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Painting on found wood, with each piece having qualities of grain, texture, and decay is always an organic and intuitive process. The experience is much like surfing for me. The pursuit of a beautiful line, in a changing environment, is exhilarating. Add to it the power of color, shape, and composition and I’ll stay at it for hours. The notion of observing what is right in front of us and following it in new directions is at the heart of these paintings.

The process of using the reclaimed wood involves hunting for it in the landfill or elsewhere, cleaning repeatedly until the piece can be painted on. The surface quality serves to suggest a landscape or seascape. I hope this art evokes the idea of new life and reworking the possible. From the landfill to the wall, this journey is very satisfying. The atmospheric aspect to these images points to the momentary reality they represent. When we see a beautiful scene, it is in flux, it is moving, and it is alive.

To describe my inspiration, I think I’d have to point to the fact that my father was a mechanic his whole life and I grew up around piles of random tools, machinery, and broken “projects.” We’d go to the dump regularly, and I was wowed. It was exciting to see these mountains of things, but it was also depressing too. So much waste!

My dad taught me to be resourceful and work hard. We fixed everything – if I wanted to drive, I had to work on a car to make it run. I always liked playing around in the garage taking things apart just for the hell of it. I learned to avoid consulting the manual, just try something. This spirit of the tinkerer built in me the confidence to mess around with tools and materials. This background, along with a love of drawing has led me to seek different media to make paintings. Part of the reason I use the wood-burning pen to draw is to express commitment to the markings. It’s as if the found wood had something to express in its texture and wood-grain, and I was then “tattooing” my part. It’s a dance between the “former tree” and me.

I have been making art my whole life, but didn’t get serious until the birth of my first son 22 years ago. I wanted to be sure as I became a father that I was living the life I really wanted, to be an example of the importance of living by one’s ideals and passions. As a teacher for 29 years, I have tried to live by my ideals before anything else. In my classroom, I often teach about trusting ourselves, our creative capacities, and following our intuition. When we get in this “zone,” our creative openness, it will lead us well. I hope that these artworks show that my zone has worked for me.



Mark Yanowsky resides in Santa Cruz, California. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and they have two boys. Besides painting, Mark is a public high school art teacher. Mark has a love for the ocean, and in his spare time, you will most likely find him surfing. To Inquire, go here

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