Show Preview | Mark English

Palm Desert, CA
Jones & Terwilliger Galleries, March 11-June 1

Mark English, Bluebird of Happiness, mixed media, 12 x 15.

Mark English, Bluebird of Happiness, mixed media, 12 x 15.

This story was featured in the March 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  March 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Mark English’s artistic career started more than 50 years ago with him painting billboards and rodeo signs as a way to avoid his mundane cotton-picking job in Texas. Fast-forward more than five decades, and his illustrations have graced the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, Time, and Good Housekeeping—to name just a few. He’s been commissioned to design 13 stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, was named Artist of the Year by the Artist’s Guild of New York, worked at Hallmark Cards as an artist-in-residence, was recognized as the most awarded illustrator in the history of the Society of Illustrators in New York City, and was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame in 1983.

But after clearly distinguishing himself as a professional magazine illustrator—and becoming one of history’s most decorated such artists in the process—English undertook a complete artistic reinvention and started painting for himself in 1993. Jones & Terwilliger Galleries in Palm Desert, CA, is showcasing his fine-art talent in a solo show starting Saturday, March 11, with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. Over 25 mixed-media works are on view, displaying his alchemy of paint and unusual materials.

“Picasso said he spent half his life trying paint like the masters and the other half trying to paint like a child,” English says, quoting the master. “That idea is what brought me to collage.” Welcoming the challenge of working with materials he wasn’t accustomed to, English felt at home once he started putting down myriad shapes of torn papers on canvas and coordinating seemingly impossible color schemes.

The Missouri-based artist paints figures, architecture, cityscapes, and whatever else comes to mind, and he prefers to interpret his subjects from a design viewpoint. “I consider myself a designer as much as a painter,” English says. “A friend of mine describes my works best when he says they’re ‘paintings that are hard to see.’”

English’s dramatic patterns, geometric shapes, bold colors, and abstract planes capture the simple essence behind his lived experiences. On a trip to Paris, for example, while most people were drawing what they saw on the city streets, English was busily doing thumbnail sketches that had nothing to do with the view in front of him. He still starts new projects with a small thumbnail sketch of what he pictures in his head, releasing any inhibitions of what he’s learned and embracing innovation and freedom instead.

Patricia Terwilliger, co-owner of the gallery, says she enjoys English’s work because he engages the viewer’s imagination and has a wide appeal. “There’s so much excitement surrounding him because he’s constantly reinventing himself,” Terwilliger says. “What I see in his work and what someone else sees will be just totally different.”

English, who turns 84 this year, says he enjoys painting every day, if only for the exploration. “I’m always trying to be a better artist,” he says modestly. “That challenge keeps me going. Well, that, and the fun.” —Katie Askew

contact information
760.674.8989
www.jones-terwilliger-galleries.com

This story was featured in the March 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  March 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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