Area Artisan: Marlene "Watkins" Bottoroff
Marlene ‘Watkins’ Bottorff, originally from Stewartsville area, lives in Cameron with her husband. Her love of art was sparked at a young age. Marlene and her sister would visit during vacations to her grandparents home. “They didn’t have modern conveniences”, she recalls, “We had big thick color books and would color every night by the coal oil lamp....colors were much more vibrant back then, they had more pigment in them.”
Marlene is a lifelong artist and avid history buff, especially local Northwest Missouri history. Bottorff has done illustrations and historical research for several publications and often speaks to children at the school about our local history. Sesquicentennial Design winner for DeKalb County, her design was displayed on t-shirts, hats and a cookbook. Her works include many beautiful paintings, illustrations, mixed media, sculptures and murals.
One of her murals, a beautiful scenery picture, is painted on the walls of the prior Little Blessings Tea room on 3rd St. A large gazebo in the middle of the room was physically built halfway out of the wall. The other half of gazebo is painted with a realistic scenery background of Cameron. She included the steeples of all the churches in town and many other city landmarks. Further down the wall she painted a bank vault replica, which was actually in the basement of the building, the levers are so realistic it appears you can grab it and open the door. Her artwork could be described as Tromp l’oeil, which in French means ‘deceives the eye’. Artists can make visual illusions in art to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object. As realistic as her work is, her goal is to still make sure people can tell it is a painting. Marlene doesn’t try to make her images perfect; she explains that if she wanted it to look exactly the same she would take a photograph.
Marlene is extremely talented and while she has not had any formal training to help, experience has made up for. She has always been creative and able to make something out of nothing. Painting always fascinated her but she thought it looked so hard. After taking one small beginner class in acrylics she changed her mind.
Bottorff owned a hair salon in Cameron for many years, in the back she set up a small studio area. Since her time to create was limited, she chose watercolors to create. The watercolors are much easier to stop and start again without ruining brushes and also the hair would not stick to it!
For over seven years she helped spread art awareness to the Cameron Hospital by doing art installations. “I love a challenge” said Bottorff, “the hospital would call me and say we have this idea, how can you make it happen and not cost very much?” One time she made a large fake grand piano made mostly out of cardboard and paint, it looked so realistic it fooled several people. They had to put a sign explaining it wasn’t real so people would not break it when leaning or siting on it.
Several of Marlene’s paintings begin as small detailed sketches that she then redesigns onto a larger format. Her last project was for her sorority’s annual dinner. She created a magical reenactment from the story ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Themed decorations and nearly life sized character cut outs were on display during the dinner. Bottorff enjoys making something out of nothing. Her large cut outs were inexpensive in cost, but had many hours involved in the creation. After drawing them small and getting them how she wanted, she then re-scaled, hand drew and painted the images a second time onto a larger paper surface.
Marlene has sold several commissioned paintings and has shown at the Albrecht Kemper Museum in St. Joseph. While she has sold several paintings, she said she is more excited about the creation process than monetary value. “I don’t want to be put in a box, pondered Bottorff. What I do, I do it creatively and for my own enjoyment, I don’t do it because I have to”.