Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Franz Marc is a better pet portrait artist that I am.

I really intended to write about another movement today  before my client meeting, but as I was sipping my coffee and randomly pooping around on Google and I stumbled across the works of Franz Marc.  I remember him from my studies in school, but as usual I must have been half asleep in history class that day because this man's work really resonates with me now.  He was a German Expressionist who primarily painted animals.

This morning I said a little prayer for God and the universe to show me some way to make my work deeper.  I think God answered today. (I know that sounds nuts, but I have the nutty artist ticket so that's ok.)  Do I need to change my focus?  I don't know.  It's frustrating. I ask myself, "Why do I paint animals?" (Yes, I talk to myself and usually answer myself too, but hey...I have the nutty artist ticket, so that's ok!) I answered, " I feel energy from animals.  I feel their innocence. I see their aura and spirit.  I feel their connectivity to their environment, something that we humans often do not have."

I will be honest with you, and I hope that I do not offend any of my fellow artists, or my clients when I say that there are A LOT of artists out there doing what I do.  Yes, it takes great skill and talent to correctly paint an animal, but so much of the work out there  looks all sort of the same, my own included. A friend told me the other day that he refers to them as decapitated dog heads.  HA! The clients want beautifully crafted photographic sweet images of their beloved pets, so that's what we give them.  But what if I gave them more?  What if I said more?  Is it enough to just copy a photo and create a pretty painting?  I feel like I have been focused only on technique, and if I am lucky a message or some sort of point pops out.  My clients disagree.  They are often moved to tears when they see their portraits. 

It's so nice to make people cry, but there is still something missing from my own work.  It's good but it's not brilliant.  It is too much craft and not enough concept.  I hate myself for saying that because I sound just like my art school professors who I resented so much, but maybe there is some truth to it.  Not that I should paint like a Dadaist, but maybe I could say something more, but what?  So, as I was gearing up for another day of painting dogs I googled randomly and up came Franz Marc.  (Did you know that the Grateful Dead randomly opened a dictionary and pointed and choose the first name that their finger landed on to name their band?  Try it sometime, it really works.  As a question then randomly open a book, or Google, and see what pops up.)

Ok, Here is the scoop on Marc.  We all know that German expressionists were searching for some sort of spiritual truth through their paintings right? Marc was different from the others however. Marc used two tricks to express a deeper emotional impact on his paintings.  First, he used color as a language to a deeper understanding, much as the way that we understand and respond to music.  The other trick was that his choice of subject was animals. Yes my pet portrait people... ANIMALS! For the first time in a very long time I was able to view animal portraits that were not purely representational but were narrative and spiritual.

"Franz Marc painted animals as they symbolized an age of innocence, an Eden before the Fall, free from the materialism and corruption of his own time. Animals in Marc's art are seldom painted in isolation. They are viewed as idealized creatures in perfect harmony with the natural world they inhabit. "  (

Ahhhh what a beautiful concept!  Here are a few of his paintings. I encourage you to google more examples, especially if you are a pet portrait artist or a painter of animals.

FRANZ MARC (1880 -1916)
'Foxes', 1913 (oil on canvas)

The Large Blue Horses (1911)

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