For all the annoying aspects of social media there is always something positive that can be discovered while you're clicking around. For instance, finding out that an ex-boyfriend got fat, discovering a band you like is playing a show or learning that someone you know is very talented. In this case, Facebook tuned me on to a painter that creates art that is beautiful and original.
Little did I know that this artist is kind of a big deal. Upon further research, I learned that his client list includes Girl, DC Shoes, Quiksilver, Transworld, O'Neill, Alternative Tentacles, Epitaph Records, Alkaline Trio, Against Me! and Wilco. A pretty amazing list for anyone to be able to boast.
I emailed him and asked if I could do a feature on him so I could share his amazing art with the people that are nice enough to read what I have to say. What I discovered was that he is a sweet, kind, creative and talented person who has already done a lot and has a big future ahead of him. We also go the privilege to share our logo on a poster that he created for Wild in the Streets. Now I suppose I get to brag that we are part of his body of work, and once you see what he can do, you will understand why I think that is so great.
Mark Penxa definitely has a unique style to his painting. I am obsessed with this bee print I spotted when going through his pictures. I also love that he works on skateboard decks. A cool skateboard deck is such a bad ass thing to have, and eventually ruin from overuse and grinding. From his personal charm to artistic style he's all around impressive. Here's what he had to say:
HipInDetroit- How did you get started as an artist, what is your background? Are you self-taught?
Mark- I am self taught, yes. Well, that’s not entirely true. I took a “How To Draw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” class when I was 9 and some drawing classes at CCS when I was in grade school.
My first real job came In the Summer of 1991, I was at a camp for skateboarding and I sprained my ankle and I wasn't able to skate. To keep my sanity and not die from boredom I was drawing all day long in my sketchbook and taking photographs. One day a counselor looked at my drawings and introduced me to Mike Ternasky, who was the owner of a few different skate brands and he told me to call him once I got home. About a month later he got me my first job in skateboarding when I was 15. I stopped after a year because I didn't like who I was working for at the time and I wanted to concentrate on music. I was doing a lot of graphic design work for bands, but that was about the only artwork is was doing at the time. Then, in 2004 Andy Jenkins from Girl Skateboards sent me an email and asked me if I wanted to draw a board graphic for Rick Howard and I've been drawing for them ever since, whenever they need me.
HipInDetroit- What made you decide that you wanted to be a painter?
Mark- I didn’t really have any desire to be a painter until my mid to late twenties. Tony Larson, an artist at Girl at the time, really pushed me to explore painting and try new things. I had painted before, but it was mostly just illustrations on canvas. Nothing that I would consider “fine art” by any means. Once I learned about abstraction and expressionism, I was hooked and knew that I wanted to work towards being a serious painter.
HipInDetroit- Why do you always cover your face in pictures?
Mark- I’m terribly shy and I really hate having my picture taken because I don’t think I’m very good looking to begin with. I don’t know why covering my mouth makes me feel safe, I really have a hard time eating in front of people and I will usually have my hand in front of my face the entire time. It’s weird. I don’t know where it comes from.
HipInDetroit- Tell me about the Stealing Signs project? Where did you come up with idea?
Mark- Stealing Signs began as a “Thank You” card for my Grandfather who had become ill. Baseball was the one thing we always talked about and the idea was to create a new way that we could still have these conversations. The project is an illustrated history of sports lore, but told through the stories that were told to us by our parents/grandparents.
For example, when I was a kid my Dad would tell me stories about how great of a hockey player Maurice Richard was. The way he described him to me and how passionate he was about making sure I understood the greatness of this person left me wide eyed and painting this visual in my head of a superhero on skates, 7ft tall, bleeding all over the place with the Montreal logo hanging by a thread off of his sweater (jersey). Completely untrue and it wasn’t until later that I was able to reference all these stories with YouTube to get an accurate visual, but for me, what I had in my head is what stuck with me.
Since I started the project in 2005 a lot of people have shared their own stories with me about their Dads and Grandfathers and the stories that were handed down to them. So, I thought it would be great to reach out to anyone who was willing to share and illustrate them all and put them online.
HipInDetroit- What is the goal for the Stealing Signs project?
Mark- Once it is finished, I would really love to put it all into a book and have all the stories written out. I think that would really be the best way to present it and enjoy it. So, hopefully I can make that happen at some point. That would be a great way to end it all.
HipInDetroit- Tell me a little bit about the paintings that you are selling to raise money for charity?
Mark- If I’m not drawing sports related pictures or skateboard graphics, I am just drawing random things that are in my head. Lately, I’ve been into the idea of animals and the idea of cross breeding them in this fun sort of way. It was received really well and has been getting a lot of attention. So, I’ve decided to use that momentum and do something positive with the series. I decided that 20% of the paintings are going to go towards purchasing specially designed oxygen masks for animals for the Detroit Fire Department and EMS, who have been using their own oxygen masks to revive animals on site because of a lack of funding. Human masks don’t always work for reviving cats or dogs with a smaller snout, or no snout at all. The kits are less than $100 for a set of three different sizes and I couldn’t believe that something so inexpensive wasn’t readily available and on every truck, so I decided I would put that money aside to purchase them myself and donate them to the individual fire houses. In the grand scheme of things and the current situation, this is miniscule but, hopefully it can help and I am more than happy to do it.
HipInDetroit- What is the charity and how does one purchase the paintings?
Mark- There is no actual charity set up. This is purely grassroots, but I will be posting receipts and photos as soon as we are able to purchase the masks and start delivering them to the different departments.
There is an Etsy store set up and a Facebook page devoted to the project which will be updated constantly as this moves along. The more people that are involved and talking about it, the better. The idea of making sure every fire and EMS truck has at least one kit on board is not too insurmountable and I think we can make this happen quickly.
HipInDetroit- What was your involvement with the “We Are Here” art gallery?
Mark- I was a co-curator along with Allison and Dave Graw. We Are Here was an art exhibition of artists from Detroit whose work we loved and felt wasn’t receiving the proper attention in the art world, but more importantly, it was meant to be a conversation starter amongst artists in the city to talk about what we are all doing and how we can help one another. In our eyes, it was a great success. Over 700 people attended our one night only show and we look forward to doing it again in the Fall.
HipInDetroit- I love the flyer that you whipped up for Wild In the Streets, how do you make something like that? Where did you learn how to make art on the computer so well?
Mark- Most of that was drawn by hand and colored on the computer. I like to work in a more traditional way just because it is more rewarding for me, but learning how to do that just comes from trial and error. I’ve never taken a class or anything like that. I just played around with the programs and used them in a way that works for me.
HipInDetroit- What is the goal for you and your art in the future?
Mark- I never really have a goal in place as far as where I want to be with art. I just want to always make sure I am doing good, relevant work. To study and practice as much as I can is always on my day-to-day “to do” list but, to do more gallery exhibitions overseas is something I would like to focus on next. After that, it is anyone’s guess.
Thanks again for your time Mark. It was awesome getting to know you a little better! Can’t wait to see what you do in the future!