Images © Mark Gleason

Interview with Painter Mark Gleason

Interview with Painter Mark Gleason

Today’s Interview is with contemporary painter Mark Gleason. It has been such a pleasure to work with Mark over the last year. I found him over Instagram and his dark style and themes touched me in a way I couldn’t begin to describe.

Where are you from and what was life like growing up there?

I’m from the preppy coast of Connecticut, which is an oppressive place to be from, and a perfect setting for the alienation that runs through my work. However, it was providential in terms of its proximity to New York City.

What is your first memory of being creative?

I used to fill page after page with ballpoint pen drawings of animals and monsters. I have recognizable images going back to when I was three years old.

Can you walk us through your creative process?

I’m not sure I can lead a comprehensive walk through the initial creative process, as it is sort of a constellation of thoughts, desires, mental images, and unspoken expressions that suddenly coalesces, usually while doing something mundane like driving to work. Once the idea gels, I sketch, doodle, play with composition, try to find someone to model, and set up photographic references. I do a lot of research on anatomy in figurative pieces.

How would you describe your style of art?

Describing my own work is always a sticky confrontation for me. It’s more comfortable for me to say that I resonate with old masters’ approaches, I work with archetypes, and I try to tap into unconscious aspects. I attempt to make the piece demand of the viewer that they become part of the project in that they work to create meaning.

What are some of your early inspirations and have those changed over the years?

I’ve always been fond of the quote by Camus to the effect that the artist is on a slow trek to rediscover the imagery that first opened his heart. There are many images, books, films, illustrations, and such that impressed my sensibility at a younger age, and I am still mining those and inquiring about their power today. Look through much of my work and you’ll see many nods to “Where the Wild Things Are,” for instance. As I’ve gotten older, I get a wealth of inspiration from music, especially instrumentals where I am moved by the sound and atmosphere. Sometimes lyrics give me ideas for painting titles. 

What does art mean to you?

Art – the making of things, generating images, the solving of problems, the expression of statements, the asking of a question – is everything to me. It is a primal impulse, a constant need, and the height of contentment.

Do you have any hobbies outside of art?

I like to keep fit, in mind and body. I read voraciously. I have my day job of teaching high school art. My wife and I “like to travel and take long walks on the beach,” as they say.

What is a small bit of advice you could give new artists starting in the industry?

Does it have heart? Does it make you care? If it does, make it. If not, why spend the energy on something that doesn’t have spirit?

What projects do you have coming up?

I recently did a series of horses in poses of resistance. Each was taken from rodeo reference, but stripped of all context to just portray the horse twisting and contorting in mid-air. 

My next endeavor plays off of that project. I became aware of William Blake’s poetic line: “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”, and though my horses were pretty wrathful, I’d like to counter that venture with a series of tiger paintings. I am looking at these paintings as a sort of inquiry into wildness and totemic animals, while stepping out of my comfort zone in terms of painting technique.

Once again, this personal project heeds an inner impulse, an undefined want. It’s something that investigates going beyond the obvious or immediate, never precisely defined, but able to summon something mystic or spiritual at some level.

Images © Mark Gleason
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