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July 2011 Art Show: Interview with Jim Marxen

July 9, 2011

How did you get started? I see that you’re self-taught.

I painted all my life, I actually became a writer, was a journalist, a reporter in southern California for a long time.

Were these regarding art?

No, but I always kept in the back of my mind the art. Writing was something I happened to be good at, so it really absorbed my time. About five years ago I decided I needed to get professional about painting, I have a friend who is a fairly well-known artist, I called her up and said, “what does one need to do, how does one break-in?” She was pretty hard on me, she’s in a gallery here in town,  fairly well-established.

Art became a second job for me, on weekends this is what I do, you have to really work at it — you’re always looking for improvements. I’ve learned how to pace myself, how to schedule my time.

Have you seen a major difference in your brushwork and what you like in your paintings compared to five years ago?

Definitely. Even five weeks ago, and five months ago, I see things — colors that don’t like. You notice your flaws, things that others may not notice or say anything about. When I look at my work I see where my flaws are, what I need to work in. It’s a continuing process.

Your colors are very bright, with kind of a surreal imagination of real life.

It’s fun to take a scene and add something that wasn’t there, a color that wasn’t there. I start with something that inspired me when I was first there and build on it. I always used color as a main driver in the work that I do. I was a news reporter — I covered a lot of nasty things in my life, it just seems to me that we have a lot of exposure to negative things and I think if we’re gonna live and move on and be better at who we are, we have to have some sense that we can be better, there has to be some optimism that we can do that.

Do you usually sit out in front of your subject painting, or do you take things you notice and you’re in your studio collaging those images?

I don’t do Plein Air. I need to have the imagination take over, I’ll take a photograph or a sketch [of the subject].  At home I’ll do about twenty sketches; I’ll keep sketching until I get the movement and the shapes where I want them.

Are there certain cities in California that tends to draw your attention for your cityscapes?

San Francisco. It’s not so much the buildings but the people there, the movement and colors — the assault on your senses. Beach stuff I like, this last show I had, I did pieces all along the Sacramento River.

What’s your ideal Saturday?

Mainly I do a lot of work in the garden, landscaping. I like to hang out with friends, I always try to get out have a good time. The only time I get some real relaxation is Saturday night, but I try to paint also. It’s that time of the year where it’s nicer to be outside.

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