You want to know a cool thing about me is that I used to sit beside Lance Priebe and test-drive Club Penguin before it was released, says artist Charla Maarschalk.
“I went to Toys ‘R’ Us and I saw my first Puffle and I cried,” she adds with a laugh.
Puffles are stuffed replicas of the popular online children’s game characters.
Maarschalk worked in one of Club Penguin founder Dave Krysco’s other companies, Ministry Media, as a graphic designer at the time Krysco, Priebe and Lane Merrifield developed their (near) billion dollar baby.
It was a stroke of luck, or would have been had she worked for the company and moved over into the Penguin portion of Krysco’s holdings pre-Disney buyout. In this case, it’s just a good little Kelowna hook with a Google-hit rub anyone who knows business would be stupid not to point out in an interview.
The funny factoid isn’t really remotely close to the cool thing about this “new” artist, but it does shed light on the brilliant success she’s experiencing taking a first crack at a painting career. Maarschalk signed with M Gallery in Penticton this week after only months of working full-time in the medium. While she eschews claims of handwork and perseverance in favour of a “wow-I can’t believe I fell into this” stance, she could boast about the lifetime she has spent earning a living in creative pursuits and has the talent to back that marketing prowess.
The portrait acrylics M Gallery will move for her demonstrate an understanding of colour, texture and hue only someone who spends time examining how light shapes a face demonstrates. With a degree in fine arts from the University of Calgary and studies in interactive multimedia from Ontario’s Sheridan College, she had already worked as a graphic designer and spent a decade as a photographer before taking her painting hobby to the next level.
“When we moved back here last year, I realized I would have to completely re-establish myself in photography and decided this was my time to live my dream and go into painting instead,” she said.
The result is a series of indigo, pumpkin, royal purple and deep red portraits evoking enough of a reaction to pull one across a gymnasium full of others’ art.
Adding her work to the Lake Country Art Walk earlier in September, her booth was strong enough on her first appearance to draw a crowd and the M Gallery contract. And she recently added fresh inspiration to the mix.
Always interested in both adoption and foster parenting, the mother of three has connected with another Kelowna woman, Brittany DeVries, who is working on a film in Panama advocating for changes to the country’s adoption laws.
Armed with pictures of the young Panamanian orphans the organization is trying to see adopted or fostered to new families, Maarschalk has new fodder to feed the creative bent she has yet to figure out.
“When I paint, it’s not just people, it’s portraits. Why, I couldn’t say,” Maarschaulk said. “I love expression and I love capturing emotion, but I don’t know why faces.”
The charity, Dear Panama, is actively seeking artists capable of drawing eyes to the cause, which makes Maarschalk a perfect fit. Eyes appear to be something of a specialty in her work— drawing them, painting them, losing herself in the stories they hold and ensuring anyone who passes her faces doesn’t want to look away.
Maarschalk’s new series will be titled Every Child Has a Right to a Family.