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Culture » Culture Features

Down the Rabbit Hole

Artist of the Month Mark Rogers paints dark dreamscapes



Portland-based oil painter Mark Rogers is the master of the button-up, dark and disturbed. His images are vivid: a maggot-topped hotdog ready to be devoured by a pupil-less boogieman in a bolo tie and a top hat; swamp monsters preaching to hoodie-clad teens; the universe condensed into a birdhouse presented by a button-eyed ringmaster. He has a slight obsession with black balloons, exposed skull bones and Victorian apparel.

Looking for more opportunities to share his artistic pursuits rather than his shot-pouring abilities, the artist and bartender relocated from his trusty post behind the bar at Jameson's in downtown Eugene to Portland about eight months ago. In his first few months, he has found Portland to be a cornucopia of artist prospects, and has participated in several group shows as well as solo shows around the city. Spending his days painting his twisted, downward-spiraling world and his nights behind the bar, his paintings radiate a dark, cackling indulgence and imaginative vampirism that are intriguing, while slightly terrifying.

The Source Weekly: What is your medium?

Mark Rogers: I'm an oil painter, mostly on wood. I've painted on a canvas, but my pieces are a little smaller these days, and I can make them more detailed if I'm painting on wood.

SW: Tell me about your artistic process?

MR: I have a pretty lengthy process. First, I come up with my basic idea and I write down ideas of what I'm trying to achieve as far as the painting goes. Second, I draw a bunch of little thumbnails, little tiny business card sized drawings of what I might want the painting might look like. Then I find reference material on the Internet or in old books or shoot the photos if I can't find anything in the right pose. Then I'll draw a half-size painting and transfer the drawing onto the board and seal the board and then finally, after all that, I start painting. It's more similar to illustrator's process. In order to teach myself I read a lot of art blogs and different things like that. A lot of paintings require a lot of outside time, preparatory time. Andrew Loomis was a painter in the golden days of illustration and he said, "If it's worth painting, it's worth planning," so I do a lot planning.

SW: Where do your concepts come from?

MR: The basic idea comes from something that's pretty common, an everyday thing in my life or something random that has just happened to me. That's a good starting place. I keep a little list of new ideas that I want to work on in the future. Random people or things that make me a little bit sad or are slightly negative. I take that sadness and come up with narrative that is always way sadder.

SW: Why does that sadness appeal to you in your art?

MR: I love heavy metal. I've always liked spooky stuff. I guess the characters I choose to put in paintings are more on the spooky side. I would make a painting about anything really. One that comes to mind that I've been thinking about is I've wanted to make a painting about my cat really wanting to be fed all the time, but he's super fat. I'll keep thinking about that idea over and over again and I'll start thinking about this really crazy super big cat, maybe completely covered in mushrooms who's super hungry. And I'll think about the poor person who has to feed him. Then I think about the what ifs...what if the person is being chased? What if the cat wants to eat them?

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