Photo by Matt Rose
All the world’s an inspiration to painter Mark Bettis: buildings, trees, graffiti, clouds, people, billboards, bears. He lashes together such disparate subjects with color and texture and tremendous physicality. The results are sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative, and sometimes a blend of styles. But the paintings are always bold and uplifting, lighting up any room.
“I am not a gentle painter,” Bettis says, “which is why I mostly paint on wood panels.”
Beginning with oils and cold wax medium, Bettis builds up multiple thick layers on wood to create fields of texture. Such additives as marble dust and sand further enhance the background. Then he can work back into the layers of pigment to reveal different color combinations beneath. Scratching, cutting, or smoothing with great energy, Bettis lets his paintings evolve organically.
He observes: “Inspiration comes when I least expect it. But when it hits me I can’t wait to start painting!”
That verve, together with great technical skill, comes to the fore during Bettis’s small-group classroom workshops. These intensive one-day sessions give students the basics of handling cold wax and other media so they can pursue their own creative adventures.
Mark Bettis grew up in Chicago but later chose sunny Sarasota, Florida, as his home base. He attended the Ringling School of Art and Design, concentrating on computer animation, and then went to work as a designer in the advertising industry.
His true love was studio art, though. Bettis seized an opportunity to relocate to Asheville, North Carolina, where he joined the ranks of talented artists occupying the nooks and crannies of the evolving River Arts District (RAD).
That move to RAD turned out to be a professional catalyst for Bettis, and his Mark Bettis Studio and Gallery in the historic Wedge Studios Building today features not just his own artist expressions, but the creations of other sought-after artists as well.
Galleries across the United States have shown the paintings of Mark Bettis, and themed exhibitions of his work are ongoing at his own color-saturated gallery.