Cultivating Creativity: Colour and composition key for artist Marc Poulin

Marc Poulin in his studio

“I’m happy when the colours work and when the eye doesn’t focus on one thing but travels.” 

By Kathryn MacDonald

“I’m experimenting. My goal is to have a defining style and I’m slowly getting there” Marc Poulin says while setting out a dozen paintings for viewing. Over the past year and a half, Poulin’s paintings have undergone major change. The early watercolours are representational, fluid, and gentle, as in “Bubblegum,” a portrait of his young daughter which appeared in a 2017 show at the Quinte Arts Council.

A turning point came when he struggled to paint an outstretched hand in watercolours. “I couldn’t achieve the luminosity I wanted with watercolours. I experimented with acrylics. I was hooked.” At the same time, Poulin fell under the influence of Jackson Pollock’s work and he began experimenting with abstract painting.

“Abstract is freer than representational painting,” Poulin says. At the same time, he assures me that abstract might look easy, but you have balance and composition to consider.

“I’m happy when the colours work and when the eye doesn’t focus on one thing but travels.” As in Jackson Pollock’s art, Poulin seeks movement, but he is not pouring paint as Pollock did. He uses a palette knife and a catalyst wedge (a rubber wedge with a sharp edge to spread the paint around) and acrylic paint brushes. Some of the mixed media work includes metallic paint and pastels along with acrylic.


Poulin says, “The painting titled Everything incorporates a number of elements: shapes, various techniques, and colour combinations. There is movement. The eye wanders within the border of the painting.” Abstract expressionism is concerned with movement, a creative process more spontaneous than traditional painting.

Abstract art flows from the inside out rather than being inspired by the subjects of representational art. In this way, it is like automatic writing. Art is a passion and “a release of tension and stress,” Poulin says. “When painting, my mind can wander—no need to focus—I can just see what happens.”

Don’t Let the Days Go By reflects a completely different mood from Everything. The eye moves through soft brush-stroke shapes to pause on the dynamic hues before moving on. Overall, Don’t Let the Days Go By creates a soft, gentle impression; it has its own story to be unraveled by viewers.

Don’t Let the Days Go By

The effect of abstract paintings shifts with changing elements of colour, shape, form, and line. In Kaleidoscope we can see how the soft-edged strokes of Don’t Let the Days Go By are firmer and the overall impact more forceful.


Poulin listens to music while he paints. “Nothing too heavy or too soft,” he says, identifying Glass Animals, Meg Myers, and Bishop Briggs as favourites. The music can influence the rhythm in the art’s movement.

“I took art in school and studied design at Cambrian College. I drew a lot with pencil when I was younger. In college I did charcoal portraits and earned commissions.”  The Red Cooler, a beach scene, is one of Poulin’s realistic paintings. To see more of Marc’s work, you can find him on Instagram at marcmakesart

Marc is currently showing his abstract impressionist paintings at Artisan Collective Market, 279 South Front Street in downtown Belleville (open Wednesdays to Sundays 8-5).