Homecoming drew Grangemouth artist Marion Deuchars back to birthplace

Marion Deuchars
Marion Deuchars

There is no better feeling than coming home.

And for award-winning illustrator Marion Deuchars it is an even bigger pleasure to visit her birthplace of Falkirk and home town of Grangemouth because she is also being allowed to do something she really enjoys – inspire people of all ages and abilities to be creative.

The former Grangemouth High School pupil has come a long way since she drew her own inspiration from the school’s “eccentric” band of art teachers and endured a tense encounter with one of the Cocteau Twins.

She is now known the world over for her work, some of which will be on display at the Park Gallery in Callendar House from May 3.

‘Let’s Make Art’, which runs until July 20, is more of a workshop than an exhibition and that’s the way Marion, who now lives and works in London, wants it.

She said: “I’m not really that keen showing all my work and doing a retrospective. I would like somewhere for people to come to be inspired, have fun and play and see things they didn’t expect to see.

“I’ve done workshops in the past for adults and children to get them working with their hands and I want this exhibit to be very seductive so people can’t resist picking something up.

“Children have no fear doing things like that, but I want the adults to do it as well. This show is all about interaction and there is space for people to put their own work up.

“I would have loved to have come to an exhibition like this when I was 14. If it inspires at least a few youngsters to go to art school then I will consider it a great success.”

When Park Gallery curator Gillian Smith pitched the idea of an exhibition to Marion, she said there was no better time for the renowned artist to do it.

“We’re delighted Marion agreed,” she said. “It’s great that it also coincides with the Homecoming initiative.”

Marion said: “Although I’ve lived in London longer than I lived in Scotland, I still feel a slight guilt that I left. I thought I would move to London for five years, then 10 years passed before you knew it.

“The idea of the Homecoming was one of the main reasons why I decided to do the exhibition. It’s an exciting time for Falkirk.”

Alan Davie, who died earlier this month, was also featured in an exhibition at the Park Gallery and was an early focal point for Marion.

She said: “His creation in La Porte Precinct was fantastic and probably one of the first works of art I was exposed to.”

Later it was the creative hotbed of Grangemouth High School which became the furnace to fire Marion’s desire to make a living from her art.

“It was a very interesting time for music and fashion. I remember my boyfriend at the time actually dressed in an all-in-one leotard. And I had a bit of a run in with Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, who was in the year above me.”

Marion cites legendary art teacher Peter McDougall, a disciple of Salvador Dali who actually met the world famous surrealist, as the driving force behind her future career.

“All the art teachers were a pretty eccentric bunch, but once you went into the art room at Grangemouth you really did think that art could be your life.”

Ignoring the advice of a well-meaning careers officer, who recommended she apply for a job as a cake decorator at a bakers, Marion stuck in at art college in Dundee and worked hard enough and was talented enough to gain a life-changing place at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It was a real jumping on the bed moment.

“Everything was very London-centric at that time, round about 1987. You could see the opportunities were there. If I could make a living as an artist I knew it would be there.

“Everyone seems more guarded at first and you take longer to get to know people in a big city, but once you do make friendships they are very good friendships. I thought I knew nothing, coming from a backwater, but I realised a lot of people felt like that.

“I felt very green when I came to London and ended up hanging out with the ‘cool’ students who showed me the ropes. It’s down to motivation. I had a hunger for learning.

“It’s about awareness and an appreciation of things around you. You can appreciate more things when you learn more about them. If you learn about music you can hear a great song and appreciate the things that went into it to make it great.

“It’s the same with art. Everyone should at least do art at a foundation level. It can give you a different way of looking at the world.”

Now settled and successful with her family in London, Marion wants her own particular Scottish homecoming to be an extension of the work she has been doing through her ‘Let’s Make Some Great Art’ series of books.

As part of her Park Gallery exhibition she will be giving a talk on June 11.

“The exhibition is aimed at families, but I would encourage anyone to come along. It could help them get rid of that fear of the blank page and get drawing. I hope they discover something about themselves.

“There is a digital side to the exhibition too, but my own kids both still draw and there does seem to be something very different happening when they do that compared to when they play around on the computer.

“When you give them a piece of paper they can create something that is their own and you don’t necessarily get that with a computer. It’s about getting a good balance between the technology and the other side of things.

“You should always make some time for drawing.”