Arts & Culture: Local painter likes to paint and give back

Carmen Martorella traded a calculator for a paint brush when she retired, and now uses her art both to feed her soul and give back to the community

After a career working with numbers, Carmen Martorella traded in her calculator and spreadsheets for paint brushes and canvases.

The Val Caron artist, who likes to emphasize the “art” in her last name, studied at Sudbury Secondary School with the legendary art teacher Jack Smith, and considered attending the Ontario College Art and Design in Toronto. But she chose reason over passion, and enrolled in the business program at Cambrian College. She pursued a “safe and secure” job as an accountant.

Before she retired, she was a supervisor at the Canada Revenue Agency. In her free time, she took art courses, workshops and did self-study online.

Now she is realizing her dreams by dedicating herself to painting whenever she wants, working in oils, acrylics and watercolours, and investigating mixed media such as recycled products.

“I like to try different things such as pointillism and sprinkling watercolour powder on different pieces,” she said.

She comes by her creativity naturally. Her mother is Gina Martorella, who owned Gina’s Fashions on Elgin Street, and was well known for the beautiful custom wedding dresses she created.

“Mom is still living. She is 86 … she is no longer sewing, but now she is cooking. I did a cooking video series on YouTube with her … all her recipes,” Martorella said. “People went crazy over them.”

“It is on my to-do list” to create a cookbook and sell it to raise money for the Sudbury Food Bank, she said.

Martorella is the past-president of the Sudbury Art Club, which meets twice a week at the Carmichael Community Centre on Bellevue Avenue.

“It is nice to paint together, because we get ideas from each other … we kind of coach each other,” she said. “We had a 110 members (before 2020) now were are at 68, but the numbers are going up.”

Although inspired by the four-season beauty of northeastern Ontario landscapes, Martorella is a snowbird and seeks a change of scenery during the winter months. The ocean is her muse, she said.

“There is nothing better than plein air (painting) with the natural light.”

This past July, Martorella took on the challenge of painting in front of an audience creating art influenced by the music at Northern Lights Festival Boréal.

“It was so much fun. I really got into the zone. I had a large canvas 40 by 40 and I was going crazy. I talked to a lot of people and the kids were fascinated by it … It is such a good combination of art and music.”

Earlier this year, Martorella was saddened by news about the conflict in Ukraine. 

“It really broke my heart to see those people suffering because of greed and power. I felt compelled to do something, to paint the sunflower.” 

The sunflower has been a symbol of peace throughout Ukraine’s history.

She created cards from a painting of a sunflower and sold them online, word of  mouth and at various art shows. She raised $1,800 from the sale of the cards in Canada and the United States, and donated the money to assist the people of Ukraine.

In honour of Remembrance Day, she made and sold poppy prints and bookmarks with partial proceeds donated to the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Campaign.

During the pandemic, she created face masks with northern scenes that were sold at the Art Gallery of Sudbury gift shop.

“I want my art to matter,” she said. “My business name is Art & Soul.” I like to paint “when something inspires me, touches my heart.”

The artist willingly shares her knowledge and skill by offering art classes and is the process of resuming her teaching that was interrupted by the pandemic.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury. Art & Culture is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.

Leave a Comment