Under the influence
Every artist has their influences, and I am no exception. I’ve been thinking about mine in preparation for my Artist Talk next week, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you here. I believe the visual stimuli we artists experience throughout our lives ultimately help shape our aesthetic, taste and tendencies as we strive to develop our own personal style in our work.
Thinking back, my earliest visual memories as a child are filled with the vibrant, colorful imagery of saturday morning cartoons, cereal box characters, classic rock album covers, pop posters, sunday comics, MAD and LIFE magazines. It was a lot to process. My first young instincts were to draw, and try to replicate with crayons everything that I saw. Often, that meant drawing whatever my brothers and I were watching on TV. At six, I can even remember rendering a giant Campbell’s Soup can in my oversize sketch pad. Yes—somehow Andy Warhol‘s bold statement on consumerism and American banality had made its way into my barely-conscious consciousness.
I wish I still had that drawing. But I’m happy to have saved another childhood sketch—my version of the colorful Bob Dylan poster that hung on my older brother‘s bedroom wall. I drew it from memory during class in first grade. It wasn’t art class though, and when I got caught, I was escorted to the Principal’s office. I was sure I was in trouble, but instead the notoriously stern Catholic nun smiled for the first time ever that I recall, then offered me candy as a “prize”. Hmm… maybe there is something to this art thing. Later, I learned that iconic image was illustrated by none other than the “Godfather of Modern Design”, Milton Glaser. As a design student at Pratt NYC, I acquired a deeper appreciation of Glaser’s work, and recalled the impression it made on me at such a young age.
Dylan by Milton Glaser
Dylan by Mark Mitchell, Age 6 (after Milton Glaser)
While at Pratt, I also developed a great love of surrealism—especially the paintings of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. Their surprising use of unexpected elements and dream-like imagery had a profound impact on the direction I wanted to go with my art. And as a graphic designer, I grew more and more fond of the pop art movement—especially the work of artists like James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann. Like the surrealists, they also used diverse imagery in odd juxtaposition with one another that created a powerful effect when presented together.
Below are a range of my artistic influences that continue to help inspire, inform and guide me as I strive to establish my own style—with a few notes on each.
Salvador Dali — The surrealist master, utilizing dream symbolism to tap into our inner psych. My pilgrimage to his hometown, museum and studio in Spain is one I’ll never forget. I love that I live in the city where he created his own museum in America.
Rene Magritte — Like Dali, amazing dreamlike imagery, but with focused and simplified compositions, giving them a powerful poster-like quality. This one was cited as inspiration for the CBS logo.
Andy Warhol — Pop art pioneer who elevated mundane objects and mainstream personalities into high-art icons in his signature screen-print graphic style.
Roy Lichtenstein — Warhol-era pop art contemporary who presented comic book frames as bold graphic compositions in primary colors, revealing the coarse 4-color dot screen typically overlooked in their original form..
Peter Max — Often disregarded as overly commercial, I give him a lot of credit for making a huge splash and establishing his brand with psychedelic illustrations in the 1960s, then reinventing himself in later years with a looser, more painterly style. I met him at a gallery event several years ago, where he did an impromtu doodle and personalized the back of the piece I purchased.
James Rosenquist — My absolute biggest influence, a former billboard painter who leveraged his photo-realism skills in mural-size paintings that mashed-up advertising imagery to mysterious effect. I had the pleasure of attending a lecture of his years ago in NYC. He, too made the transition from New York to the Tampa Bay Area, and is regarded very highly in the art community here.
Jeff Koons — Wildly successful but highly controversial, he’s reviled and despised by some for his appropriation of images and use of a team to execute his concepts. But when your paintings look this cool, who can argue?
Edward Hopper — A reminder to me that the appearance of realism doesn’t need to be precisely rendered. An up-close view of Hopper’s paintings reveal an unexpected looseness, contributing to their soft-focus look. A master of light and shadow, as well as composition.
Keith Haring — Father of modern street art, he elevated the medium with his quirky stick figures and iconic imagery to deliver socially conscious messages. I can still remember seeing his originals on walls and subway platforms in NYC.
Banksy — Is it one guy, or a team of talented pranksters? Who cares? Banksy has taken bold street art to the next level with powerful socially relevant images around the world.
Shepard Fairey — Another modern street art pioneer, his iconic and well-crafted wheat paste murals carry messages of defiance and empowerment to public walls worldwide.
Ron English — Pop Surrealist and New York-based street artist who’s also an amazingly accomplished photo-realist painter. His work mashes up pop icons and major brands, satirizing and challenging the values of modern society. I was honored to be selected by juror Ron English to participate in a group show at Baton Rouge Gallery.
So, it’s these influences and more that contribute to the work I’m doing. By striking a balance between a bold, iconic pop aesthetic and a deeper symbolic context, my goal is to create art that captures, engages, and satisfies both the mind and the soul. To see how it all comes together, I invite you to join me for my upcoming Artist Talk + Tour of my solo exhibition, Double Vision at TECO Public Art Gallery during Tampa’s monthly Fourth Friday event on January 24th. Read on for full exhibition details—and hope to see you there!
TECO Public Art Gallery Presents:
Double Vision | The Conceptual Pop Art of Mark Mitchell | Artist Talk + Tour
A Solo Exhibition Curated by Debra Radke
Look deeper. Take in the mind-expanding, slyly subversive work of Mark Mitchell, Conceptual Pop Painter. See beyond the surface of the everyday. Delve into a world of eye-popping color and iconic imagery, ranging from playful themes to compelling social commentary. Explore a collection of twelve paintings that will challenge your mind while feeding your senses.
Mark Mitchell will be present on Fourth Friday, January 24, 2020 from 5pm – 7pm for an informal Talk + Tour of his exhibition. He will speak at 6:00 pm about his inspiration, his work process and answer questions from attendees. There will be light refreshments. This event is FREE and open to the public. Please join us!
Exhibition Event Listing >> here.
RSVP to the Artist Talk + Tour Event on facebook >> here.
TECO Public Art Gallery
702 N. Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602
Fourth Friday Reception, Talk + Tour:
Friday, January 24, 2020
Open 5pm – 7pm | Artist Talk @ 6pm
Tuesday, January 7, 2020 – Thursday, February 27, 2020
Open Weekdays 8am – 5pm
Group show continues in St Pete
Looking Forward continues at The Cider Press Cafe in St Pete through Sunday, March 8th, 2020. The two-month show features a range of contemporary, innovative and futuristic works by local artists. You’ll find some affordable large-scale canvas prints of my pieces, each focusing on aspects of modern technology.
Details below and on facebook >> here.
The Cider Press Cafe Presents:
Looking Forward, A New Decade
A Group Exhibition Curated by Margaret Juul Ammann
The Cider Press Café
601 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Saturday, January 11, 2020 – Sunday, March 8, 2020
Open Daily 11am – 8pm
More details, news and updates on the way! I invite you to follow my progress on this blog, and at the links below.
Conceptual Pop Painter + Multimedia Artistmarkmitchellstudio
Website | Mailing List | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube | Tumblr
Produced with the support of Creative Pinellas, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners