Allan O’Marra is an internationally acclaimed fine artist and photographer from Bancroft area of Ontario, Canada. Allan has had more than 40 solo art exhibitions and have been involved in 100 plus group shows, winning 28 awards in numerous juried events. He is also a trained psychotherapist with a small ongoing practice that he operates from his home in Ajax, Ontario, Canada.
I first met Allan in 2013, when I took up a volunteer job to paint a mural for Forensic unit at Ontario Shores of Mental health in Whitby. The mural was too big to paint so Allan came for my rescue and offered to help finish up the large mural. I have known Allan for so many years I have always seen him helping and promoting artists in the community selflessly. I am honoured to feature such a great, talented and award winning yet very humble artist on my first blog. I have been to Allan’s several solo shows and every time his work is breathtaking and mesmerizing to your soul. I want to thank each one of you who took the time to read, share, and support the work of this incredible artist! And the biggest thanks of course goes to Allan who said ‘yes’ to an interview request from an upcoming fellow artist. Thank you for generously devoting your time to give such inspiring answers and for graciously sharing your life stories and beautiful artwork with us. I hope you enjoy his interview and his work as much as I do!
A short self-introduction I grew up in the Bancroft area of Ontario and attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto (now OCADU). And worked for 35 years in the advertising and promotions industry while maintaining a secondary career as a fine artist. Since 2007, I have been busy as a full-time painter while teaching recreational art to children, adults and seniors. I have had more than 40 solo art exhibitions and have been involved in 100 plus group shows, winning 28 awards in numerous juried events. I am also a trained psychotherapist with a small ongoing practice that I operate from my home in Ajax.
How did you discover your interest in arts? How long have you been creating artwork? When I was a small child in public school, I made a drawing of a ground squirrel in his underground nest and the teacher was so impressed by it that she took me and my drawing around to ever room in the school to show them l how skilled I was at such a young age. With that kind of star power, it was only natural that I become an artist. I have been a professional artist for 48 years.
What do you think it means for art to be beautiful? Do you consider your artwork to be beautiful? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. And I will say that I aim to engage the viewer in a personal, visceral way with my creations, whether the image is flat-out beautiful or intriguing or powerful or mysterious or magical or surreal, etc. And, yes, much of my art can be considered beautiful.
What is your role in your community as an artist? Aside from my personal solo show efforts and contributions to group art events, I curate and organize group exhibitions on special themes I create--Face Yourself (self-portraits), Art Heals (each artists creating a work of art to deal with personal trauma), The Mahler Collaborations (collaborative abstracts co-created me and 12 other artists) and the upcoming 15 Reasons to Live (15 abstracts by me and works in various genres by numerous other artists) in various public locations across Durham Region and in the GTA. Over the last 10 years, I have written profiles of Regional artists in support of their careers, initially for Metroland Media and now in the ArtScene newsletter of the PineRidge Arts Council. I taught art on a volunteer basis for many years at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby and continue now facilitating paint nights for them as well as for the Youth Mental Health clinic at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa. I have directed/painted several murals at Ontario Shores including a recent one I painted solo in the Forensic Rehab Unit.
In your own words, how do you describe your artwork? Although many of my paintings are inspired by the countryside where I grew up near Bancroft, Ontario—and where I maintain the original family home, a 100+ year-old schoolhouse as a retreat/studio—much of my work can be identified by the title of a recent show I called, Magical-Mystical-Mythical. Even thought my art is primarily landscape and people, there is often another layer of evocative mystique that observers frequently mention.
Please tell us about the next art piece you’d like to work on? There’s an image of my second oldest daughter—now an artist herself, living in Japan—that I shot of her back a few years ago, standing in the centre of an abandoned, ruined church building in the rural Bancroft area where my father used to preach sermons 60 years ago that I am finally going to get around to painting. It is hugely evocative to me because of my huge unconditional love for Emily and for the years of history that permeate the spot where she is standing.
Please tell us about your next show where and when? The next show in which I am involved is the one mentioned above, the group event I am organizing/curating titled, 15 Reasons to Live, works created by me and numerous other Durham Region artists that will be shown at the McLean Community Centre in Ajax from March 18 to April 22, opening on Friday, March 22 from 7 to 9 pm. Please see the invite below:
I was born in 1947 in the eastern Ontario village of Domville. Throughout the years, I maintained a parallel career as a fine artist, showing in many dozens of solo and group exhibitions. As well, I have self-published two books of poetry combined with black and white photography, an illustrated children's book on the theme of meditation and, most recently (2012), a book in which I document the experience of a five-day meditation retreat in prose, poetry, photography and paintings and drawings titled, Retreat at Worst Horse.
Between 2001 and 2004 I trained at the Transpersonal Therapy Centre in Toronto. And since May of 2007, I have been working full-time as a fine artist and psychotherapist from my home in Ajax, Ontario. Between 2008 and 2015 I wrote a monthly column for a local news organization, Metroland Media, in which I profiled local artists, that were published online and in local papers; and continue that art journalism in the ArtScene newsletter of the Pineridge Arts
I presently teach art to two levels of children, plus two adult classes and two seniors’ classes in the City of Pickering community recreation program. As well, I act as a juror for various arts groups on an ongoing basis and curate, organize and participate in group art exhibitions with titles: Face Yourself, (2015, self-portraits), Art Heals (2016, facing trauma through creating a work of art) and The Mahler Collaborations (2017, my collaboration with 12 other artists, each pair producing a collaborative abstract). And am presently putting together an exhibition titled, 15 Reasons to Live (I’ve created 15 abstracts on the “Reasons” and have involved other artists to create a work of art in any genre on one of the themes). And I facilitate paint nights and co-ordinate the painting of murals on a voluntary basis with patients at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby. Check out my Fine Art and Publications at http://www.allanomarra.com
Buy my Originals at www.zatista.ca Search for Allan O'Marra Buy Prints of my Artwork: http://allan-omarra.artistwebsites.com/ Telephone: 905-683-1860 Address: 24 Mary Street, Ajax, Ontario L1S 1T2 On Facebook, join Allan O'Marra Fine Art: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Allan-OMarra-Fine-Art/126739500739808 Twitter: http://twitter.com/allanomarra Instagram: allanomarra
MEET THE CREATORS
In each feature, exclusive artists from all over the world send me their responses to a questionnaire, giving me an in-depth sense of who they are and why they create their artworks. What words describing art make them cringe? What’s their favorite smell? What inspires their heart and soul? Find out below. This blog is a place where I feature the insights of great artists. Each week, I will post different interviews for you to read and be inspired. I personally find their answers fascinating and I believe it will be interesting and helpful for many readers as well, particularly new upcoming artists. As an artist, we are all on our own unique journey, but we can greatly benefit from each other's experiences. Enjoy!