Artist Fitz Maurice is “out there”, heart and soul
By MAGGI HENRIKSON
Photos by Mary Hurlbut
“It frees my soul to be out in nature. In order to do it right, you’ve got to head out,” says Fitz Maurice. “Why wait for the mountain to come to you? Go to the mountain!”
I talked with the artist in her Laguna Canyon gallery, surrounded by impressions of forests, mountains, lakes and streams. Maurice’s art is a creation comprised of one part soul, one part passion, her God given talents along with classical training, and a whole lott’a inspiration from nature.
“Don’t Fence Me In” ought to be her theme song.
The works hanging on the studio walls these days represent the beginnings of her most recent and heartfelt endeavor: to paint live at all of America’s National Parks.
“My soul as an artist gravitates toward pure nature.”
This artist’s technique involves layering “veils” of color-saturated pigment on linen canvas, all painted in a natural setting. Her paintings require weeks and often months to complete. All the materials are archival – meant to last the ages just as the Great Master’s paintings that Maurice is fond of studying. Her images depict scenes from the years she’s spent in Europe, and the hills and valleys all over the US.
Among the many awards and accomplishments, her “Tree Series” of paintings earned her the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Award. She was also recently selected by Acadia National Park to be artist-in-residence alternate for the year 2016.
Many of her works are currently exhibited at the Roberto Pellechia studio in the Laguna Design Center. “These are large and major paintings – almost a retrospective,” she says. “It really shows a good spectrum.”
Maurice has created more than 1,000 paintings, and devotes five days a week to it. She happily admits to going strong, “A thousand so far, and I’m alive and kickin’!” The other two days she takes a break for fun and relaxation. “I play outside!” Of course.
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Maurice’s canyon art gallery
The ambitious mission to paint all the national parks, live, promises to be a long and adventurous journey. There are 59 national parks, and almost 400 under the park service jurisdiction when you include the national memorials and monuments.
“I’m just really excited because I know how much truth and beauty I’ll encounter,” Maurice says. “These are the things that soothe your soul.”
The checklist in preparation for Fitz’s grand adventure reads like a gypsy tale. First, take your home with you. Check. She’s got the mobile trailer, and a truck to haul it. Next, reduce and simplify your “stuff”, so that you own just what you need. Check. Then go where the road leads you. Check.
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Truck. Check. Ready to get to the national parks!
Well, she will make some priorities on her calendar according to the best the parks have to give, like flower blossom time in Death Valley, or autumn foliage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She’s gotten as far as selecting the first two she’ll visit: Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah, followed by Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado.
“Then I’ll see what happens,” the gypsy says. “When you climb a mountain, it’s better not to focus on the top!”
Born an artist
Raised in Westchester County, NY, Fitz felt her calling early on. “I’ve known all my life,” she says. “I’m not a painter, I’m an artist. I have an artist’s soul.”
Knowing who she was and what she wanted has certainly contributed to her success as an artist. Fitz Maurice pursued art in her education, from her BFA through training at major museums and art schools, and on to follow the Old Master’s footsteps in Europe, training at the International School of Art in Umbria, Italy. She paid her way all along as an artist, moved to Laguna Beach, and raised a child here, all with the income of an artist. No small accomplishment.
The inspiration she takes from nature was also bred in her bones. Her family introduced her to the national parks and the joys of camping out, from as long ago as she can remember. She passed that passion on to her son, Dylan, and even to her nieces, nephews and friends.
“It doesn’t cost a lot… you have treasured memories, and it’s a blast!” she says. Her challenge to American families now is to get out and enjoy the national parks. “It’s every American’s birthright. Get your hands dirty! Get outside!”
She hopes to turn the next generation on to the wonders of our national parks, and to preserving the environment.
“When you’re immersed in nature you lose interest in ‘things’. I no longer care about materialism. It’s freedom when you have passion, and put on your play clothes. You turn into a kid again.”
Maurice found her way to a more spiritual life about ten years ago, by living alone in the middle of nowhere.
“I lived in the Zuni Mountains for years,” she said. “All alone for four seasons – no cell phone, no TV, no computer… I learned to listen to God. The greatest gift he’s given us is nature. I listened to the birds, learned about the migrations of the seasons, the phases of the moon… I was painting, painting, painting, reading and studying the ebb and flow of nature.
“It’s a spiritual journey to set your mind free and let your spirit have peace.”
The future is weighing more heavily on Fitz Maurice’s mind, as she considers the preservation of open spaces, particularly lakes and rivers.
“Water – that’s what the next world war is going to be about,” she says. “Water is a priceless, irreplaceable necessity. People have got to take it personally.”
She has seen lakebeds reduced by half and giant trees left above the former water line simply fall down.
“The planet running out of water starts in your family… it starts with you. Don’t let the shower run. Get in!”
These are the kinds of issues that Maurice will blog about during her national parks painting adventure. She’ll be sending Stu News updates about her experiences along the road too. She’s very excited to have gotten the website: nationalparkpaintings.com
What she hopes to accomplish with her national parks series is a growing concern for their conservation, and a growing appreciation for their beauty. Plus it’s fun.
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“I want to show the essence and wonders that are unique to each park,” she says.
And she wants others to follow along. “I want every family to get out there! Learn how to use a compass… learn how to find water. These are the things that are important. It’s about building a generation that’s going to appreciate this heritage we have.”
“As far as I know, I’m the only one who has set out to paint all the parks,” she continued. “But when Fitz says she’s going to do something, she does it! No doubt about it!”