I am an abstract painter, and an art historian. I grew up in Los Angeles, with prolonged stays in London, Paris, Bonn, Vienna, Florence and Sierra Leone. I received my BA from Harvard University, my MA from UCLA and my PhD from Columbia University in New York. I also followed a course of training in Academic art at the Accademia N. Simi in Florence, Italy, receiving my Credenziale in figure-drawing there in 1978. I went on to teach at various California State University campuses and at UCLA Extension before taking a tenured position at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1997. In 2005 I migrated back west, settled in Cedar City, Utah as Southern Utah University’s Professor of Art History. In 2011 I was belatedly but blissfully married, to a brilliant and beautiful medical professional, taking on fatherhood, as well, to two talented and charming children.
I’ve published a dozen or so papers on various aspects of the transition from traditional to modern art in Europe and America between 1880 and 1920. And I’ve been a practicing painter for forty-three years, but my productivity falls neatly into two separate periods: a traditional representational phase that lasted until 1989; and my current work in non-representational modes of expression. I am at home in both genres, and I see no good reason for the conflict which some feel persists between them. For a survey of my earlier work, much of which is representational, please visit www.andrewmarvick.com.
For me, painting is a natural and indispensable way of responding to life. I see the formal language of art as a universal one, independent of its content. I was recently interviewed about my equivocal views on the question of "pure form" in art.
Methods and Media
I’m occasionally asked how my paintings are made and what materials I use. I begin with a vague pictorial idea. I then apply some measure of structure to a surface in an effort to make the idea visible. Finally, I introduce, adapt to and to an extent control a series of accidents that both threaten and facilitate the expression of the idea. Over the years my familiarity with the accidents attendant to my medium and process has grown, such that random events now only rarely defeat me, and are usually my allies. I used to reject 90 percent of my efforts; nowadays I keep a little more than half of what I begin.
Because I mainly paint with watercolors on texture-enhanced surfaces, I've explored painting on a broad range of papers and fabrics over the past ten years or so. My current preferred surfaces are: 300-lb. extra-white watercolor papers from Arches (for rough grain), Fabriano Artistico (for hot-press) and Kilimanjaro (for cold-press); soft 90-lb. hot-press papers from Garzapapel, a Spanish brand; and Calligrane, a small independent French distributor of 100% cotton mould-made and wove hot-press watercolor papers. I get another variety of desired effects from the impressively dense and hard 140-lb. Twinrocker feather-deckled hot-press papers. An entirely different terrain for watercolor than the mould- and handmade cottons, but no less exciting in its own way, is the synthetic substrate from Yupo (Japan). I also take an occasional bumper-car ride on Shizen and Khadi papers – two similar (though not identical) Indian-made cotton-rag watercolor papers with four deckles that are available in a variety of unusual sizes and that sometimes deteriorate at a swift rateFinally, because I apply numerous texture-media to my large-scale substrates, I am far less concerned about the quality of the canvases I begin with. .
For watercolor paints, I now use almost exclusively single-pigment products, though from a variety of brands. Winsor & Newton Professional, Daniel Smith Extra Fine and Lukas Aquarell 1862 are favorites, but there are also some exceptional artist-grade tube paints from M. Graham, Maimeri Blu, Holbein, Rublev and Da Vinci. Like countless other professional artists, I generally follow the critical analyses and recommendations of Bruce MacEvoy at handprint.com. For oil paint, my main stock is from Blue Ridge, Williamsburg Handmade, Daniel Smith Extra Fine and Sennelier’s Huile Extra-Fine. For drawing I use willow charcoal, Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache graphite leads, and Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth (Czech Republic) “Mondeluz” watercolor leads. My inks are Pilot “Iroshizuku” take-sumi, as well as the Kaweco (Germany) line of cartridge inks.
I use mainly the cheaper lines of student-grade brushes because my treatment of them is too neglectful to justify better quality. I spend a lot of time dripping, glopping and dabbing with a wide variety of sizes, glazes, mediums, pastes, gels, varnishes, turps, saps and lacquers from, among others, ProCeed, Polyvine, Golden, Perfetto, DecoArt, Adicolor, Delta, Golden, Gamblin and Sinopia. My activity in the studio tends to draw to a close with the application of a great deal of dry heat.
Until 2008 oil was my primary medium, but since then I've finished only about 80 medium- and large-scale oil-and-acrylic paintings. Somewhat to my own surprise, over the last nine years I have developed an intense passion for watercolor. This shift in medium, in the wake of a decades-long devotion to the European oil tradition, has led me to hobble together an unusual hybrid medium incorporating watercolor, oil, acrylic, gesso, plaster, pumice, marble dust and lacquer. Since 2012 I've completed between 300 and 350 paintings in this eccentric medium – most of them quite small, though occasionally rising in scale to as much as 4 by 6 feet. Viewed together, these mixed-media paintings form, I think, a rich visual and textural record of my continuing interest in the possibilities for stylistic amalgamations of 13th- through 19th-century European painting aesthetics with the formalist abstract and non-objective experiments that proliferated around the world between about 1900 and 1960.
In 2014 I made a short demonstration video that gives viewers a chance to see the basics of my method in small-scale painting. You can find it here.