When Mark W. Anderson discovers a potential subject for one of his paintings, it seems, he could be in any number of places.
The Eau Claire resident could be attending a rural wedding, traveling to world class cities such as New York or Chicago, or just visiting L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, where a wide selection of his vibrantly colored artwork is now on display.
In general, he says in his artist’s statement for “A ReRETROSPECTIVE,” his starting point is observing things people “generally ignore in everyday life.” As he elaborated during an interview at the library, “They see them, but they don’t think about them.”
As an example of an everyday thing that inspired his creative imagination, he cited a painting of shoes hanging in the library’s upper level, near where the interview took place. “Those are my tennis shoes way over on the end over there,” he said. “And those are the actual colors that are on the shoes. I haven’t worn them now for a couple years. I got that idea just because I like the colors and thought that would just be kind of a neat piece.”
Talking to Anderson, it’s clear he greatly enjoys choosing subject matter as well as bringing those ideas to fruition, which perhaps is why many of his paintings have humorous subject matter or titles. As he explained, “I think it’s fun doing it and watching it develop. They develop as I go.”
Following are some examples of paintings in the show and how they developed:
“Nibbles (The Pink-Eyed Goat from Eleva)” — Anderson met the title creature at the wedding of two friends at Schultz’s Country Barn in Eleva. He brought his camera and began taking pictures of the farm animals there. The goat caught his attention in part because a ramp allowed the animal to go into the reception area. “So I decided to take a picture of that goat, and I thought, this would be kind of a neat painting,” he said.
“Lost Art” — “I got that idea when I heard they were done teaching script in school,” he said, suggesting it’s not a development he favors. “I decided to do something with lettering and I thought of the chalkboard ... and the green lettering.” Except, he said, he wanted an added twist: “I wanted to make it colorful.”
“Reflecting in the Library Loo” — He said with a laugh, “I got the idea from being in the library restroom.” He noticed the tile reflected in the mirror, “and I thought, that would be kind of a cool thing to do.”
A broad palette of hues is one common feature of his work. As an example he cited “Big Dog (Spot and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).”
“I saw a picture of a Dalmatian and I thought, that would be kind of cool to do a dog with colored spots instead of black and white. So that’s where I got that idea,” he said, laughing.
Anderson said he’s been painting since 1979 and has great regard for some of the UW-Eau Claire faculty members who taught him. “I owe so much to the art professors that I had at the university,” he said.
In particular he cited Stephen Katrosits, a longtime professor who passed away in 2016. “I have three or four pieces of his at home,” he said.
Anderson also named Paul Cyr, a local resident who was a couple of years ahead of him at UW-Eau Claire and whose screen prints impressed him. “I think that’s kind of where I got my humor from is from Paul.”
In his statement, Anderson cites as his artistic influences Roy Lichtenstein, Patrick Caulfield and Valerio Adami. In particular, the texture Adami adds to his paintings caught Anderson’s notice.
“I’ve kind of branched off with textures in the colors or ... instead of just solid colors I tend to mix colors.,” he said.
“Cut” and “Primary Fracture” exemplify that direction in his work.
Besides his current library exhibition, the work of Anderson can be seen at UW-Eau Claire, including one in Centennial Hall, and a couple in Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire buildings.
While all the works in this show are acrylic paintings, Anderson said he enjoys watercolors as well.
“The watercolors are kind of cool because you can layer colors over colors to get other colors,” he said.
Another element in his work, calligraphic shapes, can be found in the painting “Urban Development,” which sprang from subway graffiti he noticed on a visit to New York City.
“I did a lot of stuff with graffiti to begin with, and then I switched from that to calligraphic shapes,” said. “They weren’t letters; just shapes.”
His visits to Chicago inspired paintings he’s done based on that city’s architecture. “I really like Chicago for architecture,” he said. “I’ve got one watercolor of Chicago architecture, but I’d like to do some more of that.”
But a common thread through all his work appears to be the regular occurrence for finding subjects that pique his curiosity, which gives him no shortage of possible painting ideas.
“Everything I do is kind of just an observation of something nobody else normally sees or pays attention to, I guess,” he said. “Like, who would think about doing a painting of a bathroom tile wall with a mirror in it?”