If you live in Imperial Beach or have driven around town, chances are you have seen one of the three murals painted by muralist Marissa Quinn. The very first mural Quinn created was right here in Imperial Beach at Palm Avenue and 2nd Street in 2018, the second one of a woman surfing with dolphins on the wall of the Pacific Realty office parking lot in, done in collaboration with the Imperial Beach Arts Bureau. Her last one on Palm Avenue was commissioned, a smaller private commission, on the corner of Palm by Deb’s Cookie Jar, featuring a garden.
Recently Quinn came back to Imperial Beach to add color to her first mural titled “MuttTipi.” This mural features a surrealistic dreamscape with two brown pelicans in front of the sun and the moon with honeybees and honeycombs who share their healing. The pelicans have human legs to honor the native people, the Kumeyaay tribe “people of the Earth.” Quinn explained,“Their wisdom is rooted in this same ground and the same water under our feet today. By honoring their ways, and with the bees as our guide, we must see this as holy ground, and together we can help heal Mama Earth.”
Since that first mural, Quinn has become a well known muralist. Quinn, who grew up in Encinitas near the ocean, was always the artistic type.
“I’ve been painting since I can remember,” she said about her time growing up. Quinn feels blessed for having mentors and teachers who recognized and encouraged her love for art. Starting in second grade her teacher allowed her to spent time during recess working on art projects. In middle school and high school some of her teachers also noticed her gift. In high school she was able to do spend more time doing art and she began building her portfolio.
At that point she came to the realization that she could become an artist. “I started thinking I could make a career out of art. I owe that to the teachers who saw potential in me…I’ve been blessed with having a lot of mentors,” she said.
After high school, she studied at Azusa Pacific University in L.A. and earned an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in painting and drawing followed by a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts graduating in 2014. She concentrated in researching, painting and drawing extinct and or endangered flora and fauna. Looking back, she thinks it’s funny that when she was in college at first she focused on traditional charcoal portraits, then on abstract oil paintings. But it was when she was working on her Master’s that she realized she loved drawing things scientifically, making objects anatomically correct.
Despite getting a grade of C in her watercolor class, Quinn now spends a lot of time using watercolors for her murals. “I thought I was so bad at it, now I have a career out of it,” she said. Although she is not using watercolor per se, she uses paint and treats it as a watercolor - applying it with sponges or rugs to water it down.
After finishing school she started teaching basic drawing classes at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) as an adjunct professor. During that time she started creating large scale drawings. It was then that she was contacted by Pangea Seed Foundation to do her first ever mural in Imperial Beach. Now returning to her first mural to colorize it, Quinn felt it was a unique experience. “It was special to go back with everything that I’ve learned, to color it and add layers,” she explained.
Quinn’s murals can now be found around the country and overseas, including on the island of Bali. During the pandemic she adjusted to the challenge, and she said she had to relearn how to draw on a small scale - since no murals were commissioned during that time. Thanks to that, she feels she has become a well rounded artist.
For a few years now, Quinn has done well with her online art business selling her own prints and showcasing her art in galleries in Los Angeles and San Diego. “In 2014 I decided to be a professional artist, launched online and built a following through social media collaborating with big brands, doing murals and displaying at museums,” she explained.
Some of her work is displayed at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, the Oceanside Museum of Art and the Lux Institute in Encinitas. In addition she has worked on collaboration with big names like Amazon and Urban Outfitters who have used her print materials on clothing, cards and websites.
About six months ago she and her partner moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, and while she is using that as her home base, she has come back to California and the mainland to work on her murals. Now that Quinn is learning how to be a traveling artist, she has added one more challenge. “I wear a bunch of different hats, I’m a business woman, do museum shows, follow trends in clothing and all of those aspects, to keep things afloat and also teach,” she explained.
Since the holidays have been underway, Quinn has been very busy with commissions for holiday gifts, and prints.
Quinn has been invited to take part in a show this coming summer at the Art Museum in San Marcos. Artist Bobby Tribal, invited her to be part of this show and Quinn is getting ready to submit sketches. The curator for the show is Jim Daichendt, a dean and professor of art history at PLNU, and author.
“I love that I get to wake up everyday and put down on paper what’s in my head,” she said. Through her mural work, she has come across different organizations involved with global conservation and education. “I love that my work got me to work with this…and bring healing to the world,” she said.
Quinn said at times she is so busy she struggles with the many tasks. “The struggle is worth it,” she said. Quinn loves the feeling of satisfaction after she creates something meaningful.
Now that Quinn lives in Hawaii she finds her adopted hometown a source of inspiration - the connection with the land, the wholistic lifestyle - and she is inspired to learn more about the culture and the land’s environmental problems.