In this interview, Mark Reep opens the door and invites us inside his fascinating creative world. Find out what drives and inspires Mark to draw, write and create his beautifully intricate stoneworks.
Welcome to “In the Mood: Spotlight”, Mark!
Tell me something about where you live.
I live in an old house on the remains of an old farm, long fallow, overgrown. Cutting brush and firewood keeps me in touch with the land, and I’ve rebuilt a few old stone walls. These days, I work mostly with smaller stones, and the abundant native fieldstone provides material for my in-studio stoneworks as well. New York’s Finger Lakes region is nearby, and the gorges of Watkins Glen and the Ithaca area are also a lifelong inspiration.
What inspires you most to create art?
Inspiration comes in many forms. A small stone with a good shape makes me want to fit it among others in a stonework. When my girlfriend and I walk past Cornell’s old observatory at sunset, I want to take photos as long as the light lasts. Or until she says, Okay. Enough. Experiences, conversations find their way into my writing. All these things are raw material.
For me, drawing is different. Of course materials, place, experience find their way into the drawings as well, but much less directly, and without intent on my part. I’ve great respect for all those artists who render lovely likenesses, who can capture the look and feel of a place and moment. But I’ve never been interested in documenting in that way with pen or pencil. For me, the joy of drawing is in exploration, discovery. I like to simply start drawing, see what happens, then what I can make of it.
Can you tell me the story behind your “In the Mood: Featured” work?
‘Light Be My Friend’ is the most recent of a loosely related series of drawings exploring light: Light transformative, as illumination, epiphany, visitation, spiritual energy, what have you. Light as beacon, guide.
The title of this drawing is also a response to some unusually dark art I saw recently. Many of us enjoy the freedom to make whatever kind of art we choose, and certainly we’re entitled to work through our personal challenges in the same way. Each to their own. But I’ve also known artists whose lives were unimaginably difficult who never allowed their art to be anything but positive and inspiring. Much respect for that. Dark is easy. Anybody can do dark, and the world’s already dark enough. Why not try to make it at least a little brighter, more beautiful. Just my take, for whatever it’s worth.
Which image in your portfolio has received the most response? What do people like most about it?
My drawing ‘The Gift Within’ has been very well received. It was featured in a recent Black and White Biennial exhibition, and it will be included in Spectrum 21. ‘The Gift Within’ is an unusually complex example of what I do; this drawing took about nine months to complete, and I doubt I’ll devote that much time to a single project again. So the response has been gratifying.
Viewers have said kind things about different elements of the drawing- The tree, the bridges, the waterfalls. The title seems to resonate as well. We’ve all been given gifts, you know? We all have something to offer that no one else does. It’s comprised of individual talent, experience, viewpoint‒ All those things that made us each of us unique. And it’s our responsibility to recognize, maximize those gifts, and make something good of them.
Again, my take, anyway.
What do you enjoy the most about creating art?
I love the work itself. Being absorbed, giving my best to a drawing, trying to stay out of its way, let it be the best it can. Again, my juice is exploration, discovery: Oh, what’s back in there? I can almost see… Find the right music to work by‒ Right now, I’m mixing it up with Zoe Keating, Keith Jarrett’s solo improvisations, and bootlegs of Ronnie Dio’s last tour with Heaven and Hell‒ and the hours fly by. Good times.
Of course, then there’s that point when mostly what’s left is the work necessary to bring each to the level of finish I like: Hours of making tiny little pencil marks, adjusting with a kneaded eraser. Stipple, blend, unstipple, repeat. That’s less exciting work. But it has its own value, often meditatitive.
How important is art to you?
It’s central. I’ve always been an artist of one kind or another, always will be. One day you realize how all the things that make you who you are‒ things you’ve considered failings as well as strengths‒ lend themselves so well to the artmaking life. And it feels like forgiveness, validation, coming home.
What do you look for most in a piece of art or photography?
Beauty, in whatever form it may take. I like art that inspires me to go make something myself. Likely it won’t be related. You just see something wonderful that someone’s made and it makes you want to get back to work, right now.
Apart from art, what other interests do you have?
I expect many are arts-related in one way or another. I’m a lifelong reader: John Crowley’s ‘Little, Big’; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country For Old Men’; M. John Harrison’s ‘Light’; William Gibson’s ‘Pattern Recognition’ are a few favorite novels. I like indie films- Greta Gerwig’s ‘Frances Ha’ and Emilio Estevez’ ‘The Way’ are a couple we’ve enjoyed recently. We watch a lot of documentaries too‒ ‘Just Like Being There’ is a great look at the gig poster industry.
I write fiction, poems, an occasional review (a list of recent publications is here: http://markreep.blogspot.com). I’m working on a novel, and assembling a collection of arts-related pieces. I’ve edited a limited run quarterly lit & arts journal called Ramshackle Review (http://ramshacklereview.blogspot.com). I enjoyed working with other writers in an editorial role, and I liked curating featured artwork. I wish I’d had time to continue publishing Ramshackle. Happily, my partner is also an artist (http://parnilla.com), and encouraging of my artcentricities.
Do you have any advice for artists that are just starting out?
Make the art you most want to make. Your most personal work is the most unique thing you have to offer. If you fail, fail doing what you love. Then say so what, and look for another way to succeed.
Don’t wait for inspiration. Work whenever you can, whether you feel like it or not. When you look back, you may find you’ve made some of your best work during times when you didn’t want to work, or when working was difficult for whatever reason. Be disciplined with your time. Along with health, time is the most precious thing we’re given. And there’s never enough.
Make your own way. Again, we’re all different. A fortunate few of us may sell well in galleries; others will work in film and gaming industries. But many of us will need to find a way to market our work ourselves. It’s never easy. But we’re blessed with so many opportunities and tools that were unimaginable a generation ago. Quality print-on-demand services like Fine Art America have made it possible for each of us to offer artcards and prints in a variety of formats. And most importantly, they’re affordable. Use social media. Offer your work directly. Do whatever it takes to buy materials and keep doing work you love.
Thank you so much for being interviewed for “In the Mood: Spotlight”! Do you have a website where we can see more of your work?
It’s my pleasure, Jenny. Thank you! Here’s my website: http://markreep.net.
If I may, I’d like to plug an upcoming show: My exhibition ‘Dreams In Black and White’ opens at Found In Ithaca, Ithaca, New York, on June 4. The show will be up through June 30.