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Don’t just look at these paintings

  • Written by Andrew Hamlin
Circles Mark Birkey
“Circles” by Mark Berkey
“Please Do Not Touch,” or sometimes, just plain “Do Not Touch,” runs a sign we see at many museums and gallery exhibits, next to the paintings on display.

But this doesn’t sit well with up-and-coming Woodinville painter Mark Berkey.

“For the most part, I’m an experimental acrylic painter messing about with color and texture to create a remarkable, interactive experience,” Berkey explains.  “Most people who see my art desire to touch or even hug my paintings. At art shows, I encourage viewers to hold, investigate and interact with my paintings because when they do, their eyes light up with curiosity. This connection feeds my enthusiasm and ignites my creativity.”

Berkey’s work will be featured in the Best Of The Northwest art and fine craft show, March 23-24 at the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, Pier 91 in Seattle.

“I have participated in a wide variety of shows and festivals around Seattle for nearly four years,” the painter remarks.  “Spring Best of the Northwest show provides me the opportunity to make more connections with new faces in a lively and impressive indoor facility along the Seattle waterfront.”

The painter moved to Woodinville four years ago, after spending time in South Hadley, Mass., Olympia, Wash., and most recently Richland, Wash. He describes his new hometown as “quiet, filled with wineries and close to larger cities. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that there is money flowing around here and it is that stream that artists follow.”

He built his first real painting studio, situated in his two-car garage, in Woodinville, because “my wife was tired of me painting and making a mess in the house.”

Berkey also praises “The people and the opportunities” in Woodinville. “There are many great art groups in the area willing to help artists establish their careers. I started selling my artwork while living in Richland.  I participated in shows at wineries, festivals, galleries and coffee shops from Walla Walla to Ellensburg.”

He did not always work with brush and canvas.

“In Olympia,” he recalls, “I worked in a ceramic studio and a stained glass studio.  Loved ceramics but switched to painting because it doesn’t require a kiln and I could paint at home.”

He started painting Christmas cards in watercolor, “then switched to oil (heavy Impasto style) and finally settled on acrylic which can be used like watercolor and oil and it is a lot easier to clean of my hands.

“I use gallery canvas with deep edges about 1.5-2” because it helps to build dimension.  I paint the edges and even the back of most of my work so viewers will be curious and want to investigate the entire surface.  I use Liquidtex and Golden acrylic paints because they have deep heavily pigmented, saturated colors.”

Asked about his artistic influences and processes, Berkey admits, “I am a messy abstract painter like Jackson Pollock, but my paintings come from within my imagination. The physical, organic world has a strong influence on me. My broad interest in the natural sciences can be seen in my images. Some people may see intergalactic space while others may see the invisible world of micro chemistry.  I allow my actions to be influenced spontaneously as I dance around the canvas listening to music and flicking, squirting or dropping paint onto the canvas.

“I have a daughter in college and a son at Woodinville High School,” relates Berkey when asked to describe his home life. “I provide elder care and enjoy gardening but like to spend most of my day in my home studio listening to music, making a mess and having fun.”

Berkey describes his aspirations for the future thusly: “I want to continue painting in acrylic but I want to do much more! I want to take more classes in art and the business of art. I want to be able to work or volunteer with more nonprofit organizations   in the area.  I want to continue donating my paintings to worthy causes.I have a kiln now and would like to get back into ceramics at some point. The idea of creating sculpture for public spaces or private collections appeals to me as well. Mostly, I want to continue to engage with the viewer and provide opportunities for exploration and discovery.”

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