Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mark Karnes

November 25, 2009 by  
Filed under contemporary realism, drawings, interiors, notable painters

Mark Karnes Interior With Sugar Bowl 2000, acrylic on board, 25 x 26 inches

Over the past 30 years Mark Karnes has been painting and drawing in his Baltimore home using his familiar daily surroundings as a starting point of his subject matter. He paints neighborhood views through the many windows of his home or interiors and still-life. But his subject is often more about the light itself than simply depicting a room with furniture, as his home has 30 windows, the resulting play of light through the rooms is particularly engaging. The interiors are not just formal constructs but are compelling compositions that explore geometry and color sensation to transform comfortable household views into meditative poetry. I am also particularly awed by his exquisite drawing and tonal sensitivity in his ink on paper drawings, which he makes as studies for painting ideas as well as to simply make something wonderful.

Dining Room & Living Room 2006, acrylic on board

In an article from 8 Feb 2008, American Artist, “Mark Karnes: Intimate Paintings and Drawings” by Ephraim Rubenstein (excellent article that goes into great detail and intelligent insight into Mark’s paintings and process- very much worth the read)

A quote from this article states:

“Like all great painters of the near-at-hand, Karnes’ work reminds us that beauty is to be found everywhere, at both expected and unexpected moments, and with every turn of the head. In the first of his Letters to a Young Poet, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke formulated this aesthetic challenge: “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” Almost in direct response to Rilke’s words, Karnes has been making paintings and drawings in and around his northern Baltimore home for more than 30 years. “My work is about my connection to my surroundings. The subjects of my pictures are things that are familiar and immediate to me.”

Alley Morning 2003-2005, oil on board

Later in the article, Ephraim Rubenstein says;

“…The painter Pissarro often talked about searching through different hotel rooms, looking out the windows, trying to find the perfect view. Over the years, Karnes’ vision has become ruthlessly democratic, giving up the idea that there is the perfect view. He has learned to accept and appreciate precisely what is before him, to become the poet that Rilke demanded. He has concluded that it doesn’t matter what the view is. In order to be as free as possible from preconceptions and expectations, he believes that the whole endeavor has to be more open, more arbitrary. “I get in trouble when I try to get too picky about ‘what it is’.”

Golf Boards 1998, oil on board

From Mark Karnes website:

“Mark Karnes received his MFA in painting from Yale University in 1972 and his BFA in painting from Philadelphia College of Art. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council as well as a Fulbright-Hayes grant for study in Florence, Italy. His work has been widely exhibited both nationally and internationally and can be found in numerous private and museum collections, including the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Karnes lives in Baltimore, MD, where he has taught drawing and painting at Maryland Institute College of Art since 1974”

Here are a few of his wonderful drawings.

self portrait ink on paper, 2006

Chair with sunlight ink on paper, 2004

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9 Responses to “Mark Karnes”
  1. Linda says:

    I really like Mark Karnes work. I first saw his work a year ago when I took my niece to the Maryland Institute for an interview. There was a beautiful painting of his in the admissions office. I asked the receptionist about the artist and then looked up some of his work. From the painting I saw (and the reproductions) I felt that the pieces have a compelling disquiet about them. To me, they address the idea of time, memory and loss. You are right Larry, his pieces are very poetic. I would love to see a show of his work.

  2. Very beautiful, sensitive, work!

  3. mark Fehlman says:

    Great having lunch with you today. I really enjoyed several of your links and especially Mark Karnes work. His color pallet is so subtle.

  4. wow, gorgeous, quiet understated work! thanks for sharing or i might not have seen this. great blog in general–just discovered it today and will be back regularly for sure!! thanks for posting all this.

  5. I discovered Mark’s work a couple of years ago. I have wanted to see more of it and learn more about this extremely sensitive painter. I absolutely love this poetic work! Thank you for featuring him on this website and for giving me another source to read more about him.
    Kathy A. Moore

  6. Mark Swann says:

    Incredible sensitivity reminescent of Balthus, Edwin Dickinnson, Hopper, Bonnard, and Morandi. Just out of military service, I studied art at MICA in the late 70s / early 80s and Mr Karnes was, without doubt, nonpareiled in his fresh approach to drawing and painting. My favorite teacher. I really learned to “see” during his classes and began grasping space with confidence. It’s amazing to see his work as developed through the years – true quiet little masterpieces. Regards to Mr Karnes and where is he represented?

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for your comment Mark. You are fortunate to have studied with Mark Karnes – a terrific painter to help introduce you to really seeing. Good question about where he is represented, I thought I had a link but I was mistaken – sorry I don’t know. However, his website (linked in the article) has contact info and I suspect he would welcome an email from you. He was very friendly and helpful in the couple of emails I had with him.


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  1. […] exceptions.) The ordinary and everyday reigned, a well-appointed living room or family room from Mark Karnes glimpsed through a pre-Depression-era curved inner doorway, (which was probably my favorite […]

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