How Traveling the World Changed My Life

Looking down at my paint smeared hands, a rush of shame came over me that night. I cannot remember what I said to my classmates in the studio as we sipped beer, but I remember feeling shutdown and ashamed. Up until that point, I thought I was deep, talented, street smart, adventurous…..How could I draw from an informed place when my view of the world outside the US consisted of several trips to Mexico and Canada. In that minute I decided to do something about my lack of international influence. This very conversation ignited something undeniable: I must travel far and wide.

But how? I need to recruit a travel partner. At the time, my best friend from high school was miserable at her data entry job in Venice Beach. I, a 24 year old about to graduate art school, floral designer with no idea how I was going to keep making art and pay bills, decided it was the perfect time for a big change. We both set out with unshakeable determination to work as hard as we could, save money and travel the world together. My parents would never agree to our country count: Tanzania, Morocco, Vietnam, India um, Bali to name a few. By planning and paying for it, we were claiming it, all ours. 10 months later, packs strapped to our backs, we were hugging our parents goodbye at LAX. Filled with a lifetime of memories, our minds and eyes were forever changed. 19 countries,11 months later, we arrived in Los Angeles (right after 9/11). 

Reflecting back on the trip years later, there are 2 pivotal moments that rise up.  The giddy excitement racing through our bodies as we made our way to the gate with fists full of cash, prepaid flights to all of these exciting places we dreamed of seeing. Our childhood National Geographic dreams were about to become a reality. We did it!! It is happening!!! I will never forget the feeling of accomplish and complete freedom we celebrated that day. 

The other overarching theme, as I mentioned before, I set out on this trip believing that if I was going to be an exceptional artist, I must make work from an informed place. We spent the night on the floor of a boat, in the hallway, with 50 other people island hopping in Greece. We also slept on 600 thread count sheets at La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech. The sweltering heat of India, had us wondering how the people could be so incredibly kind and hospitable. With no space in our packs, we could not collect momentos from our travels. We simply walked the earth together, just see what would happen. We met people for all over, making instant friends with locals and other travelers along the way. It was these connections with people that made travel meaningful. (We said yes every time someone asked us to go somewhere. I still say yes….)

The sense of adventure has made its way into the way I approach my art. For 9 years I stood at the edge of a hillside in the Palisades painting a mobile home park. You see, this is, my definition of home. A tight knit coastal community who share common ground. Much like the uniformed education I had until age 18, there is a sameness present in the materials and shapes of these prefabricated structures. In order to get to know a place or more importantly a person, we must go inside. 

Morocco: Making friends on the way to Merzouga & listening to Gnawa Diffusion (11 hour drive from Essaouira)

Nepal, about to fly into the Himalayas for a 7 day trek with this man, our cheerful porter

Bangkok: On the way to explore the famous floating markets

Kerala, India: Ashram for a week. Floor dining in mandatory silence with our hands- Yes, very awkward.

Mumbai, India: Holi, a festival of colors celebrating good over evil, rooted in the destruction of demoness Holika

Tanzania: Watching the Wildebeest Migration on a safari.

Kenya-Tanzania-Zanzibar: A typical bus stop, where vendors come to you. Sometimes there were 8 people chasing the bus carrying bags of oranges on their heads.

Pacific Palisades: Setting out to define the meaning of Home

Painting: Sold to a Collector in Vero Beach

Thanks for visiting this blog! Until next time, Ta ta!





Hotel Esencia, Best Wedding Gift Ever

A Bride From Utah and a groom from Florida decided to tie the knot in Tulum Mexico at the exotic Hotel Esencia. When family members found out that several of the bride’s friends got together and purchased a painting from me, the bride’s Mother and Sister were inspired to commission a painting of the elegant ceremony site as their gift to the newlyweds. The bride has several of my paintings in her collection so they knew she would be absolutely thrilled to have her special day celebrated in this way..

I love the moment before the wedding. In this painting the Groom’s Mother and the Mother of the Bride seem to be sorting out last minute details as the the local priest, in his crisp white robes observes . It was a challenge to paint the dozens of flickering candlelights lining the pathway, but it really does give the viewer a sense that something is going to take place. I wondered about just having the priest and not the two women, but then it would be a religious painting, placing the focus on him and not this important moment in time. I like the three figures, all symbolic surrounded by vines of bougainvillea organically climbing around them, the tropical palms framing the space, enclosing it with their lacy green leaves…..Love to hear what you think. Be sure to add your comments below. Until next time, Be well and thanks for reading,


If you are interested in finding out more about Hotel Esencia, here is the website:

Birds on the Beach, Pacific Palisades

As I was walking across the soft sand one day, in the Pacific Palisades, I came across a flock of birds. They looked like little sculptures in the sand. The crisp white of their feathers and darkness of their tails attracted an air of elegance I had never noticed in seagulls.

They are a bit of a nuisance at Surfrider Beach in Malibu. If you have any food package open on your beach towel unattended, they will have a party with it. Flinging chips and pecking at your stuff to see what else they can find, while you unknowingly go for a swim or walk along the shore. Malibu has always had a strong MLO (Malibu Locals Only) force behind their possession of the beach and epic waves that roll through there. Understandably so, sometimes there are 85 surfers competing for the same wave. Perhaps this territorial instinct to protect and preserve this special beach from outsiders is flying through the flocks of birds who live there too.

Here is the first painting in the series. It measures 6′ x 5 1/2′. To my surprise, Collectors came to the studio and bought it last month. As a result of this sale to an esteemed Los Angeles Architect, who also graduated from RISD, and his wife, a successful music writer, I was encouraged to stretch out my wings and fly in a new direction.

What an adventure!

Surfers at Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Santa Monica Commission

They loved it! Chelsea, a Los Angeles native, had a huge living room wall with nothing on it. She said she tried multiple times to buy art online, but she did not feel a connection to the ocean scenes she came across. She wanted something she could relate to, something from her own personal experience. Armed with a drone and a direction, Chelsea and Michael went out to find the perfect spot along the Santa Monica coast. I titled this painting “Drive to Work” because this is the feel good view Chelsea enjoys on the way to her job. And what a view it is! Thank you for commissioning me to make this painting!!

There were so many details in this seaside view! These are the tiny paint brushes I used on this huge surface.

I have my canvas stretched on custom made surfaces by Stretcher Options in Los Angeles. Many artists prefer to save money and make their own surfaces. The truth is, I do not enjoy measuring and just want to get straight to painting. The size of this canvas is 4 1/2′ x 5′. I painted it for a solid week and touched it up the following week.

Work in Progress in the studio. I bought myself an orchid to encourage my growth as an artist.

Inspirational images:

Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn

books on a shelf

Books, remember these? I am constantly referring to art books for compositional and color inspiration. And the other books for pleasure or Self Help. Thought I would share a few sections with you.

Jade symbolizes nourishment and gentleness. It is known to bring luck and prosperity. So here it sits on my shelf as a bookend. I use a Jade roller behind my ears and on my face to hopefully reduce stress. It feels good, who knows if it is actually “working”.

If you want to read a hilarious, relentless book about selling read, “How to Sell Anything to Anybody” by Joe Girard. The title basically reveals his mindset, dive in….it is entertaining.

After reading Virginia Woolf’s “A Room Of One’s Own” I rented my first shared art studio in Westwood Village (5 minutes from my home). It was a huge game changer. I had been painting outside for 9 years before getting this space. I knew it was meant to be when I sold a painting that would cover the rent for a year right after I moved in. The space gives me the opportunity to develop many works at once. For the past 3 years I have had the space all to myself. Ten years ago I signed the lease -one of the best gifts I have ever given to myself.

I am so grateful!!!

Pirates and Farmers” and “Air Guitar” were written by Dave Hickey. I had the pleasure of meeting this Art Critic and Writer several years ago who told me to make work that is “Undeniable”. What an excellent barometer to measure the success of a painting…. Is it or is it not?

Love the work of Esther Hicks. You can view countless videos on YouTube where she explores the Vortex and living in our true state of Alignment.

“Big Magic” is an excellent book, which reads more like a stream of consciousness by Elizabeth Gilbert (who is well known for “Eat Pray Love”). She discusses creativity intimately using her own trials as a writer as a framework for the various topics she discusses.

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Carole King’s producer mailed me a signed copy of Carole’s memoir. She and Joni Mitchell are my favorite all time female songwriters.

Picasso is all black and white photos of him woking in the studio- His work ethic is highly encouraging!

Thank you for visiting my Blog!

Cheers, Marisa

Palisadian Artist Explores Local Landscapes

By Jennika Ingram -July 9, 2020

Photos courtesy of Marisa Murrow


Visual artist and longtime Palisadian Marisa Murrow paints iconic portraits of local mobile parks and abstractions around town and beyond.

“Part of the fascination with the trailer parks is the landscape,” Murrow said, adding that it is also related to moving around the plants and trees and changing the colors of the houses.

“It’s really exploring the landscape and human connection,” Murrow shared. “I was wearing a uniform up until I graduated from high school. There was a sameness I was very used to in school. It caused me to pass the surface and dive in to get to know people.”

She added that what is going on inside these homes is very special and different.

“I wonder what the person is like who lives in that house?” Murrow continued.

Murrow also takes commissions; she shared that some of the demand for her work comes from Palisadians who have left the area and miss it.

Growing up in the Palisades, Murrow attended Corpus Christi and Marymount High schools. Her parents, Phil and Pat, still live in the Alphabet Streets.

After graduating high school, Murrow left the Palisades to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Murrow has since exhibited her work at Laguna Art Museum, California Heritage Museum, LACMA Rental Gallery and the Brand Library Art, among many others.

Her exhibitions are often small, intimate portraits of mobile homes in Southern California. The uniformity of these geometric structures appeal to Murrow, she explained to the Palisadian-Post.

“Inspired by the California landscape and densely wooded forests of the east coast, Murrow thrives off the complexity of these spaces,” according to her website and Instagram. “Outside is my home. Painting is my passion.”

Murrow opened her Westwood studio in 2010. It’s set up as a workspace and a place where she meets with collectors.

About three years ago, while a resident at Vermont Studio Center, Murrow branched out to create abstract paintings inspired by the natural world. Lately, she’s working abstractly and representationally, Murrow shared.

“When I do the abstract work, I’m physically working with nature in my hands,” she explained. “The thread through everything I do is nature.”

Murrow shared that she still loves to hike Temescal and Los Liones Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains and often collects nature for her work. She uses a mixture of oil paints, paper and acrylic, and incorporates natural materials she picks up while hiking.

“I like things that are in movement where the physical and psychological can play,” Murrow explained. “Much like German artist Anselm Kiefer, holding on to the things I collect in nature, these elements become part of the painting and the place they come. Like a compositional storm between chaos and order these richly textured paintings describe the restless state of a spirit being set free.”

Murrow shared her reflections on how COVID-19 has impacted her life as an artist.

“I think it’s business as usual with a lot more solitude,” Murrow said. “There are no distractions. What is challenging is that because I spend a lot of time in isolation and look forward to being social and rewarding myself for my hard work and there’s nothing to go out and do.

“I live alone so it’s been really interesting to go within, instead of reaching out for stimulation. I think a lot of people have been forced to sit down and think about how they are living on this planet. This pause has caused me to go deeper and stand through to that.”

For more information, visit or @marisamurrow on Instagram.

The Painted BEach

Like a surfer, I am in search of the perfect flow between form and structure. I want the viewer to be pulled into this neighborhood and feel immediately connected to the environment. There is a chaotic mix of industrial materials, hardscape and the natural landscape where palm trees prevail. I use colors that are vibrant, earthy and nothing like the actual neighborhood I am portraying. Drawing from my background in Landscape and Floral Design I enthusiastically change and rearrange the vegetation as well.

Painting During the Coronavirus

The way the sun sparkles over the Pacific Ocean in the spring makes me feel like I am on vacation! This one is small and intimate. I love to make paintings between paintings. The bigger works take more time and a small one like this gives me immediate satisfaction. I love the feeling of accomplishment!
I started this on a surface that was not well primed.
The oil paint did not glide right and then it started seeping into the board!
I ended up wiping it away after three hours.
This is completely new for me- I am searching and exploring ways of interpreting the Pacific Ocean in a modern, abstract way. The whites are the raw surface. Totally unplanned mark making in the sky. Before I begin painting I mix all the colors I intend to use. This approach helps me work faster and more spontaneously in describing the vision I have in my mind.

Painting: Walk on the Beach

SOLD!  Considering we are in the middle of a global pandemic I certainly feel like my art is doing its job! New ideas, new levels, new challenges. I do not really paint clouds because we rarely have them in Los Angeles. There is a thick layer of fog that covers us in July and throughout the fall, but these are not the beautiful, fluffy little clouds that pick up the pinks and lavender tones in the sky. I worked on this painting for 2 days along with other stuff sprinkled in between. I love woking on an intimate scale. 8″ x 8″ because I can get my ideas out, see results and feel a sense of accomplishment. This work is now happliy hanging in the Pacific Palisades.

Walk on the beach. marisa.murrow.2Walk on the beach. marisa.murrow.3.Walk on the beach. marisa.murrow..4marisamurrow.sunsetpainting5

The Making of a Painting

I love the way the sun sparkles on the Pacific Ocean in the winter. It took me three weeks to make this painting. It is 30″ x 36″. I want to share with you some images that I referred to in the production of this particular work. The David Hockney of a setting sun, the Richard Diebenkorn image of a neighborhood and finally the flowing tree painting by Renoir.

I am now working on an even larger one in a square format.

MArisa Murrow. Ticket to Paradise

Marisa Murrow. (1)

Marisa Murrow.paradise

David HockneyRichardDiebenkornImpressionism. Renoir