focus on designing a nursery and getting in more days as a supply teacher before I need to go on mat leave. Before I became pregnant, I imagined that I could simply continue working as I had been, just with a cute little baby bump as an accessory. Now that I understand how physically demanding pregnancy is, I’m adjusting my priorities. 

And that’s completely fine by me. As much as I love and cherish my work, it’s okay to let parts of it go. 

So if you don’t see any new paint nights posted, or there aren’t any new paintings coming down the pipeline, please know that my paint night business did not fail. The quiet on my end is solely so that I can focus on self-care during what is about to be a long, and enormous, pregnancy. 

Some Thoughts on Privacy

Lots of parents like to document their pregnancy publicly, and lots of parents don’t. As far as I’m concerned, it’s your family, and it’s your choice. 

For me, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and protect my children’s privacy as much as possible. While I may share some photos from their nursery design, from this point onwards, I won’t be sharing any photos of my rapidly expanding belly, or snaps of my babies after they’re born. If anything, I’m dreading being out and about with them and having strangers reach into their stroller and touch them (please don’t) while gushing, “Oh my gosh, are they twiiiiiins?!” 

See below.

Are they twins?

So in the age of over-information, I’m choosing abstention. It’ll be easier for me to stumble along the path of parenthood knowing that I can do so in relative anonymity, especially because I know I’ll be making plenty of mistakes. I also want my focus to be on the authenticity and meaningfulness of my new little family unit, and not on documenting it and presenting it to the world. The shiny bloggers you see, with their hair perfectly done, their makeup flawless, and their baby looking angelic? Fake, fake, fake. I am expecting to be a hot mess, but a happy one. I won’t pretend to be anything but. 

So What Happens Now?

Snowy Owl

For now, I’m going to keep plugging away on a commission I have on the easel (a beautiful snowy owl) and focus on getting that done. Once that’s complete, I’m actually going to be getting a little experimental, trying different styles and subject matter. I love painting realism; I love the challenge, the focus, and the complexity each piece presents. 

But the walls of my own home are empty. Now is the best time to get a little experimental and try different styles, perhaps something splashy and colourful and more modern. I’m really craving more floral paintings; I loved working on the tulips painting this summer, and I have a few ideas in mind for big peony and iris paintings in my own home. 

So while I’m temporarily disappearing to focus on creating my greatest masterpieces (ever), know that I’m doing so with gratitude, excitement, and joy. I’ll be back at some point to resume my work as an art teacher, and I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have about your own ongoing practice.

On behalf of my growing family, I’d like to thank all of you for your support. Every time you’ve attended a paint night, or gone to one of my exhibitions, it has meant the world to me.

With immense gratitude,


2017 – A Year in Review

Visiting Mona Lisa in the Louvre

Wow. What a year.

Between getting married, backpacking around Europe, and creating 10 new original oil paintings, 2017 set the stage for a fabulous 2018. As I look ahead to my 2018 goals, I figured it was worth sharing some really noteworthy things that happened in 2017, that wouldn’t have been possible without your steadfast support. I am grateful beyond words to have been able to bring the joy of painting into the community, and honoured to have been asked to run so many wonderful events that brought much-needed funds into the hands of worthy local organizations.  (more…)

Painting Like Crazy for Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

For artists and makers, it may actually be the busiest time of the year. For the past two weeks, I’ve been focused on painting two small works for the Petit Noel show at the Alex Dufresne Gallery in Callander. There are tons of small works to choose from, and they’ll all be priced at the entry level. This year, I decided to submit two pieces, both inspired by Northern Ontario. (more…)

On the Eve of 30

Before I delve in, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. If you’re reading this blog, than you’ve probably helped support me in some way, shape or form. Perhaps you like my Facebook page, or you’ve been to one of my classes. Perhaps you’ve even purchased one of my paintings. Regardless of what form your support has taken…thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 

Hello, is this thing on?!

I bet you forgot I even HAD a blog, considering the radio silence on this thing since March. For awhile, I really wasn’t sure what to do with my blog; what could I really offer my readers that was of value?! After all, you’re spending precious moments of time reading this thing, so it had better be worth your while. 

While I was in Europe, I had a eureka moment about writing, and why I should take it up again: I’m a storyteller. It’s what I do. It’s what I wrote my Master of Education thesis on. Painting, art, making spaces beautiful – all of that will be umbrellaed under the theme of “my life,” because that’s practically all I do anyways.  (more…)

Opalescent Lake – Step by step

Happy spring, everyone! I am so excited to share this step by step breakdown of my most recent painting, “Opalescent Lake” (2017, 16″ x 20″, oil on masonite). 

The painting sold to a buyer from Temiscaming QC, who has a special connection to Algonquin Park and wanted a reminder of the many happy memories that were created there. As always, I posted update photos to both my Instagram and Facebook feeds, since I love to pull back the curtain and reveal how my art is created. Creating new works usually take me at least 30 hours for the smaller pieces, and upwards of 100 for my current major project (a 30″ x 60″).

I’m including this painting in the show taking place in the Alex Dufresne Gallery in Callander, Ontario, which is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. To me, there is nothing more Canadian than heading into the woods with a canoe, and portaging deeper and deeper into the wild. One of the reasons this painting speaks to me is because the mists are shrouding everything past the edges of the lake; it’s almost as if the rest of the world ceases to exist. This profound sense of stillness, coupled with the distinct presence of Algonquin flora staples including white pine and granite, situate the painting deep within a local context that makes me feel a deep sense of belonging and home.  (more…)

In the Footsteps of Robert Bateman

“I’d like you to close your eyes, and think about a place that really means something to you, deep in your heart. I fear if I ask young people that question, they don’t have a place. It just isn’t there. And, if people have no contact with nature, not only nature but mankind is in for a very gloomy future.” – Robert Bateman 

Lively Pair of Chickadees, by Robert Bateman

The chickadees are back this morning. 

They’re elegant little birds, bobbing and weaving in the sky effortlessly as they float from the tree to the feeder, feeder to the tree. Watching birds is one of my greatest joys. I love everything about them; their feathers, their song, their flight patterns, the brightness of their eyes. Chickadees are a particular delight because they are such playful souls, and one of their favourite games to play is to slide down snowy branches before launching into the sky. (more…)

Let there be light: How to light your studio space

Whether you’re an amateur artist or are trying to provide the ideal working space for your child who is just learning to paint or draw, lighting the workspace correctly is absolutely critical. For younger ones, it will help them learn to read their colours while avoiding eye strain, and for artists who are in the beginning stages of their development, having correct lighting will help you work more confidently at all hours of the day. In the article below, I outline my own personal experience with lighting trial and error, and provide some solutions for how to quickly and easily remedy your own lighting situation. 

Moving from my spacious 800sqft studio at Tweedsmuir into my 90sqft home workspace has not been without its challenges. For one thing, I absolutely despite clutter, and for the first month after moving in, I was sorting through boxes and boxes of art supplies. Personally, I find it much easier to start clean with zero objects and add what I need, than to sit down and sort through piles of stuff where I save way too many things on the excuse of “just in case.” For that first month, the studio wasn’t so much a workspace as a clutter magnet, as I learned to compromise with a smaller space and prioritize which supplies got to remain in the room and which would be banished to my crawlspace.

But there was one studio element that I was not willing to compromise on, and that was lighting. When I moved in, the space had a three-bulb circular halogen track, which not only didn’t provide enough light for the work that I do, but was probably in the 2700K temperature range.



Being a new homeowner is like playing a game of very expensive dominos.

When my fiancé and I took possession of our home on December 15, we were faced with both your standard and unusual expenses straight out of the gate; in addition to moving costs, lawyer fees, and gallons and gallons of fresh paint from Benjamin Moore, we also had to pay a plumber to come in and repair a fractured stack pipe. After finding not only a sizeable leak, we also discovered that the previous owner had stuffed pieces of tupperware and rags into drywall to catch the drip, proving beyond reasonable doubt that the leak had occurred prior to close. It was further exacerbated by our plumber, who told us that that because the leak had soaked part of our insulation, we might be looking at having to re-insulate the walls (cue the heart attack).



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?

Sunrise in Angkor Wat

My travel photos can be found here.

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.



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.

Studio Space

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.

A painting in progress during one of the all-day workshops I ran

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.

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

Yours in Creativity,