Mark Posey (b. 1985) is a painter living and working in downtown Los Angeles. He earned his BA in History from UC Berkeley in 2010, and his MFA from the Academy of Art in San Francisco in 2012. He uses thick layers of fluid paint and relies the unpredictable nature of the material to guide his work. Much of his work is a modern take on traditional subjects, and his use of contemporary materials challenges people to re-address their familiarity with classical subject matters.
Hi Mark! I love your interpretation of the traditional still-life. What references do you use? Are you working from photos, life, or memory?
A majority of my paintings are inspired by objects I see from day to day, but I tend to paint them from memory. I recently moved into a new studio and the neighborhood and given me inspiration for several of my new works (Firestarter, The Great Outdoors, Sabotage, Spare Me)
In a previous interview, you mention your transition from painting with oil to using acrylics. What initially attracted you to acrylics and how do you think the change in materials affects your work conceptually?
Acrylics are really exciting because they've allowed me to have a ton of new techniques in my work. I explored oils for several years and developed a good idea of what effects could be achieved by using them. I mainly use oil paint for creating soft transparent shadows now. But acrylics have been really fun, and there are seemingly endless combinations of mediums I can add to acrylics to push my work and get new effects.
Is the form of still life a new direction for you? What led you to begin working in this way and what is the significance of the relationship between the objects, their arrangement and their environment?
My styles have led to each other pretty seamlessly over the years. After some experimentation I realized I was able to create multiple-object still life paintings. This was a huge day for me. I was sort of in a frenzy of excitement and was looking around my studio to figure out what to paint the first still life of. I looked at my messy studio floor and thought to myself, "The mess is the still life!" The concept seemed very honest and true to who I am as a person so I started painting messy, disorganized still lifes. That initial painting is called Studio Floor and was really important for the progression of my work. I am currently working on a series called Bless The Mess inspired by that initial painting.
Can you describe your working routine? Do you have a daily studio practice?
My routine is pretty simple really—I just go to my studio and work for a long as I can. I take a long walk somewhere in-between to get the blood flowing and give me some time to think, look around, and hopefully get inspired. On the days when I'm not sure what to paint I'll go to Home Depot and buy some wood to make panels, or go to the paint store and stock up. It seems like there are always things to be done.
What do you look for in an ideal studio? What are a few of the must-haves?
Space is the most important thing. If I have more space my work will grow into it, becoming bigger and more ambitious. I have seen this happen to me four times now. Light is really important too. Sunlight is preferred, not for aesthetic value but just because seeing the sun is good for my soul. Being crammed in a room with fluorescent lights all day is kinda depressing to me.
What are some of the most challenging elements in your recent body work?
Organization is really challenging. I have been putting more elements in my new body of work and figuring out the order of operations for each painting is different. The paint I use dries really quickly and I make my paintings alla prima, I so have to have the steps planned out with a list ahead of time. (I took a photo of my list for Lunch)
Can you give us some insight into your process? How do you begin? Do you sketch or do you tend to work more intuitively?
Recently I have been sketching ahead of time. My work has really tightened up over the last several months and I need to have things figured out compositionally before I start painting. A majority of my portraits are done completely in the moment though. Portraits are great because they add excitement to my work and to my routine and its always great to revisit them.
What have been some of your biggest influences? Books, writing, artwork, history, film, etc?
The objects I surround myself with really influence my work. Its amazing the things that creep in. So I am continually trying to be around hard working creative people. Having good art hanging on my walls is also important.
Are there a few artists that you are looking at currently?
Milton Avery, Brian Robertson, Mandy and Gabriel Perez, Meg Franklin, Summer Wheat, Cameron Welch, Theresa Francisco, and Royal Jarmon, to name a few.
What do you listen to while you work? Any music or podcasts we should check out?
A lot of podcasts. They seem to pass the time better than three minute songs. My favorites are Stuff You Should Know, Marketplace, Invisibilia, How Stuff Works, UHH Yeah Dude and WTF with Marc Maron.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work and talk with us!
To find out more about Mark and his work, check out his website.