Countrysports and Country Life visits Marion Collett

Marion Collett can only be described as a real " woman of substance". When the going couldn't get any tougher in the family business, she showed her true resolve and like the phoenix , she rose from the veritable ashes of that business.

In the recession hit early 90's ,through no fault of her own, a business venture she headed up went very badly wrong through major clients going into liquidation with their bills being left unpaid. As Marion says " I was left with no alternative but to follow them by filing for bankruptcy myself.

However it is hard to keep a good woman down and it was to her talent for drawing and painting that Marion turned, realising that what had been an enjoyable hobby, could prove to be the path out of the financial doldrums for her family.

Thus at the age of 47, Marion completed the first sketch which launched her new career. A Christmas present of oils and watercolours soon led to a flow of paintings that persuaded a sponsor to help fund a gallery in the old school house on the Cavehill Road. This was followed to a move, with other Belfast artists, to Arthur Street and then on to the Dublin Road.

The sale of her first painting was an important landmark in her new career. This was a still life painting of some flowers with a lamp in the background. Marion against the wishes of her husband who she describes as both her " most fervent supporter and harshest critic" put it in the window of the gallery. It only hung for about five minutes before a very discerning art lover came in an made an excellent purchase for £85.

Marion, originally from North Belfast, but now living in Newtownabbey is completely self taught with a style all of her own and she feels that this sets her work apart as she has no pre-conceived ideas about her subject matter and she often brings a refreshingly creative perspective to a range of well known subjects.

Her real passion for her art shines through in her interpretation of landscapes and seascapes. Marion believes that "every picture should tell a different story " and she feels she brings a different perspective to each subject by experimenting until she finds the balance between the subject matter and the painting. Often she will interpret the same subject matter in a variety of ways.

Her paintings of Irish life and landscapes while traditional in their delivery are vivid with a strong use of colour but often have a subtle mysterious feel. Her night scenes and sunsets are especially atmospheric and very much sought after .

Her work hangs in many places including private collections throughout the world and in such diverse places as the European Parliament and Mc Hughes' Bar in Belfast's City Centre.

Marion feels that many young artists and some not so young like herself, are put off by the elitism and snobbery surrounding the art scene and she is always willing to help emerging artists either through her artistic talents or business acumen.

She says" as a business woman first and an artist second I was able to exploit my work commercially. I am fortunate to have been able to pay for my retirement and to be able to spend time profitably pursuing my painting in it." She feels that to succeed artists must have a belief in their own talent and whilst it is important to take criticism on board , it should not be allowed to override one's own instincts.

She also feels that artists should continue to grow and not just be satisfied with one area of art or one style of painting and this has led her to recently undertaking a challenging series of equestrian commissions including the Irish Gold Cup winner " Beef and Salmon". Unfortunately " Beef and Salmon" did not fulfil Irish hopes in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but Marion is quick to point out " he is a very young horse and he has the talent to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup if he perseveres."

She found the equestrian commissions to be an enjoyable challenge that enabled her to combine her normal style with the painstaking accuracy and attention to detail that these subjects require. She considers that it has opened up completely new avenues for her work.

The last 12 years have seen her make the transition from businesswoman to artist and the demand for her work is now such that she is increasingly spending more time in the studio working on a variety of subjects on canvas and board and in miniature.

Prices for "a Collett" have increased quite a bit from the first astute purchase of the " still life" and range from £1,000 to around £4,500.

Marion often holds joint exhibitions with equestrian artist Leo Casement, whose work is also usually on display in her gallery. Why not drop in for a browse or a chat with a very interesting lady. You will be sure of a very warm welcome.
The Collett Art Gallery, 73 Dublin Road, Belfast BT2 7HF Tel: 028 90 319589 Email: or

Or visit the gallery web site