A reluctant artist in demand

December 22, 2008

By David Hayes

Gonzalo Marino, of Klahanie, describes how the water line is too low in one of his earliest paintings based on a famous painting. PHotos by David HayesGonzalo Marino, of Klahanie, describes how the water line is too low in one of his earliest paintings based on a famous painting. PHotos by David Hayes

Call him the reluctant artist. Unlike most painters, Gonzalo Marino finds it almost too painful to bear parting with his finished works. 

“I put so many hours into making them, I grow attached to them and don’t want to let them go,” he said. “I put them on the Web, asking outrageous prices, like $50,000 for one, or 5 million Euros for another.”

So, for now, Marino’s hobby adorns only the walls of his Klahanie home. However, the 54-year-old son of a Columbian immigrant made the mistake of letting others see his work. Now, word has gotten out about his fairly unique style, creating a demand. 

Through his research, Marino discovered only a handful of painters in the world who use clay as their medium, and he may be the only one using modeling clay strictly for abstracts, landscapes and city scenics. Marino has been a fulltime interpreter for nine years, mostly over the phone helping ensure clients are given sound legal advice when it’s translated from English to Spanish.

But his passion has been the arts, drawing images since he was 7. But his medium of choice was sealed one day when his younger brother, Pedro, shared a small 3-by-3-inch piece he’d made using clay.

“I liked it, a lot, so I began experimenting with using clay,” Marino said. “I just got better at it as years went by.”

Most of his works began as abstracts, inspired by his first vocation in horticulture, creating floral images, but also because he had the hardest time discovering how to create a straight line in clay. What’s the old saying — art is 90 percent inspiration, and 10 percent perspiration? It was through the last 10 percent that Marino discovered his answer.

“I actually found out how to do it by accident,” he admitted. “I was sweating so much, I put a piece of paper over the painting to keep it dry. Then, when I removed it, I noticed I had spread some clay over the paper. And lo and behold, I had a straight line.”

Since then, he has further honed his self-taught craft, even discovering a method to preserve the clay, so it lasts longer and isn’t tacky to the touch. First, he lightly brushes the surface and then applies jojoba oil, which is used for everything from moisturizer and makeup remover to lip balm and massages. 

Now, after 23 years painting in modeling clay, more than his wife Clemencia and daughter Camila have seen his works that had until September hung on their condo walls.

Marino was invited to participate in the DownTown Issaquah Association’s ArtWalk, a series of events designed to combine a showcase for local artists with a draw for people to visit downtown shops. 

Marino put his paintings on display and gave demonstrations on how he did them. 

“It was a blast,” he said. 

One lady had to have one and another guy wanted to thank him for showing his daughter how to paint with clay, he said. 

“He said his daughter loved how I taught her,” he said. “I’d actually like to open up an academy, but I don’t have the resources right now.”

He has also since discovered a method to part with his labor of love. He can sell his paintings as giclée prints, a fancy French word essentially for a laser-printed image. So, now, Marino can keep the original street scene of Cartegena, Columbia, which took more than 1,600 hours to complete, and sell giclée prints of it. 

He’s already looking forward to returning to ArtWalk to further share his pieces.

“Now, when I tell art gallery owners that I work in clay,” he said, “they won’t think I’ve created something that looks like it’s made by a fifth-grader.”

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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One Response to “A reluctant artist in demand”

  1. Gonzalo A. Mariño on December 23rd, 2008 6:03 am

    First of all I would like to thank you for the interview, and your wonderful article that talks about my artworks and myself. I have posted my website althogh I am not sure if that is what it is, nor a blogg, but I figured that was the best way for people to see pictures of my Sculpey Non Hardening Modeling Clay. I posted this information at artelista.com a web site for artist where one can post pictures of ones work and prices however outrages they might be. Once you get to the bottom of each page click ” Older Posts ” to continue seeing other paintings.
    The reading basically says: Self Taught and will sell only Giclees, years painting with modeling Clay and start with an ocean scene from San Andres, where we spent our honey moon with my lovely wife Clemencia.

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