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The work of self-taught Dorset artist Marilyn Allis

PUBLISHED: 09:50 14 April 2015 | UPDATED: 09:50 14 April 2015

Marilyn Allis

Marilyn Allis


It is the dream of many who pick up a paintbrush to find a way to make a living as an artist – and for self-taught artist Marilyn Allis it actually came true

Cows from autumn by Marilyn AllisCows from autumn by Marilyn Allis

Viewing the work of Dorset artist Marilyn Allis what first strikes is the vibrancy and sense of movement her work evokes, whether painting livestock or musicians – crowds or portraits.

Marilyn, who lives near Blandford Forum, began painting for pleasure 17 years ago, but it was being named the Society of All Artists Artist of the Year that turned her passion for art into a successful career.

In 1999, her then 13-year-old daughter Katherine entered one of her paintings, entitled ‘Ben at Weymouth’, as a Mother’s Day present into a competition run by the Society of All Artists (SAA). “She was so sure I was going to win,” remembers Marilyn. “I had been painting for about 18 months and I thought she was going to be heartbroken if I didn’t win – but I did.”

Being named 1999 SAA Artist of the Year not only brought with it a cash prize, but also catapulted Marilyn into the life of an artist and art teacher, author and ultimately a TV star. At the time she was working as a superintendent registrar – which enabled her to perform marriage ceremonies as her art commissions and teaching gigs allowed – to date she hasn’t performed a ceremony for seven years – although she is still officially on their books, she says, “just in case.”

the other side of the pyramids by Marilyn Allisthe other side of the pyramids by Marilyn Allis

Marilyn’s loose impressionistic style has captivated audiences and her students. She fascinates with her use of strong vibrant colours and captured movement adding energy to a scene. Though she does work in acrylic inks, acrylics and mixed media, she confesses that her true love is water colour – and her favourite subject figures, especially musicians. “I love their energy,” she admits. “The musicians are concentrating so much on what they are doing, it’s like they are dancing. But I would say 80 per cent of what I sell is paintings of livestock and chickens!”

The TV stardom, she admits, was accidental. Marilyn featured in a TV series last autumn, called Fraser and Friends. The series featured Fraser Scarfe, an artist from Lincoln, who met up with gifted professional artists from across the country who enjoyed working en plein air.

Marilyn took Fraser to a local farm, where she demonstrated her fast loose style to capture some cows on canvas before taking him for a spot of water colour painting in the hustle and bustle of Weymouth.

Her desire to take on new challenges meant that Marilyn grasped the opportunity to demonstrate her skills in a different way. “It’s not something I ever wanted to do as I was always quite shy, but now I really enjoy it. You have to remember you are teaching people things that they want to learn. I remember I had to paint a cow in acrylics – a painting that would usually evolve over a few days - but it had to be done in 40 minutes!”

Covent Garden by Marilyn AllisCovent Garden by Marilyn Allis

Marilyn continues to teach workshops at her studio at East Farm in Winterborne Whitechurch and travels around the country holding painting demonstrations, workshops and classes. As well as exhibiting in her studio, she has an annual exhibition and runs painting holidays in Northern Brittany, France.

She is currently working on her fourth book - First Impressions which is aimed at beginners working in watercolour. “It’s about learning the right habits from the start, which is a lot easier than trying to break them later on,” she laughs.

“I’m always looking for new things to do and new ideas, that keeps it exciting. I love art and I love travel and now I get to do both.”

Clem Curtus by Marilyn AllisClem Curtus by Marilyn Allis



The story behind Dorset Art Weeks phenomenal success - Dorset Art Weeks is a phenomenal success story that showcases the county’s vibrant arts scene and gives a boost to its economy. Rosie Staal looks at the original inspiration behind this biennial event.


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