(Photos and story by Paul Kiefer)
During an art talk at The WAVE Art Gallery in the Whiteaker neighborhood, everybody is all smiles. They are listening to the artist describe his paintings and his process. His art depicts whimsical, yet macabre fantasy scenes, and features characters such as a wizard mixing potions, a t-rex drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and an old man riding on an alligator.
The artist responsible for these unique paintings is Mark Rogers, a self-taught local Eugene artist. He combines his love for fantasy novels and heavy metal within his paintings.
Illustrators fascinate Rogers. He loves the blog “Escape From Illustration Island” by Thomas James, and could look at James Gurney‘s work all day long, the man who illustrated the Dinotopia books. Rogers was an illustrator for a short period, but changed his mind when he took a painting class at Lane Community College.
“Painting felt so natural, and it felt like I found my calling,” Rogers says.
Since then, he has been painting for roughly three years.
Ashley Streig, a friend of the artist, calls the artwork “fantastic surrealism,” and Ryan Deiro says the artist is very talented, and that the paintings are very allegorical.
A typical day for Rogers, when he is not bartending at Jameson’s, consists of waking up at noon, doing a quick set of chores, and then painting for hours on end. Several days a week, he takes his creative process to local bars.
“I like to draw while I’m out drinking because I feel productive,” Rogers says. “Also, I feel like I wouldn’t leave the house or meet a single person if I didn’t drink.”
As a kid, Rogers did a lot of artwork, but fell out of the habit in his adolescence and early twenties. Now, he is back at it.
“Now that I am an adult, I’m actually a little kid again,” Rogers says.
Following his passion makes him feel young at heart.
All his paintings are also inspired by events in his own life. He picks something rather sad that is happening to him and gives it a cheery, yet grim fairytale world feel.
For example, the painting “Leaving Home” that features an old man riding on alligator with a house in the background was based off of Rogers’ house being foreclosed. He had to leave his home and find a new one.
“Foreclosure is a sad topic, but alligators are cool, so it helps to lighten up the mood,” Rogers says.
Some of his favorite character types to paint are (young hipster) women and old people. He believes that women soften up a painting. With old people, he can have fun giving them all sorts of wrinkles or age spots and making them look creepy and decrepit.
Rogers has been working out an ethos in his head for his paintings.
“There are two worlds. Our world, and a world known as the Commonwealth which includes fairies and other fantasy creatures. Sometimes creatures from one world cross over into the other,” Rogers says.
The crossing over of worlds is reflected in his paintings.
Inspiration for these worlds and the characters that inhabit them comes from a number of sources. Rogers’ favorite time period is the Northern Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries. Some of his favorite artwork comes from this period, including pieces by Gerard David and Albrecht Dürer. More contemporary artists are Easo Andrews and James Gurney.
In addition, Rogers will listen to music while he creates his artwork. He listens to heavy metal, such as Slayer or High on Fire, while drafting up his painting idea, and then switches to fantasy novel audio books while painting on canvas.
Often, the rough drawing and the finished product will differ from one another. In the painting “Their Perpetual Soiree,” the monkey up in the tree was an afterthought, and Rogers actually sketched it on a separate piece of tracing paper and taped it to the original drawing. There were also empty beer bottles on the ground in the drawing that didn’t make it into the painting.
“It’s fun to compare the drawing to the finished product and see the changes,” Rogers says.
Roger’s show, “Death Potion” runs until November 19th at The WAVE, at 547 Blair Blvd, and the paintings on display observe the recession and its relationship with hopelessness and drinking.
Sabrina Ridge, owner of The WAVE (formerly known as the Voyeur), met Rogers after being introduced to his artwork and wanted to feature him in her new gallery. She hopes to book him for another gallery show in 2013.
“His work is just fabulous,” Ridge says.