Marjorie Davidson Interview

Painting for Beauty

By Jean Cunningham

Marjorie Davidson is a classically trained pianist who creates landscape oil paintings inspired by her life in the outdoors. She said, “I am not trying to create statement art, but just images that are beautiful.” She believes her art and music training are intertwined and include reciprocal elements of discipline and process.

Davidson’s inspiration comes from daily walks with her dog along Lake Michigan, North Carolina’s oceanfront and mountains, and trips to Door County, WI. Recently she has driven between Evanston and southwest Pennsylvania several times to care for her mother. Much to her surprise and pleasure, the rolling hills of farm country in Ohio provide her with many unique visualizations to incorporate into her landscapes. 


Davidson purchases good quality paint and paints with big hardware brushes and, “even my hands, even though I’m not supposed to.” she smiled. Using this method, she finds the resulting paintings are more sensual, and they better capture the air and light as well as the emotions she has when viewing a landscape. She paints with many colors, but usually selects only 5-7 colors for any one painting. 

During her daily walk, Davidson decides the basic structure of the landscape she will paint next, and then finds representative photos of that structure for ideas and reminders of details. She paints on canvases from 9-by-12 up to 30-by-40 inches, and uses landscape orientation. Deciding the size often depends on how much time she has available. 

After selecting the canvas, she tones the canvas by applying a light wash of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and white. She immediately wipes the wash off with a paper towel leaving just a thin trace of color. 

Next, she divides the canvas into thirds horizontally and typically reserves the top two thirds for the sky. She then divides the bottom third—which will be below the horizon—into 3 or 4 sections and begins painting. Davidson said this type of organization is similar to piano, but she allows herself much more freedom to diverge from form when painting.

Like music she does not feel a painting is ever really done. Nevertheless, she finishes each painting by signing it, adding a varnish, and then putting it in storage. 

And as a treat for any passersby, every day she displays one of her paintings out in her garden. Davidson’s paintings of natural beauty are also on display at three galleries this summer; the Blue Moon Gallery in Greyslake, IL, Backlot Coffee in Evanston, and the Three Crowns Park in Evanston.

If you would like to learn more about Marjorie Davidson’s art and music practice, visit her website at, or her Evanston Made page

Jean Cunningham is retired after a career in business management and finance. She has written three books and authored many articles in her field, was a speaker at conferences, and taught at the university level. While traveling for business she began painting and drawing for relaxation and collecting art. She and her husband have lived in Evanston for 11 years and are avid walkers of the town and lakeside. She has a BS from Indiana University and an MBA from Northeastern University. 

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