Fusion Art is pleased to feature award-winning artist, Brian Mark, in its “A Day in the Life” series. In this series of Artist Showcases, the gallery reveals the “typical” day of many of its award-winning artists.
Brian is an award-winning artist based in California, USA. He has participated and won numerous awards in Fusion Art’s online art exhibitions.
Below please find, in Brian’s own words, the answers to 12 questions about him, his art and his “typical” day as he gives us a glimpse into his artistic life.
How do you start your day?
I get up around 7 or so, eat a simple breakfast, read the paper, and I’m in my studio by 9 to 9:30. Fortunately, my studio is in my backyard, so I have access to sculpting whenever I want. But, not wanting to annoy the neighbors with the sounds of my tools, I usually don’t start before 9.
How many days a week do you work on your art?
When possible, every day. And it is usually possible.
Do you have a home studio or do you go to an outside studio to work? Which do you prefer and why?
Yes, I have a home studio and I also go to an outside studio (except for the yearlong pandemic shutdown). Here’s why: I came into sculpting almost 18 years ago. Until 4 years ago, I could do my work while attending a class at a local college. But this class was available only on Wednesdays from 7 to 9:30 pm, and one and a half hours a week is not nearly enough time to devote to my artistic passion. Four years ago, my wife and I moved to a new home and I was able to build a studio in my backyard, where I do the bulk of my work. But I continued to go to the college class because I have made good friends, and it is my opportunity to see them and their work, and to hang out with them. I look forward to restarting this ritual after COVID ends. Other things being equal, I prefer my home studio in which to do my work. I’m not limited to the time I spend there and I can take breaks when I choose, and where I can store my supply of materials I use to make my art.
What kind of art do you create?
I create abstract stone sculptures. I had been a woodworker before doing stonework. A friend who was doing stone sculpting at the college studio kept after me to come to the studio and see what sculpting was like. I put him off for maybe a couple of years, then decided that I wanted to get my friend, Harvey, off my back. So, I agreed to visit the college studio and be done with Harvey’s nudges, but as soon as I set foot in the studio and saw the work others were doing, I was hooked. The pieces the others were working on looked beautiful, and I could only imagine what it must be like to create work that so enchanted me. I immediately felt, I cannot not do this. I must do stone. I have had a passion for stone sculpting ever since.
Walk us through your “typical” day.
A “typical” day: go the studio in the morning. Work a couple of hours. Take a half hour break that always ends up being only 10 to 15 minutes. Work close to another couple of hours, then break for lunch. Come back to the studio for another two or so hours, then clean my tools, decide what I must do with the stone the next day, enter my logbook on time spent sculpting, then shower (sculpting is very dusty work), eat, read a bit, and relax.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge has been to learn how to approach the stone. Do I start with a set idea or do I have a “conversation” with the stone, letting it tell me where to cut, or what to grind away, and so on and even try to determine, for example, which side should be up. I almost always start with an idea of shape and almost always end up with something different, sometimes, very different. Since I do abstract stone sculpture only, I’m constantly putting down the tool I’m using to look at the stone and how it differs from the same stone I looked at a few minutes before. Should I emphasize this beautiful line going through the stone, or is this portion of the stone too bulky, or should I shear away this small section, and so on. I think, when all is said and done, my biggest challenge is to keep it simple. I believe I have done my best work on simpler pieces that just cry out to be touched, by hand and by heart.
What do you enjoy the most about being an artist?
I enjoy and at the same time am often challenged by all the choices that are before me. I want each of my pieces to reflect the conversation I had with it and I’m challenged to clearly accomplish this with each of my creations. When all is said and done, I am so grateful that I have the freedom and opportunity to create something never before seen. I love the challenge.
What do you enjoy the least?
Sanding. It is tedious work, but I find comfort in knowing that I am close to finishing my project. After spending anywhere from a few weeks to a few months creating a new sculpture, I have found the shape I want, and now, to bring the piece to its final being, I must remove the myriad scratches I have put in the stone by grinding. Then sand, sand, sand, and sand some more. I don’t enjoy the labor but it must be done, and I’m always happy when I have finished and am ready to show the new piece to the world.
Do you have any mentors?
Yes. At the college where I first did my work, I had a mentor who, lovingly, insisted that all scratches be removed, that straight lines were to be avoided, and that I reach deep into my imagination to bring forth my best. He was an enormous help in the early part of my artistic journey. When I think I can’t make this piece any more beautiful, I stop. I wonder if I should do just one more thing to it; that’s when my mentor’s words come back to me: “you can’t make it better; you can only make it different.” He died very suddenly a few years ago, and I still miss him.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Luckily, I enjoy my own company. Of course, I have good friends, a wonderful wife, loving children, but I still absolutely enjoy the encounter between me and my stones. I am somewhat contemplative, and it feels just fine to spend hours with the act of creation going on between me and my stone. At the end of the day, I have a glass of wine with my good wife and look forward to being with good friends (after COVID has passed into memory). No, the artistic life for me is anything but lonely.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to follow my passion. This was from my thesis advisor at grad school. I’ve always remembered it, and since discovering stone sculpting, I’m happy to have lived a fulfilled life, with work, family, and friends. I am so grateful that I get to do now that which fills me with joy- my work and my family.
What inspires you?
Inspires? I always wonder how the stone I’m beginning to sculpt will turn out. I have a vision of trying to learn from each piece how to make another, perhaps more beautiful than the last, and I am so grateful for being able to turn my passion for my art into something I can see and touch. I am inspired by the natural world to try to add beauty for me and others who may see my work.
Thank you, Brian, for sharing a peek into your life as an artist!
Below are 4 of Brian’s award winning pieces. To learn more about Brian and see more of his work please visit his website.
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