Odyssey of a Self Taught Artist

Paintings by Marc Simmons   








Marc Simmons

Featuring:Variation on a Theme






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I work as an accountant by day and I paint at night and on the weekends. If I am able to spend 20 hours a week in my studio - I am doing well. I have been doing this for the past 18 years. It routinely happens, just as I am getting into the flow of my work and making progress - it's 5 pm on Sunday. I have to stop and prepare myself to switch gears from the Art-Head to the Accountant-Head.

Each painting I complete is a discovery of technique and process. In order not to forget what I learned, I keep a detailed journal of the color combinations I use and the problems I have discovered. In this way I am able to come back much later and pick up where I left off.

Without formal training I am at the mercy of my own mistakes that force me to stumble upon the secrets so readily available to students of art.

The Accountant: Picture Essays in Multiplicity was my first attempt at painting. This painting was constructed by drawing the image on a sheet of paper and photocopying it six times. I then pasted the 20 lb. rag on to posterboard - now I had an outline to follow - from that point I painted in the image.

At that time I was working as an accountant for a hardware company and thought of myself as a serious poet who recently was accepted in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Accountant: Picture Essays in Multiplicity was my bridge between poetry and painting. After many years of studying and writing poetry - I stopped.

Rabbit by the Sea came soon after, then Giraffe and Child - both early attempts at portraiture. Poor Ben and Vanity came next. Vanity was worked from a photograph. I became very interested in patterns and details. Her hair was especially hard to figure out. I decided upon using heavy strokes of paint, creating an impasto for the texture of curls.

The idea of The Last Supper came about when my wife held up a small rectangular piece of wood and said, "put the Last Supper on this" - instead I made it 5 x 8 feet. It took four years to complete. I researched every Last Supper I could find at the University of Colorado's art library. I found there are many Last Suppers - it's a dialogue between painters throughout the last 2000 years.

I tried to be true to the period in all detail, (robes, buildings, landscape), but the lace tablecloth came from a pattern on my dinning room table, the composite columns and marble were both around 50 BC and the tile pattern on the floor came from the Middle Ages. The last supper was my real first step into painting. I developed a technique of applying an image to the canvas and the basic understanding of applying acrylic opaque paint on canvas.

Gilbert's Bar-Mitzvah came from an old black and white photo taken in Brooklyn, NY circa 1930's of my grandfather Marty, my grandmother Flo, my father Dick, and my uncle Gilbert (in the forefront). I was attracted to the photo because Flo looked like she was just goosed; and Dick, Gilbert and Marty were smirking at her "suggesting something happened just before the camera clicked." Knowing my family as I do, this scenario would not be out of character for them.

Girls at the Beach and The Last Supper both were posed as if frozen in that moment, just before the photographer takes the snapshot.

Girls at the Beach was inspired by my teenage daughter (the one on the far left) and her girlfriends. The portraits are a composite of her friends. The bathing suit designs came from sifting through and cutting out numerous bathing suit ads in magazines and newspapers all to my wife's chagrin.

Recently this painting was banned from display at the State of Connecticut Offices of the Workers Compensation Commission, "as demeaning to women and inappropriate."

Artemus and Buster at the Cafe Europa was, among other things, my homage to Tediousness and the Black Line. Notice the 14th Century Dutch Tile reproductions - every stem is outlined in black.

Six years after I completed this painting, I returned to it armed with my newfound technique of glazing. In the summer of 1996 I was inspired to create deeper shadows on the tile and deeper colors around the perimeter of the black lines - After coming out of a haze of euphoria for two months I realized I was destroying the painting and proceeded for another month to correct and erase my mistakes.

I was driven by the spell of glazing and all its wondrous subtleties of color. I discovered a new way to apply paint - in layers, (layers and layers and layers).

At this same time I became fascinated with the black line. What is the black line? Why is it there? I knew the black line is simply the deepest part of the painting. It's where all color derives from and similarly recedes to. It does more than stand out.

Black Line #1 and Black Line #2 are experiments. What if I took a small section of Artemus and Buster at the Cafe Europa and magnified it to the size of the original - that is - to the point of abstraction, would the new work project the same feelings? What came out was Black Line #1and Black Line #2. I found I was not sure which way to hang them - each side gave a different feeling - I decided to hang them in the exact position as the original. I was hoping these enlargement would give off the essence of the original painting - I think they did.

Dick's Tie is also a derivative of Gilbert's Bar Mitzvah.

Hanuman Pectoral Disk was based on the golden pectoral disks worn by the pre-Columbian chiefs of Panama in the 8th to 10th century. ("they wore golden disks the size of Frisbees on their chests. The disks were said to represent the sun god, and in the blazing sunlight, as myth has it, they shown so brightly that they blinded the enemy"). "Each disk was lavishly embossed with fantastic faces and ferocious figures that are believed to have mythic significance."

I took this concept and applied it to Hanuman, the Hindu deity introduced in The Ramayana, whose great strength and powers helped retrieve Sita to Ram from the terrible clutches of Ravana. The monkey Hanuman signifies Devotion; and the Hanuman Pectoral Disk illustrates how devoted Hanuman is to Ram and Sita - they are kept in his heart - shown to us by tearing a hole in his chest with his fingers exposing Ram and Sita.

I applied my new technique of layering many glazed and clear coats of acrylic on top of each other. I found I had more control over the definition of skin tone and texture. This was the first painting of a human (semi-human) form derived from my new method.

Bob & Puss Puss in the Garden is a work-in-progress. This painting was inspired by a photograph of my friend Bob Carlton and his cat Puss Puss sitting in the backyard of Mulberry Cottage in Boulder, Colorado. In May 1991 Bob died of AIDS. On his deathbed he left instructions for me to have his shirt - he knew I was going to start this painting. I have been working on Bob (on and off) for over four years. This painting was started using my old opaque method - now I am applying my new method by relating to the work I've done up to that point - as an undercoat.






























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all images on this site are the copyright property of Marc Simmons and may not be reproduced in any way without permission. Marley Productions 1979-2005, all rights reserved.













































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