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An Interview with Mark Erickson by George Teseleanu for Press 1 Magazine

• Tell us a little about the art styles that you use:

I think of my work as traditional abstract painting, but I slip in humorous aspects, cartoonesque shapes which enables me to have the freedom to experiment with mixed media, collage and drawing. My interests in literature, comics and music are incorporated to their fullest potential with this style of painting. Scurrying images and resurrected ideas from my past and notations of the present lead me to each new canvas. I want viewers to see things, experience a moment in my painting. Whether it something lyrical or an impact of color, shape and illusion I seek to keep the eye moving. Collage elements are sometimes added to take the painting into another arena. The need to feel something that may not be there at first glance, but to know it is there, obscured momentarily, reminiscent of a long gaze into the void that one creates out of nothing.

When it comes to my paper collage work and Polaroid shooting, I take more of a graphic approach, tending to single out the piece and offer it less in a pretty way, but more in what happens in the process. It follows wherever the mood strikes me. I’d rather photograph buildings in my Polaroid work than human figures. In similar fashion with collage, I treat it like a dance with paper and imagery. Accidents happen and those spontaneous occurrences interest me the most. I follow that lead in my work where the moment counts and the next step can be conscious or unconscious. You have to have courage to be a painter. You end up moving with some kind of natural flow.

• Why did you choose these art styles:

I never chose, they choose me and I just know it is a natural journey. My grandmother, Blanche Hesslein was a fantastic New York City painter and taught me so much. My mother Bernice, painted also and it generally became a tradition in my family. The other direction was more structured from my father. He taught me a lot about construction, building, tools and hard work. Between what the women in my family showed me, and the talents and advise from my father Ernest, and grandfather Frank from Painted Woods, North Dakota propelled me forward. I just took off from there. My style of painting comes from the times I live in and the interests I have followed since I was a child. My influences are varied. Everything from things I see in the city streets to my own imagination when I am seeking inspiration to influence me. From Duchamp, Picasso and Matisse to DeKooning and all the great underground cartoonists have long ago shown me where to go.

• What is your favorite era of work and why:

My current work, mixed media painting on canvas. My goal is to paint the best paintings I can, with the same kind of impact and color that will make your eyes dance around the canvas.

• What other art styles would you like to experiment with:

I have tried every style you can imagine, from photo realism to landscape to color field painting and illusionistic painting. I feel what I am doing now is what I was meant to do. I often go back to techniques and styles I once did, ones I have passed over quickly and never fully delved into. They are all tools of the trade. Change is inevitable and something I seek. I just try to stay on course with what I am doing long enough to get good results before I move on to another series of work. Change occurs and you have to be ready for it.

• How long have you been an artist:

Since I was a child, drawing along side my grandmother in her New York City studio, and going along with her and my mother to museums and galleries. When I first heard my Uncle Benjamin knew Marcel Duchamp back in the 1940s in New York City, that just reassured me into my chosen profession.

• What influenced you to become an artist:

My mother and grandmother and the art that hung on the walls of our homes as I grew up. Traveling around the world with my family and the hundreds of museums and galleries I have visited. To me it was as natural to become an artist as it was to become anything. Art, music and film were my true interests ever since I was a child. Painting just seemed the course most natural for my sensibilities.

• How did your family and friends react when you began studies to be a painter:

My mother was very pleased, my father the opposite. He grew into it as I became more involved in art and I think he realized I made the correct choices. Other members in my family had varied opinions over the years, both positive and negative, though those reactions had absolutely no affect on me. I believe my parents were the only ones I had anything to prove. Their approval meant a lot. I did not want to be the one to go back to them and say I made a mistake. My mother encouraged me all along.

• Where do you get your inspiration from:

From everything. It’s a constant process. There are unlimited ideas floating around. I have ideas I may never get to, but that is alright, there are plenty I will.

• What are your tools of trade:

Painting in acrylics, oil, latex, inks with brushes, palette knives and collage keeps me pretty busy. I shoot images of my art with a digital camera. I have been shooting Polaroids with my SX-70 camera since I was in college. I love to shoot Polaroids when my painting energy slows down.

• Do you make a living from your art and teaching:

I have made my living as a painter for over 20 years now. Nothing is easy, it takes work, concentration and some kind of professionalism. Also luck. Knowledge of the market and a personality that can deal with many of the dilettantes you will meet on the way. It can be frustrating, but you just keep working.

• How has the internet influenced your art:

Not sure it has influenced my painting in the studio, but in viewing my work it has. Being able to show one's work immediately to people from all over the planet in seconds has become reality. The fact that a finished painting can go from the studio to camera to computer in minutes, then simply sent across the city or across the world is still amazing to me.The internet has changed so much for better or worse. and has altered for many how art is viewed and understood. The immediacy of interacting with others is stunning, and helps me in the studio, to keep working and continuing the dance of painting. It is what I do.

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Mark Erickson - Mark Erickson Paintings