My name is Mark Garner. I live in Palo Alto, California. My passion for nature, places, and different cultures is at the core of my inspiration and the subject of my work. I am a realist with my brushes.
In 2010 after 25 years of real estate sales I “retired” to pursue my passion – watercolor painting. A big thanks to my wife for supporting us during this time. Because I had been busy raising a family and building a career I literally painted 5 paintings in those 25 years. It came to the place that I could no longer walk into an art gallery, knowing that I should be creating…not necessarily to grace a gallery…just necessarily to use the talent God gave me.
Other than one painting class at San Jose State University in the late 70’s, I am self-taught. That one class though was very important. In it I was introduced to the painting technique that I employ today. I am forever grateful to Professor Brose!
Today I am back in the workforce, so instead of painting 5-6 days a week for 6 hours a day, I paint about 4 days per week with two of those days being 6-8 hours and a couple more days of 2-3 hours.
As you can see I am not a “traditional, transparent” watercolorist. I am an opaque realist, who cares about detail and how those details can excite the viewer. I should mention that during the 5 years that I was unemployed, I created about 50 paintings. My paintings average 60-100 hours each, so I was averaging about one painting per month. Today being that my studio time competes with a 40 hour work week, I am now creating a finished piece in about 6-8 weeks.
So, back to my technique… obviously I work from photos. And fortunately for me and clients, the photos don’t have to be award-winning images. Composition is what’s most important, followed by color. It’s not about reproducing a photo in paint. It’s about creating a piece of art that enriches life, brings back fond memories, encourages an adventure, or simply makes you feel good. Often, I will paint from multiple images, use some artistic license, or if the client wants a particular image that’s what I give them. Friends were interested in seeing my paintings in process, so I created a blog where I post images of my works in progress.
I am an opaque watercolor artist. What does that mean? It means that I use multiple layers of paint, and in some places I include white gouache. When you do that your paint becomes opaque. For a long time, I was embarrassed to admit to painting in an opaque style, because it wasn’t “traditional”. Years ago I had a couple of pieces accepted into an exhibition where I overheard an art teacher tell her student that my paintings weren’t real art, and weren’t worth even creating. I think she preferred transparent! It took me awhile to get past that, but today, who cares? Enjoy “your style”, let ‘er rip, and let the critics suck it.
For me, to get the results I want I work almost exclusively on Arches hot press watercolor board. 20”x30”. I just recently completed a painting “Vernazza” on a 30”x40” board…that was a lot of brush strokes. I thumbtack the board to a wood sub board so that it stays as flat as possible.
I used to paint only with Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes. Then a few years ago they became hard to get, and so now my brushes of choice are Escoda Reserva Kolinsky. The tips don’t last nearly as long, but they are a lot less expensive so it’s a wash. 90% of my work is accomplished with size 4 brushes down to 000. I lay out skies and large areas with a 2” brush and a number 8 round.
My paint of choice is Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor. My palette is made up of 19 different colors, and none of them are black. When I want deep black I use Payne’s Gray. For me Payne’s Gray has a color richness that is preferable to any black. Oh, and I have done a handful of paintings on Ampersand Aquaboard. There’s an interesting material. Check it out… it’s unique.
So, as I mentioned earlier I have a passion for travel, culture, places, people. These days I only photograph with my cell phone…the image quality is just fine, and I don’t look like Joe tourist. After I return home, I number all the photos I have taken that I think might make for a good painting, and set them aside. I then go back a day or so later and see what image inspires a painting. I then print out that number painting on premium glossy paper and there is my reference material. At times, it might be 2-3 glossy pieces of paper that become my reference. The painting I am involved with now “Stockholm Harbor” is 6 different reference photos.
When it comes to subject matter, landscapes I would say are my favorite. And that’s simply because I love nature. I’ve walked coast to coast across northern England. Last fall I walked with my wife across northern Spain, the 500 mile Camino de Santiago. I’ve walked in Nepal for a month with Everest basecamp as the high point. And through the years I’ve spent many weeks in the high Sierras of California.
Nature is a Spiritual thing for me. It’s there that I get closer to God, get recharged in my daily life, and find the most inspiration for creating. The great thing about nature is, you come across a lot of great stuff. Trees, water, animals, beaches, mountains, clouds (tough to paint), and fellow travelers and pilgrims recharging their own batteries, or simply living their daily lives.
My paintings start with as few pencil lines as I can get away with. I tighten all my paintings up with my brushes and paint. I guess that’s why they take so long. But for me, my joy is in the details. Often I paint using a magnifying glass to make sense of what little detail is hiding in the photo. While I am creating a painting, if I shot the photo, I am enjoying the memory of being there, the excitement I felt. If a client shot the photo I am enjoying what they saw, why this is meaningful to them, and hoping to get there if I haven’t been. I want my work to be a great memorial.
I want to finish with a word of encouragement. I learned a valuable lesson those years ago when I overheard the teacher criticize my work. It was mean and unnecessary. She simply could have said to the student, that’s not my style or my preference.
There’s no right or wrong, good or bad with art! It’s perfectly fine to have preferences, in fact that’s needed. Believe it or not, I’ve never painted plein air. I‘ve never completed a painting in a day, let alone an hour. I envy those of you who can do this.
Yes, I am probably missing out on something, or maybe, for me, I am not. Some would look at my art and say, “loosen up!” I look at some art and I say, ”I don’t get it”,”I don’t understand”. All of this is great! We need all art, everyone’s creativity. We don’t know each other’s stories. And if we did, that would remove some of the mystery, and allow for more acceptance. So, I thank Doodlewash for being a place where watercolor art and artists are appreciated, and known. Keep doing your thing. Create, explore, stay to your course, whatever blesses your life and others. Hey… bring some joy!
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!