World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Vernazza - Doodlewash

GUEST ARTIST: “Committed To Bringing Joy Through Art” by Mark Garner

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Sherlock Holmes, London - Doodlewash

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!

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Helados Con Amigos - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - American Purple Galinule - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Curious - Cows - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Twins - Rowboats - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Adam's Little Girl - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Cotswold Fruit Stand - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Sierra Lake Mountain Cabin - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - El Capitan, landscape - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - La Noche, Cuenca - Doodlewash

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.

World Watercolor Month - Watercolor by Mark Garner - Point Lobos - Doodlewash

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!

Mark Garner

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists

42 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Committed To Bringing Joy Through Art” by Mark Garner

  1. WONDERFUL work and a great message – I could not agree with “let ‘er rip, and let the critics suck it.” more! 🙂 It’s what keeps people from the joy of making anything with their own two hands. Great post – off to check out your blog.

    1. First Night Design, thanks. Yea, do your thing, you are your best teacher. I’m not knocking teachers…I had one outstanding teacher, but go where you want to go.

  2. Beautiful artwork! It’s inspiring to hear you took time off to pursue what you are really passionate about. I’m currently struggling with the same dilemma. Do I cut my full-time hours at work to part-time so I have more hours to really focus on what I enjoy most – watercolor? I’m seriously considering taking the plunge. Excited to see more work of yours in the future!

    1. Hey ReminiscentRain, you’re in an interesting place. Best wishes in your decisions. I have no regrets about leaving the workforce for a period of time. I was fortunate to have a wife who could carry the load…and both are kids were out of the house and off the pay-roll. Whatever you decide enjoy creating either way.

  3. Mark, I enjoyed reading your journey to art, being committed to a quality that represents your values in art and life. I love landscapes in every media – if we don’t record them now, we will have nothing when they are changed or gone. I’m also fascinated by portraits as each person is unique not only in the universe but also in reference to where they are at that moment in life. It’s wonderful that you recognize each artist’s contribution to the field and don’t choose to limit art to your perspective.

    Your own art and style is simply amazing. It’s notable, and I hope everyone read your post to grasp, that you so not color between the lines. You create your own interpretation based on feeling and elements. Extraordinary work and beautiful to linger over.

    1. Sharon, thanks for the kind words. I was just perusing your blog…a writer with an art background, niiiice! Best wishes in the literary world. Hurray for your husband…vacuuming is almost a lost art.

  4. Beautiful, beautiful work. Great advice too, something I sure need to hear every so often. Small world it is, I am south of you in Sunnyvale. I like to paint fast. I admire anyone that can take their time as you do. And I am happy to say, I thought the picture at the top of this post was the Vernazza one. I also love the color in your work.

  5. Thanks nkorva, nice to hear from a neighbor. And I admire fast painters. If you have any work out in public somewhere local let me know, would love to see it. Keep creating!

  6. Mark, your paintings are simply amazing. There is more than one way to skin a cat! I see comments like the ones you mentioned on many other areas – “this is not the true this or that”. In my opinion, most of the time, there is a little bit of envy deep inside the commentator 🙂 I absolutely love your style – i cannot stop starring! I never thought one could get this level of detail with watercolors. Breathing deep here, lol, still in disbelief :-p

  7. Wow your art is amazing and your story inspirational 🙂
    Im new to watercolor (and art XD actually) and I did not knew that something as wonderful could be achieved whit watercolors

  8. Love your story, and your comment about the teacher’s remarks are spot on: mean and unnecessary. I think those types of comments come from having a scarcity mindset. You don’t need to denigrate someone else’s work to make room for your own. There’s enough room for everyone to shine in their own way.

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