Mark Lovejoy is a cool artist who creates stunning photographs of mixed ink http://marklovejoydotcom.tumblr.com/. Of course, that’s not all he does, but that’s what we’re talking about here. His work is rich in color, form, composition and what he says is the most important element of all, lighting. What more can I say? Here’s our cool chat …
“… The photograph is the work of art. The ink is singularly un-impressive by itself. It is the infusion of light that gives it life ...”
MICHAEL: Mark, Your work is amazing. When I first saw it on social media, I thought I was looking at big, gloppy, abstract paintings, but no. They're photographs? How do you create them? Also, why do you create them?
MARK: Michael, Thanks for this opportunity to talk about my work. The magic lies in lighting, composition and color. The images are indeed photographs. Small amounts of commercial offset printing inks (my background is in commercial printing and photography) are mixed on a 9” diameter palette with a black or white base ink.
The beauty of the printing inks is that they mix and blend well while maintaining their own color integrity. The original palettes then mutate over time – naturally (primarily through drying – different inks and pigments dry differently) and artificially through the use of various tools, techniques and subterfuges. The palettes are then placed on my copy stand and I light them up and shoot ’em. Macro (i.e., close-up) pictures – details, never to be seen by the unaided human eye – like a microscopic view of a master painter’s brush stroke. Very simple, very straightforward.
MICHAEL: And why do you create them?
MARK: Why? I love making pictures. They satisfy a deep, sensual desire. Through these pictures, I relate my story of landscapes, topographies, seasons, tranquility, conflict, blood and violence, cruelty and tenderness, anguish, heartbreak and joy, exhilaration, exhaustion and relief, clouds, flowers and running waters – all my experience distilled to light, color and energy.
MICHAEL: Wow, you must go through ink like water. It's all I can do to keep from buying ink every couple of months, but you must always have it on back order. How does that work?
MARK: These are not digital printer inks. They are very viscous commercial offset printing inks and come in 1 lbs cans. Over the past four and a half years I’ve been working on this project, I’ve probably used 50 lbs of ink for a total cost of several hundred dollars. I have no doubt that I have used more beer in the making of these pictures than ink.
MICHAEL: How did you get involved in this type of art making?
MARK: I’m a commercial printer and photographer – any artist uses the tools at his disposal. I’ve shot many other things – from artist’s portfolio work to architectural interiors and designer gardens. This is far and away the most interesting and creative work I have ever done.
MICHAEL: I would imagine that depending on how you use and position the ink, you can get quite a few different compositions from a single pouring, No? In other words, can you remix or reshuffle the ink into something different or do you have to throw it out?
MARK: Yes, each palette is re-worked repeatedly, sometimes over a period of months. Usually the initial images are the least interesting – exploratory and undeveloped. Ultimately, all of the palettes have been consigned to the dustbin of history. The ink is merely a vehicle for color and light. Even if I were to preserve the “original” piece, it would be lost because the light will change. That’s how photographs are – shadows of moments in time.
MICHAEL: The images look great online, but must really be stunning in person. How large an image can you produce? Do you prefer larger or smaller images of your work?
MARK: The images print very well. They look best printed at the original file size which for most images is about 16” x 24”. I have some very large format images created using Photoshop’s Photomerge function which are 3’ x 4’ and larger – could print at twice that size. I’m currently working with someone in Toronto who is making 6’ x 4’ prints mounted on a backlit frame – the preliminary picture I saw does look stunning.
MICHAEL: Wow. I bet.
MARK: The images also translate well to fabrics … images of silk scarves that I make. I think these pictures will be fabulous in fashion, fabrics and accessories. I’m looking for someone in the fashion world to work with.
MICHAEL: I guess you gotta eat, huh? When did you first become aware of yourself as an artist? Do you come from a family of artists?
MARK: The starving artist thing is so passe’. I really never have thought of myself as an artist. I come from a family of scientists and engineers. My grandfather was a professional boxer.
Art was not exactly discouraged, but scientists and engineers were definitely more acceptable, so, I dropped out of college and hit the road. My father was a geologist and to him I attribute an expansive view of time and the cosmos.
I think his influence is clear in many of my pictures which allude quite obviously to topographies and landforms and the agents that shape and define them. As abstract, digital and chemical as these pictures are, I see them as a paean to the natural world.
MICHAEL: Where is the actual artistry in your work? Is it in the preparation of the ink itself or the photographing of the ink? Can the ink itself be placed on canvas or paper and preserved as a work of art?
MARK: I think the artistry lies in the distillation of experience. I take my very tactile sense of the ink from years of mixing and matching commercial inks, smelling them and watching them, milled to a fine film, unroll down the page as images and type and I blend it with my sense of color and light and love of photography. And, then distill it into a coherent abstract image which makes sense to me and also to others.
The photograph is the work of art. The ink is singularly un-impressive by itself. It is the infusion of light that gives it life.
MICHAEL: Who buys your work? Do you see any similarities among these people? What are they looking for?
MARK: Most of my work sells online. I rarely know anything about the buyers, so, yes they all have that in common. Apparently they are looking for work like mine, but I can’t tell you why.
MICHAEL: Do you keep up with what's going on in the contemporary art world? What do you think of it? Do you feel a part of it? What do you like and not like about it?
MARK: I kind of keep up. Look in online pretty often. I like the energy of today’s art world; it reflects the times. I’m a peripheral part, very peripheral, but there’s no question that my work is influenced by the current art world. It’s a crazy business out there – the rough and tumble of art for God’s sake! I like the energy.
MICHAEL: Finally Mark, if your work could talk, what would it say? What do you want it to say?
MARK: I can’t translate the pictures to words. I want them to be vibrant with life.
MICHAEL: There you have it. Thanks for chatting Mark. I love your work.
MARK: Thank you Michael for putting up with me.
Check out Mark Lovejoy at http://marklovejoydotcom.tumblr.com/.