Interview with Mark Horst

light around the body, 24 x 36 in.

New Mexico artist Mark Horst creates poetic work in oil that captivate and hold your attention. His expressive natural composition, use of color and shading, make for a moving interpretative experience for the viewer. I continuously flipped between paintings with the subject in the same pose, which Mark altered the color-light schemes from warm to cool and the painting took on an entirely fresh and evocative meaning.

art studio of Mark Horst

EIL writer Michael Accorsi has a lovely chat with artist Mark Horst. Here is what he had to say:

Michael Accorsi: What is the art scene like in Albuquerque?

Mark Horst: This place is full of artists and they’re good too and moving in lots of directions. The street scene is good—some great mural work. Lot’s of talented hip hop painters—whose work regularly gets wiped out by the mayor’s minions. Traditional landscape painting is big here and lots of people do it well.

A lot of artists can’t afford to live in Santa Fe. So Albuquerque—about 60 miles from Santa Fe—has a close connection to the Santa Fe scene—which is where the big galleries congregate.

MA: Where do you do most of your painting? What would you say is the best modification or change you have made to your studio over the years?

Mark Horst: I have a studio in an old factory and I’m there most days. I’m a firm believer in boredom as a form of creative motivation. So I need to spend enough time with my work to get over being impressed or intimidated by it. So maybe the best change I’ve made is not to change much of anything.

Narcissus redeemed, oil on canvas, 24 x 48 in.

MA: Can you tell us the methods you use to start a large work?: (sketches, smaller mock-ups, etc.)

Mark Horst: For me a large painting is often easier than a small one—I just find the gesture and the ability to move more paint around helps me. So I used to start with small studies and then move progressively bigger, but now, often, it’s the opposite.

I still like drawing a lot. And I don’t at all mind drawing into paint. Sometimes I use charcoal in wet paint. Lately I’ve been dragging my pastels through paint. I don’t know if it’s a good idea, but sometimes when the paint is getting hard to work into, I can’t resist a good saturated pastel.

quiet places no.15., oil on canvas,  40 x 30 in.

MA: What aspect of creating your art has evolved the most over the past 3-4 years?

Mark Horst: I guess I’m more patient with my work now. Four years ago, I’d work on a painting for an afternoon and if it wasn’t finished I’d probably paint over it. Now, I’ve found ways of keeping a painting alive or open for much longer. I’m not sure that makes them better, but it means I have more chances to get them off life support.

MA: Your brilliant overlapping of color and strokes that you use to create edges and lines.. how much of that is intentional, how much is spontaneous?

Mark Horst: Can’t I be intentionally spontaneous? Hockney says spontaneity takes a lot of preparation!

So I do have a kind of dogmatic belief in the importance of destroying an image in order to save it. At every point in the process of painting, I’m working on ways to subvert my attempts to get everything in it’s right place. After working to render an image accurately, I might brush it into a blurred, Richter-esque mess. Or I might use a scrapper to distort and blend all the parts and pieces that seem to be all isolated and distinct. There are lots of ways to destroy and image.

After doing my Dionysian best, I stand back, survey the battlefield and try to find a way to move forward.

light no.6., oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in.

MA: Your figurative work has fantastic expression and emotion. I most of all enjoy the sense of transparency, incompleteness of some parts of the figure. If applicable, do any art critics question your strategy with your work? (perhaps from someone who’s artistic tastes evolve around realism?) What is your response to this type of feedback?

Mark Horst: Well so far I haven’t attracted much critical attention, but I had a client in my studio the other day and he was looking at a painting and asked me if I often painted amputees! I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about until I realized he thought one my models was missing a leg.

Can I just say, though, that in my opinion “realism” is not very real. We don’t see things in this crisp, hyper-static state. When we see, we see motion, we see distortion, we see bits and fragments that we hold together with memory and an understanding of the world and how it works and what we can expect of it.

I think it was Charles Hawthorne [“Hawthorne on Painting”—a great book] who said that “a painting should always let the eye do some of the work.” Nothing is more tedious to me than a painting that has resolved every ambiguity.

The other thing I’d say is that realist are interested in getting everything into their paintings whereas, I’m always trying to take things away—to eliminate details that don’t support my overall goals.

four pears no.1, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in.

MA: Which artistic influences do you reference from the most?

Mark Horst: I try to look at everybody, but I do return over and over to Rembrandt, Velazquez, Chardin. I’ve always liked Diebenkorn and Uglow. Among our contemporaries I often look at Richter, Garcia-Lopez and Marlene Dumas. Sophie Jodoin, Alex Kanevsky are always great. My teacher Mike Karaken is a master of perceptual painting.

the secret life no.2, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.

MA: How much has the internet and social network created interest around your work?

Mark Horst: Well it sure helps. Flickr was my life-line to the outside world for years. Before I showed my work to my own mother, I was posting stuff on Flickr and, you know, if you say nice things about other people’s work, they’ll do the same for you. And I can’t tell you how important that was when I was taking baby steps as an artist.

Mark Horst on Escape Into Life

Mark Horst’s Website


Michael Accorsi is an artist, painter working from his studio in Northern California. He writes about art and studio updates in his blog Plotlines Art Journal



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.