-Story by Angela Cowan
Gazing at Lucie Marlo’s utterly unique abstract paintings at her home in Broadmead, it’s abundantly clear that art is in her blood. But as we sit down to chat and she hands me a plate of peanut butter cookies (healthy, she swears) and a cup of Moringa tea, we actually start our conversation talking about health.
Food is so important and such a vital part of living well, she says, explaining that while she grew up surrounded by art, she actually has a PhD in nutrition.
“My father was a well-known artist in Europe, and it was feast or famine growing up,” she explains. “It was a hard childhood.”
Born in Quebec City, Lucie moved with her family to her father’s home country of Montenegro when she was five, and stayed there until they came back to Canada six years later.
Growing up with the constant shadow of lack affected her deeply, and although Lucie had an undeniable passion for art — as early as five years old, she would hide in the corner of her father’s studio and just watch him paint — she pushed it away for a long time.
“I was too afraid of putting my family through what I went through as a child.”
Instead, she was drawn to her other passion, health and wellness, achieved her doctorate, and inspired by her mother — who went back to school and got her doctorate in her sixties — Lucie opened and managed several multi-disciplinary health clinics in Winnipeg, staying in that role for more than a decade.
But threads of her early love kept creeping in, and one evening, after having dinner with her brother, she took a brush to a blank canvas she’d been staring at for days. She woke up the next morning still lying next to the canvas, brush in hand, having stayed up until 4 am painting in her now-distinct abstract style.
“This is what my soul created,” she says. “This is what came pouring out.”
|A detail of a painting in the studio of artist Lucie Marlo. Don Denton photography
Shortly after, Lucie made the difficult decision to sell the clinics and focus on her art, despite the uncertainty of her path. She also made the move from Winnipeg out to Victoria, her “heaven on earth.”
“I came to Victoria — and be still my heart — I went insane. I didn’t know there was such a place!”
Inspired in part by her gorgeous new environment, her distinct abstract style quickly made waves in the art community, and upscale collectors and sheer lovers of art both came knocking.
“I have an amazing problem. I have people who collect my artwork regularly,” she laughs.
Over the years, collectors have been so enthusiastic about getting their hands on her work, she’s barely had the time to get her pieces into galleries before they’ve sold. Needless to say, the positive reactions made it easier for her to commit to her art.
“It makes all the difference when people believe in you and your art,” she says, describing a woman who bought painting after painting, until Lucie finally asked why she was collecting so many. “She said she thought they were going to appreciate, and she was going to leave them to her grandchildren. I started to cry. I really thought, ‘I have so many people believing in me, I have to give it my best shot.’”
Lucie’s been painting full time for the last 16 years, but she’s remained true to her other passion of health, and also to making the world a better place.
“I couldn’t turn my back on what I know. I’m painfully aware of the need out there, so I donate a percentage of what I make.”
Her experiences in Montenegro and the desperate need of its one orphanage stuck with her. Now, Lucie donates a percentage of the sales from her paintings to the Mladost Bijela orphanage in Herceg Novi, Montenegro, which has housed more than 2,000 children and teenagers since it opened in 1946. She also spearheaded a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society last September in support of breast cancer research, and she continues to search for more ways to give back to her home community of Victoria and beyond.
“I still miss working in the clinic. That’s why I fundraise,” she says, and pauses. “Selling the clinics was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had two passions, and this one wouldn’t be denied. This is really what I feel I was meant to do. It just took me a while to give myself permission.”
|A painting of hers hangs behind artist Lucie Marlo. Don Denton photography
None of it would have ever come to fruition were it not for the incredible support she’d been blessed with from those that loved her throughout, especially her mother.
“My mom is my hero,” she says with a heartfelt conviction that makes me want to hug my own mom. “I had a mom who really encouraged my passion. She wanted me to follow my heart.”
She adds with a laugh, “She was actually more excited at my gallery opening than when I got my doctorate.”
“When you’re fortunate enough to do what you love the most, and people appreciate it, it’s a dream come true,” she says. “It feels so good to be in harmony.”
Lucie spends part of the year in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, and while she’s out of the country, Danisha Drury from Design District Access acts as her exclusive liaison in Victoria. For more information on Lucie’s work, call Danisha at 888-590-8598, or visit marlostudios.com.