Soft fields and luscious greenery flattered the walls of Waneta Blake Library's art gallery during the cold month of January. The fantastic oil paintings provided by Jim Marks were developed entirely in his backyard.
Walking through the gallery, onlookers experienced what all four seasons look like right outside Jim's door. The majority of the paintings sported green trees, hay fields, and blue skies, while a few others hosted drifts of bright snow and cloudy horizons.
The artist had a chance to meet with many admiring fans at the opening ceremony of the “My Backyard” showing on January 21st. Several aspiring artists met with Marks and had the opportunity to ask the expert for advice and encouragement. Some of those who attended were courageous enough to share their own artwork with Marks. The artist was pleased with the turnout, considering that a treacherous winter storm struck the Valley just hours before the ceremony began. “I was grateful for the people who attended. It was interesting to hear peoples reactions to the paintings. There was a very positive response and that is encouraging,” Marks remarked.
Each of the paintings were encased in beautifully handcrafted frames. The artist carved the frames himself, displaying another talent he performs well. Marks worked for years in frame shops. He once had the pleasure of meeting a master frame-maker and painter named Francis Tucker. Marks keeps countless encounters and memories like this one as inspiration for his creative endeavors.
Along with constructing his own frames, Marks makes his own gesso. Used to prepare wood, canvases, and other surfaces for the application of paint, it was first created by Egyptians. Marks uses a double-boiler to heat a “size,” or liquid gelatine glue. He uses half the melted stock to coat his painting surface, allowing time for drying between two thick coats. After the surface has completely dried, he then mixes the other half of the sizing stock in the double-boiler with a “whiting,” or calcium carbonate powder, to form the final product. Marks applies four consecutive coats of this rich gesso to his surface, creating a versatile background for his paints to rest on. Marks claims “the gesso making is quite involved with important details that are better understood by trail and error, repetition and practice.”
The artist, originally from Michigan, developed a love for art at a young age. Marks comes from a working class background that did not encourage art; instead, he was expected to find a job working at an automobile factory. He earned a living in this occupation until he entered his thirties. By this time, Marks had enrolled in night drawing classes, and later enjoyed sculpture classes. After building a strong portfolio, Marks was accepted into Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He graduated in 2001, and has since considered himself “an emerging artist.”
Though Marks has been in many larger shows, he enjoyed the small, intimate setting of Waneta Blake Library's gallery. He continues to practice his talents, using the glorious scenery at his home in St. Agatha for inspiration.