Artist Interview - Mark Reep
Artist Interview with Mark Reep
Morning Prayer - Graphite, Charcoal on Bristol, 5 1/2” x 3 1/2”
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mark Reep, and I’m an artist. I make drawings, and sell originals, prints and other products featuring my work. For fun, I write fiction (here’s a sampling) and I’ve edited a limited run lit and arts journal called Ramshackle Review (archives here). When I have time, I also enjoy working with stone.
Why do you do what you do?
I love to draw. Sharpening pencils, taking a fresh sheet of Bristol from the pad–Always a good moment. Never gets old.
I also enjoy exploration and discovery at the drawing table. I like the challenge of developing detail and depth at an intimate scale. Of balancing contrast and cohesion in monochromatic work. I like intent, immersive concentration, and the patience required. Finishing an area of smooth gradation like mist or water with stippling can be an enjoyable meditation.
Dream Logic - Charcoal, Graphite on Bristol, 14” x 17”
How and when did you get into art?
I’ve drawn for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my naïve dream was simple: Make drawings, mail them off somewhere, get paid. Now I do. Life has a way of convincing us our dreams aren’t possible. It’s taken many years, and making a living as an artist remains a daily challenge. But we’re blessed to live in a time where anyone with an internet connection can present and promote work to the world.
How has your practice changed over time?
In many ways. My process and results have evolved a great deal over the past twenty years. When I first began showing, I worked in pen and ink, stippling everything. If you’re good, and you know what you want a drawing to be, and you don’t mess up too badly, ink is a wonderful medium. I wasn’t very good, and usually I didn’t know what I wanted, let alone what the drawing might, and the first thing I tried and didn’t like narrowed further choices, and the next narrowed them more, and so on. I burned a lot of drawings. I love pen and ink’s precision and dramatic contrasts. But I wanted to work with more forgiving media, encouraging of experimentation.
I’d began incorporating graphite in my ink landscapes. Smoothing textures, warming, adding effects like stormy skies, falling water, mist. I experimented with water-soluble colored pencils. Powdered graphite, and charcoal. Eventually, as my skills and interests continued to evolve, I stopped working in ink altogether. These days, my drawings are mostly charcoal and graphite.
Dains Folly - Charcoal, Graphite on Bristol, 5 1/4” x 9 1/8”
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created?
If I were to choose one, it would probably be my drawing ‘The Gift Within’. Charcoal and Graphite pencil stippling on Bristol, 10 ½” x 12 ½”, 2013.
The Gift Within - Charcoal, Graphite on Bristol, 10 ½” x 12 1 ½”
We’re all unique individuals, with unique gifts. Each of us has something to offer that no one else does. And if we don’t, the world will be a little poorer. My take, anyway. This project took about nine months to complete, and it’s not for sale. The drawing hangs in my studio. Occasionally, I study it again, and rediscover some forgotten weirdness.
What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?
Contrast is what sells. Also, title your work in pencil, so you can change it. The right title can help work sell, too.
What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you find really helpful?
Dunno how useful this may be, but I begin most drawings by laying in semi-random midtones with powdered charcoal. I load soft charcoal rubbings from scrap paper onto a cotton ball, and apply by lightly blotting, lifting, blending. The result may be the beginnings of a stormy sky, misty moonrise, or whatever background becomes needed as subject matter suggests itself, develops.
Mostly, it’s a good place to start, one that allows more flexibility than toned paper, which can only be darkened or lightened by adding media. Lifting out initial shapes with erasers allows me to explore with mass rather than line, and areas of clean paper provide highlights. I don’t sketch much, I try everything in-drawing. And brightly lit areas that don’t work are easily darkened again, without the necessity of removing pencil marks.
Solstice - Graphite, Charcoal on Bristol, 12” x 14”
Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?
My drawings are full of mistakes. At the least, things that didn’t work as I’d imagined they might, possibilities explored, discarded. Working with graphite and charcoal enables correction and revision of all but the lightest areas. If a mark or passage can’t be removed completely, often it can be incorporated. Admittedly, it’s not an efficient approach. But everyone finds their own, and most of our perceived negatives have a positive flipside. All those roads not taken remain layered in my work, and I’ve come to realize they often add depth of a kind more linear work may lack.
I’ve used fine sandpaper to remove uncooperative inked elements from a drawing. Wasn’t easy, and if you examined the result closely, you could find where the surface of the paper (Strathmore’s 300 Series Bristol) had roughened. I don’t recommend this, but it was a last-ditch attempt to save a drawing I already had many hours in. Happily, it worked. Many years later, that drawing still looks fine. No, I’m not going to say which one. :)
More on mistakes: There’s an old story about one of my favorite pen and ink artists, Eric Sloane. He was also an accomplished painter, often working with oil on board. One afternoon a visitor to his studio lamented that he couldn’t afford a recently completed painting. Sloane said, ‘Can you afford half a painting?’ Sloane’s visitor was a little puzzled, but this sounded promising- Yes, he could! Sloane found a handsaw, took the painting from the easel. ‘Which half do you want?’
Sometimes you reach for a utility knife, a straightedge, crop what doesn’t work. See what you can make of what still holds promise.
All the Silent Years - Charcoal, Graphite on Bristol, 8 ½” x 13”
What is your favorite Strathmore paper?
300 Series Bristol Smooth Board
What art materials could you not live without?
Graphite and Charcoal pencils. Kneaded erasers, stick erasers. Cotton balls, Q-tips. Bristol.
See more from Mark: