The two life-long artists share a love for watercolor painting and have recently found great success in the field, being accepted to the prestigious New England Watercolor Society (NEWS) and being included in several of the organization’s shows.
Walking into their single-story ranch home on Festa Road, one is immediately hit with breathtakingly colorful paintings hanging over their couch and on the walls of the dining room. More paintings are propped up along the wall – all of them of top quality.
There are paintings of the Tobin Bridge that pop with color, and sitting beside those are beautifully crafted paintings of microscopic sea creatures.
If it weren’t an artist’s home, one could be sure that a lot of money had been spent on décor.
However, all of the paintings are their own – done with care in their studio, which is in their basement.
Last month, both were featured in the NEWS 125th Anniversary show in Plymouth, alongside some very famous artists.
“It was really going to be all the dead artists who are already very famous,” said Louis. “So, it was nice to be featured in the same space as them.”
Said Marjorie, “We were totally blow away to both be invited. It’s one of the biggest shows they have had.”
In the early 2000s, both Rizzos were accepted into the exclusive society – which is more than 100 years old and boasts former members like the late John Singer Sargent.
Louis made it in 2002, and Marjorie in 2005. Now both are listed as signature members.
“The real painters always say when you get into the New Englands, you’ve arrived,” said Louis. “To get into the New England show is difficult because you have to get into four juried shows and the shows are only once a year…It shows some perseverance.”
The Rizzos are both natives of the area, but are – at the same time – new to Revere.
Marjorie grew up in Winthrop, while Louis grew up in the North End and Revere. Both completed college in Boston in the late 1960s and then tried to make a go of an art career here. However, following the ‘Back to the Earth’ movement of 1970s, they picked up and headed to the wilds of Maine.
There, they bought some land, built their own home, farmed the land and learned to be self-sufficient.
“We couldn’t afford to buy land down here [in this area],” said Louis. “That’s how we ended up in Maine. We could only buy the land at the time and then we built our own house and later a barn.”
Added Marjorie, “When we lived in Maine we could be self-sufficient. We had a well for water; we had wood for heat; and we put food up from the garden for winter.”
They also continued in their art business of making clay pottery.
Louis – a trained artist – crafted flowerpots and large vases. Meanwhile, Marjorie handled the business side of things.
One day, out of frustration, Louis created what would make them very successful.
“One day I had had it and I made an entire orchestra – little caricature figures – out of clay and in the nude,” he said. “We both fell on the floor laughing when they were done.”
Everyone else laughed as well.
The figures eventually became quite famous and were very common gift items all over the country when the arts & crafts movement was at its height. The couple produced figures of musicians, athletes, medical figures and all kinds of other occupations – all tastefully in the nude.
“The thing really exploded and so for 20 years we stayed in our cellar studio and made these little figures,” said Louis.
The business thrived until 1995, when a back injury to Louis forced them to slow down and, eventually, quit the business.
It wasn’t the end though, as it opened up the door to what they are doing now: watercolor paintings.
Four years ago, the couple moved to Revere to be closer to family – giving up their Maine home after several decades.
“Like many retirees, we came south,” said Louis with a laugh. “The winters are much longer up there, so this is our Florida down here. We are even able to have a pool now.”
Prior to moving, they had decided to take classes on watercolor painting. Louis had done some painting in college, but Marjorie is completely self-taught.
“We eventually decided to break loose and become painters,” said Louis. “All my life I wanted to be a painter, but I knew you don’t make any money being an artist.”
Now, however, they find themselves unexpectedly pursuing artistic acclaim rather than financial success.
This month, they are featured in the Marblehead Art Association’s Christmas Show through Dec. 24th, and they are also in the NEWS Christmas Show at Emmanuel Church in Boston’s Back Bay through Dec. 19th.
And, they’re also getting ready for a show in Marblehead this March.
Most of the paintings for those shows are similar to the ones that adorn their walls.
Both said that they’ve been taken aback by the ocean in Revere. They’ve spent a good deal of time at Revere Beach and Admiral’s Hill in Chelsea.
“We love Revere Beach and we walk it at least two times a week,” said Marjorie. “We also like walking around Deer Island. Since we’ve been down here the last four years, we’ve been walking around and looking at a lot of areas.”
In doing so, they ran across the Marine Biology Center in Nahant, which sparked Marjorie’s interest in small sea creatures, and they ran across Admiral’s Hill and the Chelsea Salt pile, which sparked Louis’s interest in the industrial waterfront.
“I fell in love with the little things we don’t see,” said Marjorie. “I grew up in Winthrop and you just don’t realize what’s in the water and under the water. So while [Louis] was doing paintings of the upside of the water and the Tobin Bridge and questioning pollution, I started looking at what we’re swimming in.”
Those interests have led to some very detailed and colorful pieces of art, all of which will be displayed in March.
“That’s what we’re getting ready for now,” said Louis. “We’re still very enthralled by the water.”
And, as well, watercolors.