Computers make so many things in our lives possible: face-to-face chats with loved ones far away; convenient storage of the digital equivalent of stacks of paper; even mapping out point A to point B without refolding any paper.
For artist Mark Lawrence, computers have made possible an entirely unexpected thing: a career as an artist. Lawrence’s digitally altered paintings—a riot of color, light and patterns—grace the walls of homes in the US and even hotels in Hong Kong. We talked to him about his technique and how he ended up with the title “artist:”
GreenBox: Let’s start by talking about your technique. How do you produce these fine art pieces?
Mark Lawrence: These are watercolors and acrylic paintings I have done, which I then scan and digitally alter on a computer.
GB: How did you arrive at this technique?
ML: I created it. I am a computer geek at heart. A tinkerer. I started out with Photo Shop, and it’s just kind of grown. I am curious about things and I love art.
Back in the day [before employing this technique] I created everything traditionally, with watercolors and acrylics. But then I became fascinated with the ability to do and undo. Because with painting, especially watercolor, you can’t undo what you’ve done. If you want to change it, you have to start a new painting. When you have the ability to alter a piece digitally, you can do and undo as much as you want.
GB: Do you have formal art training?
ML: Well, I took a few classes. I got a business degree in college. But I have always been interested in art. I took some oil painting classes as a kid. In fact, as a teen I would go out and paint driftwood and sell it at a gallery. Art is something I would do in my spare time to relax me. In hindsight, I spent a lot of spare time doing it!
GB: You’re not a full-time artist, then?
ML: No. I am in the mortgage industry. Maybe that’s what drives me to create art!
GB: How does one go from being in the mortgage industry to selling fine art canvases?
ML: I never intended to sell art, to be honest. I would do my things on the computer and since it was on computer it was easy to put it online. I put it up on Flickr. Soon, I was getting thousands of hits a day from people wanting to buy it! It just happened organically and it just kind of grew. I’ve been doing it 7 or 8 years now and it just builds up over time. Just because someone saw something online on Flickr. It’s amazing how the Internet works.
GB: How does it feel knowing that your art is hanging on so many people’s walls?
ML: It’s very humbling to me. One time I got a call from a designer in California who wanted to buy a couple pieces for a hotel in China. I actually told her no, I was working in the mortgage field and didn’t know anything about selling pieces. So she talked me through it. She really wanted it! And I’ll be doggone if it’s not hanging in the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong.
GB: What advice would you have for people who, like you, have a passion they’d like to pursue?
ML: Don’t stop. You’re never going to please everybody with what you do, but in my case I can’t turn it off. I just feel like if I can’t make art I’ll just explode. I can’t please everyone— even my wife doesn’t like some pieces!—but pleasing everyone is not my goal. It’s a God-given talent, and when I meet Him face to face I hope He’ll say well done. He’s the ultimate creator.
GB: One last question: what flavor of ice cream would you like to create?
ML: Sweet pickle. I love sweet pickles. I tried a diet for awhile and one of the things you are allowed to have, unlimited, is cucumbers. And my wife found Splenda-sweetened pickles. I’d love to say I lost weight with it, but that wasn’t the case. I do love sweet pickles, though.