Artist Marilyn LaDieu: Finding color in nature


artist marilyn ladieu

From her earliest years, Marilyn LaDieu had relatives who were artists and who always encouraged her in her artistic pursuits.

“I have memories of people saying, ‘Oh, Marilyn’s an artist. She can draw that,’” said LaDieu. “I’ve run into many people over the years who always wanted to try art but were discouraged at some point. You have to keep practicing. If you have an interest, I think you can go somewhere.”

For winter 2023, LaDieu’s works hung in Homeland’s sunny Florida Room gallery. The exhibit is courtesy of the Art Association of Harrisburg’s community gallery initiative, which brings in high-quality work from local artists for residents and staff to enjoy.

Her vibrant works reflect her fascination with color, nature, and architecture. Many are plein air scenes painted in the open air to capture moments when the scenery and light are just right.
LaDieu was born in Rhode Island but moved to the Rochester, NY, area at age 9. Her first job after earning an MFA in illustration from Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts, was creating medical illustrations for the University of Rochester. Ironically, her brother used a textbook she illustrated when he studied medicine.

Later, LaDieu and her husband, whom she met at Syracuse University, moved to Hagerstown, MD, and then to the Harrisburg area in 1976. In those days, LaDieu was busy with their two sons and the occasional freelance illustrating job.

Around 1990, LaDieu returned to fine art, painting large studio works, and in 1993, she and four other artists staged an exhibit at the Art Association of Harrisburg.

She went along when some of her artist friends wanted to try plein air painting. She had to overcome the nervousness from having passers-by looking over her shoulder, but in a few months, “something clicked in, and I was okay with it.”

“When you’re standing outside and see this whole scene, it’s hard to zoom in on some little section of that scene and concentrate on it,” she said. “Every time you look up, you lose where you’re looking. After a while, I became better at it.”

LaDieu and her husband live in West Hanover Township, travel extensively, and spend winters in Venice, Florida. She has painted in plein air festivals in Escalante, Utah, with its breathtaking canyons and rock formations.

“It’s beautiful countryside,” said LaDieu. “There are beautiful rocks all over the place, and lots of colors compared to the east, which is green. Out there are reds, oranges, and yellows.”

Colors fascinate LaDieu so much that she is currently taking an online course from artist Patti Mollica, known for her vibrant color work. LaDieu is learning such techniques as unifying a painting’s look by mixing a single “mother color” into every color used. She is also discovering “colorful grays,” which the artist creates by mixing complementary colors.

“If you have a bright color with one of these colorful grays next to it, it can make the bright color pop out of the canvas,” LaDieu said.

LaDieu belongs to several art associations and has shown her works at Art Association of Harrisburg and the Perry County Council on the Arts. Her eldest son, Ben LaDieu, who draws in pencil and pen and ink, recently won Best in Show for PCCA’s Annual Juried Exhibition (find his intricate, fantastical works at

For the Homeland exhibit, LaDieu chose scenes from her travels, such as the Cavendish Cliffs on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, but also some of Harrisburg’s historic neighborhoods and riverfront that viewers might recognize.

Homeland’s gallery is “a nice space,” she said. “Homeland is one of the nicer retirement homes to be in. These exhibits give people enjoyment. They can look at beautiful art.”