Marian Willmott describes her mother as a “Sunday painter.” She has fond memories of sitting beside her and dipping into her large box of pastels. That love of art has not diminished over the years, and the Hinesburg resident has grown up to be someone who spends a lot of time, more than one day a week, on her own art.
Willmott’s favorite form of expression has varied over the years. In high school, she gravitated to poetry, but at Goddard College she began to paint. Since Goddard wasn’t an art school, she went elsewhere for instruction and ended up taking a life drawing class at the Art Students League in New York City. Marriage and the birth of three children kept Willmott busy, but she continued to practice various forms of art including pottery and stained glass. Returning to school, she received certification to become an art teacher at UVM, going on to get an MFA from the Vermont Studio Center. Along the way, she switched from painting to monoprinting, a process she found more creative and spontaneous, but after ten years of monoprinting she found a new teacher and fell back in love with painting.
In addition to practicing the visual arts, Willmott rekindled her passion for the written word and took a course through UVM’s Church Street Center. She and her older sister, who also wrote poetry, began to share their writing with one another, and Willmott went to poetry workshops and joined a local poetry group.
Willmott started teaching art in Shelburne in 1985 and served as a part-time instructor until 2011. She continues to work as a substitute, going to CVU once or twice a week to help out. “I love teaching art and working with kids,” she said, “but the sometimes frustrating challenge was to create an environment where the creative process could flourish in a culture of assignments and academic assessment.” Taking full advantage of professional development opportunities, Willmott learned Photoshop and web design to expand her repertoire of artistic expression. She has helped friends design web pages, and has donated her services to charitable groups while also doing some commercial work in the field.
Willmott’s art reflects the world outside her door. “I live on the end of a dirt road next to the town forest,” she said. “I’m very much in the landscape. I walk in the woods several times a week and that’s my source of inspiration. There’s an energy you feel there.” Willmott has always had a dedicated space for art in her house, but now that she is an empty-nester, she has been able to take out a wall and expand her space enough that she can open up her studio to visitors during Vermont’s Open Studio Weekend.
Willmott’s art has been displayed in several locations, including Art Hop and SEABA shows, and some of her work will be at People’s Bank in Burlington next January. Her poetry has also been printed in literary magazines, and she recently published a chapbook of 24 poems. Poetry remains a secondary interest, while painting is her primary love. “You begin again with each new painting,” she said. “It’s more of an intuitive response. It’s a way of being connected and finding your own connection in the process.”