By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – After retiring from a 30-plus-year career as an art educator, figurative artist Marsha Gleason of Northborough resumed exploring ways to further develop her long-time love for creating direct oil paintings. She continues to study her favorite subject while publicly exhibiting her artwork.
Her creative process began as a second-grader with an award-winning entry in an art contest.
“I’ve always loved art and knew that I wanted to be an art teacher,” she declared. “Drawing the figure is most compelling to me, as is the paint itself. Together, they give attention to things that matter.”
Gleason worked her last 24 years as an art teacher at Southborough elementary public schools. Adorning her classroom was a sign proclaiming a Pablo Picasso quote: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
“I enjoyed the enthusiasm of students that age because they’re less inhibited,” she recalled. “Art doesn’t need to be a career for everybody, but it’s something the students can appreciate as a lifelong interest just for the joy of it.”
Upon retiring in 2013, Gleason began enrolling in continuing education art classes and workshops. She also concentrated on painting figurative art in her studio, which at the time was a restored 1966 Shasta camper stationed in her backyard.
“As a teacher, I was involved in art every day, but not doing my own personal artwork because raising a family and having a full-time job was enough for me,” she shared. “After retiring, my goal was to be a painter and I started taking classes immediately. I was drawn to teachers who focused on figurative work.”
While studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, Gleason was particularly inspired by multi-award-winning artist Catherine Kehoe.
“Catherine has been a huge influence on me,” Gleason said. “She teaches many figurative courses and I’ve taken pretty much all of them. I continue to study with her.”
Among other venues where Gleason has studied is the North River Arts Society in Marshfield Hills, which has exhibited her artwork. In September 2019, her work was selected for an Award of Excellence in its members’ show. Last summer, the arts society sponsored her solo show, “Figured Out,” at the Dolphin Gallery in Hingham.
Gleason is also an active member of Concord Art, where she currently monitors figure sessions. From mid-February to mid-March 2019, her work was exhibited in a show titled “Figures in Place” in its members’ gallery.
For the past three summers, she participated in workshops led by California-based artist Jennifer Pochinski. Gleason is looking forward to studying with Pochinski again this summer at Black Pond Studio in Rehoboth.
“Jennifer influenced my most recent style,” Gleason noted. “I’ve evolved. When I started taking classes that led me to MassArt, I learned practices that were more methodical. They’ve been invaluable skills that I developed. I’ve now progressed to a freer style, where I work fast and looser than I did then.”
A few years ago, Gleason sold her Shasta camper to finance a restoration of her home’s garage, which now serves as her art studio.
This past November, she was awarded second prize for her painting “Pa and Pentimento” at Grafton’s Small Stones Festival of the Arts. Also in 2019, Hopkinton Center for the Arts exhibited her painting “Boston Marathon Start Line” and self-portrait “Updating My Proﬁle.”
“I used to tell my students that part of the creative process is sharing your work and letting others respond to it,” Gleason relayed. “Now, it’s important for me to show my own work.”