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Ascending to New Artistic Heights

After years of realist painting, Marlene Kallstrom-Barritt still feels the need to keep the paint inside the lines.
But now she’s loosened up the process, and puts the lines wherever she paints. “I paint very loosely, but then I draw over it,” she explains.

She has dubbed her style “abstract realism,” the results of which are reminiscent of stained glass. After painting a somewhat impressionistic scene, she painstakingly inks in dividing lines between every shade of every colour on the paper.

Kallstrom-Barritt has “always been a detail kind of person,” but started to shake up her artistic style after her life was shaken up. She and her husband were among the victims of the province’s economic downturn, and “downsizing” became a new mantra in their lives. It meant she no longer had the space and time to invest in her “beloved realistic oil paintings.”

“It really forced me to look at things differently,” she recalls, but notes that necessity opened up her creativity: “It freed me up to experiment a lot more.”

Kallstrom-Barritt discovered her new style a couple of years ago. She had been invited to take part in an art show, but had only three weeks to find something she could do quickly and would enjoy. She asked God to give her something “new and fresh,” and then recalled some art Christmas cards she had made for family members. Why not take that concept to a larger scale?
“What I asked for, I got,” she says, adding that she has never felt so motivated or purposeful about art as she does now.

Her faith added its own element to the artwork as well. Kallstrom-Barritt is now more focused on gratitude for what she has in life, and wants her art to reflect that. She calls her on-going series of works “Ascending” because they all include small “bubbles” that appear to rise through the scene, as if the landscape is offering thanks and praise to God above. The concept was inspired by Isaiah 55:12: “the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Having shaken off the shackles of pure realism, Kallstrom-Barritt now feels that her artwork is more genuinely her expression. Perhaps that has caused its popularity, as the Ascending series has been selling rapidly. A contributing factor has also been her brief descriptions of her thoughts about each painting, which have been so popular that she now writes them on the back of each work. “It’s more personal,” she says.

As demand increases, Kallstrom-Barritt is becoming choosier about exhibits. Her next show is November’s Art Market Art & Craft Sale in Calgary. She hopes to soon land gallery representation as well, as she continues to develop the business side of her art.
For more information, visit www.kallstromstudio.com.

Marlene Kallstrom-Barritt with a collection of her recent abstract realist works.


Marlene Kallstrom-Barritt draws in the details of one of her recent paintings. She calls her style “abstract realism.”



I AM the Arts

I am a wife, mother and grandmother who likes gardening, music, visiting, and community involvement.

I value the artistic support of the Red Deer Arts Council and its members.

I am happy to call Red Deer “home.”

I am Marlene Kallstrom-Barritt.

Join me in discovering the best our city has to offer.