Artist Highlight: Marc Anderson

Light is the key to Marc Anderson’s plein air paintings. You might recognize the Wisconsin-based painter’s work from WBCA’s Into Nature plein air exhibit, where Marc’s piece “House of Refuge” took the top prize. Judges commented on atmosphere and light. “You have to appreciate the temperature changes in this piece,” judge Dan Wiemer said, contrasting the warmth of the rocks with the cool color of the water. “This piece has so much atmosphere.” Frank Zeller, judging alongside Dan, extolled the simplicity of the piece. “He’s trying to capture an essence, a feeling of light coming through fog.”

Marc didn’t always know he would be a plein air painter. In fact, he began studying industrial design in college before changing to illustration. As an illustrator, he focused on political satire, but eventually he turned to plein air painting. Those skills he learned earlier in his career proved to be invaluable. “My illustration background has informed a lot of how I operate as a painter,” Marc said. “As an illustrator, I typically had tight deadlines, and that forced me to work quickly and efficiently. Painting en plein air requires that exact skillset. It also gave me a great foundation of drawing skills which I believe to be essential for representational painting.”

What is it about plein air that continues to attract Marc to the medium? The most important factor for him is authentically capturing light. The values and colors that can be captured through plein air don’t come across through a photograph. “I feel a much more profound connection to the landscape if I’m actually standing in it while painting,” Marc said. “While part of that is just for me and my personal enjoyment, some of that can manifest in the painting itself. Whether it be quick, gestural brushstrokes because the light is changing too quickly or perhaps the scene is particularly calming and my mark making and color choices reflect that, being on location definitely has an effect on how I paint.”

Along with his studio work, Marc will begin teaching a virtual class at White Bear Center for the Arts this winter, focusing on that all-important light. You can find information about his class, titled “Painting the Light: A Virtual Landscape Painting Workshop,” in the upcoming winter catalog. In his class, Marc hopes to cater towards a variety of students’ experiences. “Whether a student is painting as a hobby or if they want to make it a career, I want to empower them with the tools to make that happen,” he said. “But, of course, painting isn’t just about a finished product. It’s about the experience, the ups and downs, and the catharsis of making a thing. Classes should be that way too. While I want it to be about sharing ideas, it can also be about meeting fellow artists, sharing a laugh and making friends.”

Lately, Marc has been finding moments of peace and gratitude through his painting. “Being grateful doesn’t mean putting on rose-colored glasses and pretending that everything is okay. Nor does it absolve me of the responsibility to make things better when I have the opportunity to do so. It’s more that gratitude prevents a state of inaction or paralysis,” he said. “Not only that, but it can get me excited to take action and be proactive in any regard. For instance, when I think about how fortunate I am to be able to paint, never mind do it for a living, it would be downright shameful not to get excited about it!”

Click here for more information about Marc Anderson’s upcoming workshop

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