Dilleen Marsh is an illustrator and painter who worked for many years as a designer for the LDS Church. She has illustrated 10 children’s books and exhibited her work in various shows and galleries. Illustrations from her book The Bamboo Cutter and The Moon Maiden were selected to appear in the Communication Arts Magazine Illustration Annual. Her Instagram is an intriguing series of daily sketches (see below). Marsh lives in Utah.
Tell us about your career as an artist. When I was 8 years old I drew a baby chick with pencil on lined notebook paper. It was a wrinkled mess, but I distinctly remember thinking, ‘That was FUN!’ From that earliest art memory, I engaged in every art opportunity that came my way through elementary and middle school. In high school I was privileged to have an art teacher that really knew how to draw and taught us an academic approach to art. With that realistic approach to portrait and figure drawing I chose to be an illustrator, attending Utah State University for three years. Learned strong design and began painting the figure. Spent four years illustrating and designing in Studio City, California. I then returned to Utah in 1979 to be a designer for the LDS Church magazine, The New Era. I spent the day creating page spreads and art directing photographers and illustrators. At night I took drawing and painting classes, workshops, and did illustrations on my weekends and holidays. After 14 years I went home to my own studio to continue illustrating for Church magazines and others on a free-lance basis. All together, I have had more than a 30-year career in illustration. For 11 years while our children were young, I volunteered at their elementary school creating art committees, projects, and curriculum. For a season I taught some beginning illustration classes at BYU and illustrated 10 children’s books for Deseret Book, Thomas Nelson, and Leatherwood Press. Having moved to the southern part of Utah in 2006, I continue to oil paint figures and landscapes.
You once wrote, “I am the possibility of clearly, boldly, and joyfully communicating an idea through art.” Explain. “The emerging picture from…studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, from the book, Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I have put in the hours and like a musician, writer, scientist, sports figure, or whomever, who has become competent at their craft, I can actually do the work. That means that if you want something produced in my sphere of expertise, I can do that. I am that possibility. The three descriptive words that follow are: clearly, boldly, joyfully. These are to keep me on track. Am I CLEARLY communicating an idea through my art rather than being so obscure that only a small group of art critics or elites will ever “’get it’? I’d like my art to communicate to the vast majority of humanity, at many levels. BOLDLY is with a bit of an edge, pushing creative and imaginative boundaries, but not abrasive. Primarily, BOLD is in a strong design. I do not want to dwell in shocking dark topics or misery to engage the viewer. Therefore, I chose to be JOYFUL in my art. This sometimes comes off as humorous, a celebration of beauty, or a poignant moment.
You are very active on social media. Does the Internet motivate you, support you, unnerve you, or something else? I am trying to find my way in an always shifting landscape of connecting with other people. I am grateful I live in a technological age. I WANT my art ideas to be seen by and inspire many people. Social media is a perfect platform for artists because it is so visual. Yes, it unnerves me a little to tap ‘update’ on a program because there may be annoying changes to adjust to. But I am amazed at the reach of the Internet. I am sharing art ideas with people in France, the Netherlands, Australia, Africa, Brooklyn, China… I am a better painter and designer because I have the privilege of viewing so much great stuff. It helps me sort out the mediocre. Over a year ago I started doing and posting on Instagram an ink drawing a day. I added a written commentary with each sketch. Had to economize my words. Began to look for “concepts”, not just any scene or subject. The original intent was to improve and maintain my drawing skills. Now I’m improving as a writer as well. As my ‘following’ grows, so does the structure of providing something of worth every day. It has required me to think and helps keep my eye/hand coordination tuned up. When I hashtag a topic or thought, my image joins a global community of similar intentioned individuals: fun, thoughtful, eye-opening. What a great education, but I haven’t figured out how to manage it all consistently across all the different media.
What’s next for you? Since this art thing is a self-generated endeavor, that question is always on my mind! I toy with self publishing children’s books that I write and illustrate, entering art shows to build a brand and finding galleries that love to sell my paintings online or off, ‘paying it forward’ by mentoring, blogging, and teaching, inviting the neighborhood kids over to mess up my studio with an art project, still doing an occasional illustration job, maybe turning my daily Instagram posts into little coffee table books, writing a novel…it is “a miracle to be anywhere in this vortex of art” (thank you, Robert Genn) and something will evolve if I continue to do the work and consider the possibilities as they come.