With Instincts Like Vermeer & Vuillard

Continuing the long line of intimists from Vermeer to Vuillard, Mark Karnes makes an alluring world out of the quietest aspects of his domestic life. Like all great painters of the near-at-hand, Karnes' work reminds us that beauty is to be found everywhere, at both expected and unexpected moments, and with every turn of the head.

Interior With Sailboat by Mark Karnes, oil painting, 2005. 24 x 36.
Interior With Sailboat by Mark Karnes, oil painting, 2005. 24 x 36.
Adapted from an article by Ephraim Rubenstein.

Karnes' acrylic-painting sketches are generally painted alla prima, in one sitting, whereas his more finished paintings develop slower. For those, he usually starts out with a surface toned with a neutral raw-umber wash. Even with the most complicated pieces, such as Interior With Sailboat, the artist starts out with almost no preparatory drawing. What is of interest to him at the beginning is the large division of light and dark. He then starts to introduce temperature changes, thinking about what parts of the light are warm and what parts cool.

At any given point, he does only as much drawing as he needs to help him place the color. Only toward the end does he pin down the specifics of the drawing. This ensures that his paintings are primarily about tone, color, and light, rather than their ostensible subject.

The particular voyage of Interior With Sailboat is taken in midwinter, when the toy sailboat generally sits in dry dock on the table. The cold winter light, rendered so beautifully in the painting, bathes the attic room that Karnes uses as a studio. The model sailboat–the subtle centerpiece of the whole painting–suggests that all is quiet, while the beam of direct light, momentarily hitting the far wall, reminds us that time is passing and that the winds will change.

For more insights on the power and mutability of acrylic painting, consider Acrylic Solutions. You'll find new and challenging acrylic-painting lessons and tips on how to create art pieces that look and feel contemporary. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.