The year for capturing the essence

Marielle Washington on her passion for art and how music grows it

At Bose, we believe sound has power. The power to inspire, the power to motivate, the power to transform. We believe music not only emboldens us to follow our passions, but it also helps us to grow them. That’s why we’re celebrating those who use music to keep pushing and featuring their stories. In this article, we talk with Marielle Washington about her passion for art and how music plays a role in her process.

“When I get in that moment, I’m just flowing. I’m switching between colours and trying things and seeing how it works.”

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Marielle Washington is an American artist who found her passion at an early age. “I’ve been painting my entire life pretty much”, Marielle says. “I started when I was five. When I was in kindergarten, we had to draw a rose. And my rose actually looked like a rose. And my teacher raved about it to my parents. So since then, my parents kept me in art classes from primary school all the way to secondary school. And then I studied it at university.” 

While Marielle loves and practises many forms of art, her speciality is in portraits. “My purpose of doing portraits”, Marielle says, “is to capture the essence of whoever I’m painting. And I think it’s cool to see that on such a large scale.” By painting in the public eye, Marielle has grown into her art in a way she never anticipated, becoming more comfortable painting, all while learning to forget the distractions and focus on her work. “I actually hated people watching me paint”, Marielle says. “I think that was because of school, everybody just critiques you so much. But then, seeing other people do murals out in public, it’s like, I’m not in class any more. Talking to other people that really appreciate the art for what it is, instead of being like, ‘Oh, you should have put this line over here, or you should have done that’, helped me to have more fun painting in front of people. It was a fear, and in order to tackle that fear, you just have to do it. Being able to just paint live in front of people, really helped me to appreciate my art more.”

“I love to paint black people in a positive light, because I feel that we need to be seen more in a positive light.”

“If I’m painting Whitney Houston, I listen to Whitney Houston.”

From celebrity role models within the Black community to local idols, Marielle paints to shine light upon the positivity that BIPOCs infuse into communities. “It does help to see more black women out in public”, Marielle says. “And that’s honestly, the majority of my art. I love to paint black people in a positive light, because I feel that we need to be seen more in a positive light, which is why I painted Aaliyah and Gil Scott-Heron. I’ve always liked to find black people—even local—to paint, just to show more of our culture, whether it’s musically, acting or entertainment. Just show it and bring joy for everyone.”

Marielle has found a deeper connection to her art through music. It’s not just about setting the mood. It’s about accessing the flow state and finding the essence of the piece. 

“When I’m outside painting a mural, I can hear cars going by, I can hear people talking, I can hear construction”, Marielle says. “And I like to have music on and my headphones on so I can silence everything else, and just be present and focus on what’s in front of me. Because when you’re focused on one thing at a time, it really does make it better. It’s easier for me to capture the essence of whatever I’m painting, whether it’s a flower, or it’s a person. That’s always my goal: to capture the essence.” And because Marielle paints a lot of musicians, she often finds their essence in their music. “I like to listen to whoever’s music I’m painting”, Marielle says. “If I’m painting Whitney Houston, I listen to Whitney Houston—because everything comes full circle when I do that”.

“With this painting, I was trying to capture a piece of me to share a little bit more of my essence.”

This time, Marielle’s subject wasn’t another artist, but herself. It gave her a moment to pause from looking at the essence in others and instead rediscover the essence within herself. 

“Self-portraiture to me is actually harder because you’re analysing your own face”, Marielle says. “In school, we had to do a lot of self-portraits. I could never make it look like me at all. But I noticed a difference this time. I could not be so judgemental of myself and just paint the eyes and the nose. I love my gold hoops. I wear those all the time. So I decided to keep the gold in the painting. And then the fun part was the splash of gold all over the painting, because it was just so freeing. I could really be in the moment, because it didn’t have to be any type of form. I was just throwing it on there and seeing what happens. And it was awesome.”

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