Inspirational Journey: Mark Witzling
WHAT INSPIRED THIS PIECE OF ART?
“Mindstream” was created as a explosion of color. It represents the way a creative idea can come to life as a simple idea that explodes into a feeling that energizes and inspires.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND IT?
No major story. It was developed as part of a series of paintings in which I was exploring color and the creativity. The wood frame was custom made locally.
WHY DID YOU SELECT THIS PIECE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ART FOR THE ANGELS BENEFIT?
I selected this particular painting because it seemed to reflect what I hope is a high level of energy and support for Angel Band Project. Ideas and the energy behind them can make a real difference.
THERE ARE MANY ORGANIZATIONS IN THE REGION THAT SEEK OUT CREATIVES FOR CONTRIBUTIONS FOR AUCTIONS TO SUPPORT THEIR CAUSE. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INVOLVED WITH DIVINEMOIRA STUDIO AND THE ANGEL BAND PROJECT?
Yes, I am often asked to contribute art to different projects. I am selective about doing this only to provide art to a few organizations each year, usually local organizations and always ones that I feel should be strongly supported by the community. The Angel Band Project fits this criteria and I am thrilled to participate.
THE MONTH OF APRIL IS DEDICATED TO SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS. THIS YEAR THE CAMPAIGN FOCUSES ON CONSENT. SPECIFICALLY “I ASK.” WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW ART CAN MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THIS CAMPAIGN?
Art has a way of reaching audiences with messages in powerful ways. Whether using performing arts or visual expressions, creative expression can reach the brain in ways that more traditional methods may not. Whenever we can leverage that creativity to spark awareness of such an important issue we need to do that. Raising awareness and changing behavior around consent today can have societal impact for years to come.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START CREATING ART?
In 1998 my wife and I went to Italy for a special anniversary and I was stunned by the artwork of the masters. I like to say that I saw artwork in the exact location that the artist meant to piece to be, and I was mesmerized wondering what was in the mind of the artist. (Why did Michelangelo create that sculpture to go in that nave of that church?) When I returned home I began to paint and haven’t stopped since.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST KIND OF WORK YOU CREATED?
Initially I was painting landscapes and a few portraits. I was learning the techniques. A few years later I found myself attracted to the abstract expressionists and began experimenting with abstraction. I’ve now studied with artists across the country, from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Montana and New Mexico, and my focus since 2011 has been almost exclusively on painting abstractly with abstract oil and cold wax.
DO YOU THINK IT TAKES INNATE TALENT TO BE AN ARTIST IN TODAY’S CLIMATE? DO YOU THINK IT’S NECESSARY TO HAVE ACADEMIC TRAINING TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN TODAY’S ART MARKET?
Well, I’m an interesting case since I have a graduate degree. But it’s an MBA not a BFA. My undergraduate major was….Economics. I think I set foot in the arts building perhaps once or twice as an undergraduate. But, I would walk through the local art store. I always found the materials fascinating. So, no I don’t think a formal art degree is requisite to success, but I think it helps.
‘Innate talent’ is an interesting concept. I personally believe that we all have innate artistic talent. Some of us may not tap into it as early or as often, but I think any person can find creative outlets for artistic expression. Take a class, experiment.
THERE HAVE BEEN CLAIMS WITHIN THE ART WORLD THAT ART HAS TO BE DISTURBING, ASK A QUESTION, OR PROJECT CONCEPTS OF THE FUTURE TO BE “GOOD” ART. DO YOU THINK THIS IS ACCURATE?
In my opinion, there are many types of ‘good’ art. Art communicates. A beautiful landscape by a Hudson River school artist is great art. A well-turned wood vessel expressing an artistic idea and high quality use of material is great art. Art can be intended to reflect beauty, to evoke an emotion, or to communicate a concept. It doesn’t need to be disturbing - that’s just one potential emotion to evoke. I’ve been exploring the lack of truth in our public discourses. It’s my way of expressing concern over loss of truth and, ultimately, the greater pressure this puts on us as citizens to determine what is real and what is not. Our success as a society depends on it. I hope my own recent work expresses this concern while also evoking a sense of beauty.
DO YOU FEEL THAT IT IS ENOUGH TO CREATE A SENSE OF POSITIVITY WITHIN THE VIEWER TO SUCCEED AS AN ARTIST?
See above response - positivity is only one emotion that can be evoked. There are many others.
DO YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF AND/OR YOUR WORK DRIVEN BY THE WORK OF YOUR CONTEMPORARIES? I enjoy following the work of contemporary artists to see what is being created. I follow the work of both national artists and local artists that I know. I don’t compare my work to theirs, which I think can be destructive. I do try to understand techniques and approaches in order to always be learning and experimenting, but I don’t try to mimic. Once in the studio, it needs to be just me, my art and some good music.
HOW DO YOU THINK SELF-CONFIDENCE PLAYS INTO YOUR WORK?
Confidence is a critical component of good work. Nearly all artists have moments of self-doubt. The best work tends to happen when I give myself permission to dare. My work is process-oriented as I build up layers of paint and then excavate back into earlier layers. Sometimes a cherished section of a painting needs to be given up and painted over by a new layer for the overall piece to be successful. That takes confidence and being willing to let go.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ART?
I’ll let you know when it happens. :)
WHEN PEOPLE LOOK BACK AT THIS TIME IN ART, WHAT DO YOU HOPE THEY WILL SAY ABOUT YOU?
Hmm..I hope they will say that I found and followed my passion. That I took the risk and found joy in the journey.
DO YOU FEEL YOU TRUST YOURSELF, YOUR INSTINCTS IN YOUR WORK, EVEN IF OTHERS DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS YOU ARE TRYING TO DO?
Yes, now more than ever before. That said, those moments of self-doubt do occur. Especially in the studio. Painting is largely a solitary experience, so self-doubt can happen. But I’m confident in my approach and always enhancing my technique. I like to think I am self-aware and trust my choices. I also believe in the idea that there is “strength in humility” so I hope I don’t mistake self-trust with over-confidence ;)
WHY WAS IT WORTH PURSUING A CAREER IN VISUAL ART?
As noted earlier, I had an extensive career in the corporate business world. I worked extensively with agencies and creative talent but I was not the artist. In 2018, 20 years after I started painting, I left my corporate role to become Executive Director of Craft Alliance. It’s a great balance for me, helping lead an arts organization while surrounded by great creative talent. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY AS AN ARTIST?
The art is an expression of the individual. My work is uniquely me. I enjoy tackling intangible concepts in my work. Memory, Truth, Belonging - these are examples of themes I use in my work. If my art draws someone closer to take a look and makes them stop and think for a moment, that’s success. I’ll keep putting my voice out into the world.
THE JOURNEY OF EACH ARTIST IS DIFFERENT. SOME ARTISTS WANT TO MAKE A STATEMENT. SOME ARE IN A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY AND ENGAGEMENT. SOME ARE SIMPLY ENGAGED IN THEIR PROCESS. HOW WOULD YOU CLASSIFY YOUR JOURNEY?
I think I’ve answered this in my comments above. It’s definitely a journey. My work is process-oriented and definitely a journey of discovery.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR WORK THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF? WHY?
No singular piece. I often enjoy sections of a final painting where I know that the process gave me the particular result I was seeking. I’m particularly proud of my developing series about Truth. Three paintings are representative of this direction: “Intellectual Rigor”, “Little White Lies”, and “You Say You Want A Revolution”.