Mark Mehaffey – “Making it Personal”


Mehaffey 02Mark Mehaffey began his presentation by explaining that he places his various approaches to painting into different compartments. For example, he paints plein air every Wednesday morning, though he doesn’t consider himself a plein air painter. His two main “compartments” are representational painting and abstract or non-objective painting.

Mehaffey 01When doing representational work, Mehaffey begins with a plan. He takes many photos and chooses those that grab his interest, sometimes a personal connection or a particular shape or value.

He then crops the photo and makes a value sketch with pencil where he assigns values and decides exactly what he wants the painting to look like. Mehaffey 04Mehaffey’s non-objective work depends on the elements and principles of design.

His approach to abstract work is that “the painting must be entertaining and it must please myself.” He encourages artists to ask themselves, “Who are you painting for? What are you doing and why? It’s important to figure out a way to paint for yourself.”

Mehaffey 03He began his demonstration by applying red watercolor paint directly from the tube on yupo paper, explaining that he likes the slippery surface because it has textural possibilities and lifts easily. He placed a variety of textured materials on the painted surface including rug grippers, corrugated cardboard and stamps. When the paint was nearly dry he removed the objects revealing texture. He lifted some paint with a scraper.

Mehaffey began a second painting by applying a neutral color to a surface which he had prepared with an underpainting. Lifting the paint he revealed a fish, emphasizing his advice to “make it personal.” Mehaffey loves to fish. Mehaffey 05Mehaffey’s presentation was punctuated with several pieces of advice:

  • Set a play date for yourself every few weeks. Do something you have never done before.
  • The only way to get better is to change.
  • Paintings creates synapses in your brain. Scientists have proven this.
  • Don’t follow other people’s rules.
  • The only person I have to satisfy is myself.
  • The secret to creating award-winning paintings is HARD WORK.
  • Connect your personal life with your art.