Portrait by Polly Gaillard
Photograph by Polly Gaillard, via Zoom. 4.11.2020

Mark Taggart

I was born in New Mexico, and grew up in Los Alamos. After moving to Virginia as a teenager, I graduated from the College of William and Mary, then studied painting at the New York Academy of Art in New York City, where I earned a MFA degree.

In school I learned how to make representational pictures, ones with realistic images of people and things. I used that approach to make narrative pictures which depicted scenes and told stories. At a certain point I began to emphasize the material qualities of paint rather than its ability to make realistic images, so I started making abstract pictures.

In all my paintings, I focused on creating well-designed, compelling pictorial compositions. I studied pictures by many different artists, and looked closely at the ways they manipulated and organized formal devices like shape, color, value, and line to construct their pictures. Understanding those devices expanded my own ability to compose, which made my pictures more visually interesting. I actually came to like making compositions more than I liked the process of painting, because painting a picture takes a long time, and I got bored easily.

A few years ago I received an incredible opportunity to change my living and working environment. My wife got a job in Cortona, Italy, so I left my painting studio behind and followed her to Tuscany. I brought very few working materials with me: a small box of art supplies, a computer, and a digital camera.

When I started making pictures in Italy, I therefore mostly created digital vector drawings and photographs. I quickly discovered that all the formal devices I used to compose interesting painted pictures could also be used to make interesting digital pictures.

So I learned more about the tools used to create digital work, especially digital photographs. I practiced a lot, read a lot, and created many completely digital compositions. Compared to making paintings, I could make digital works much more quickly, which allowed me to compose lots of pictures in a brief period of time…and kept me from getting bored.

Today I am fortunate to live in an place that encourages this way of making pictures. I spend hours in the studio, but I spend an equal amount of time walking in Italy, in both its cities and its landscapes, using photography and drawing to gather visual “material” for composing. Italy surrounds me with a distinctive, visually rich environment, full of complex layers of forms, shapes, colors, values, and lines — I always find plenty to work with. My compositions emphasize unique, dynamic shapes arranged in asymmetrical equilibrium relative to each other. I carefully manipulate value and color to create areas of emphasis balanced within the picture’s overall visual structure.

I have also developed new ways of sharing my pictures with those who enjoy them, both in digital format, and as printed objects for physical spaces. I still make paintings, but I take my time with them, watching them slowly evolve into a separate body of work.

I like to think I’ve entered my “mature period,” but opinions vary.