Interview: Kendrick Mar


I found Kendrick Mar’s work through the reader gallery on Juxtapoz. I really liked the whole vibe of his work, so I decided to pummel him with some questions.

CM: First of all, please tell us a little background info about yourself.

KM: I didn’t come from an artistic background and I got a late start as an artist at age 22. For this reason I feel that I’m trying to catch up to the level where I should be as well as make up for lost time. When I was growing up, my dream was to become a professional musician. For some very complicated reasons I was not able to pursue that ambition and ended up at university studying engineering and hating it. In my fourth year of college, I took a drawing class and it was then that had an epiphany and decided to become an artist. It was a second chance at achieving my dreams. At that point, I wasn’t able to finish college. I ended up working in graphic design in San Francisco for my day job while continuing to develop my art on my own. After a few years of that I had saved up enough to go to art school and I moved to Chicago to attend the Art Institute. After I graduated I moved to New York.

CM: I often daydream about being a different city other than one in California, is there any specific reasons why you left CA when there are so many good art schools here?

KM: I knew that as a fine artist, I would eventually end up in New York because it was important for me to be here for the career opportunities. As part of my journey as an artist, I liken it to a religious pilgrim going to the holy city.
As far as art school, there are some very good schools in California that I considered but it just worked out that I went to the Art Institute of Chicago. It was a really positive experience for me. The school has such a diverse range of teachers and resources available that you can find your niche no matter what kind of art you do. I found that I learned just as much from fellow students as I did from the teachers. There were so many inspirational “a ha” moments when someone would say just the right thing that would help me at just the right time. It was a great nurturing environment for my creativity.


CM: I have never been to New York, I can imagine it’s quite intense. Has the environment there been helpful when it comes to creating art?

KM: For some reason, being in the big city doesn’t influence my creative process much. My work is very introspective and hermetic so the urban jungle doesn’t seem to inspire as much as I thought it would. Before I moved to New York, I thought my life would be like in “Rent”, but that hasn’t quite happened yet.

CM: Your website doesn’t show any form of sketches, is sketching something that you do a lot of? What is generally the process when you get ready to make a new piece?

KM: I do a lot of drawing, both realistic and conceptual. My ideas come from the many, many tiny sketches I do. I sift through the sketches and rework them, then do color studies, either in oil or on the computer. The goal is to find a motif that is strong enough so that the original concept won’t fall apart once I transfer it to the canvas. The sifting process helps me eliminate what is not necessary in the painting.
My compositions tend to be quite simple and spare. My first painting teacher, Squeak Carnwath, said that a lot of paintings have too much information in them and that’s something I keep in mind. I want my paintings to have what I call “iconographic immediacy”, hence the simplicity. The subconscious seems to grab onto and remember a very simple and pared down idea of what the image is, an overall Gestalt. The details don’t hold the piece together so much as a strong underlying concept. Michelangelo said that if you roll a sculpture down a hill, what doesn’t break off is what is essential. It makes me think about what that means in terms of a painting.
The actual painting process for me has a frantic feeling to it because I usually am trying to see the painting through to completion without the original impulse dying on me or without my losing faith in the original idea.


CM: When I’m supposed to be painting I have little rituals that I do, drink some tea, look around on the net far too long, watch movies, nap, Is there anything in particular you do while painting? Drink tea, beer, listen to music, watch tv?

KM: In the early stages of a painting I listen to stuff like ambient music or opera or Tom Waits. In the mid to late stages of a painting I like silence because I’m usually trying hard to not mess up the painting. When I’m trying to get ideas, I sometimes read while at my drawing table and it gets me into the creative zone. For some reason Haruki Murakami’s novels seem to work the best. In “The Windup-Bird Chronicle” the protagonist has to enter into and navigate a metaphorical labyrinth and I think it is the perfect metaphor for the creative process. The protagonist doesn’t seem to have much control over when he can access the magical place where he needs to enter and he fumbles around trying to get in. Every so often he breaks through to the other side, but only for very brief moments in which he can never quite achieve exactly what he set out to.

CM: I know that New York has some amazing galleries there, how has your experience in the art community there been so far?

KM: I’m not an insider to the New York art scene yet. The gallery scene is quite vast and I’m in the process of researching it. For various reasons the art galleries are not places where I feel entirely comfortable, so I prefer going to museums to look at art. The museum environment feels more welcoming for ordinary people.

CM: It was through the Juxtapoz reader gallery that I found your work, besides having me attack you with questions, has that feature helped you out?

KM: I’ve definitely gotten more viewers to see my work and my site.


CM: One of the things that drew me to your work, was the unique look of it, what are some of the artists that have influenced you in the development of your style?

KM: I started out looking at the old masters quite a lot, as well as doing a lot of figurative and representational work. As far as contemporary artists, I like Ross Bleckner because of the psychological space he creates in his work, Basquiat because his visual vocabulary is so fully formed and congruent, and Damien Hirst because he’s able to address the big questions like mortality and death with a chic aesthetic. I also like Lisa Yuskavage, Luc Tuymans, and Takashi Murakami, among others. My visual vocabulary is also heavily informed by toys and dolls.

CM: I have this one painting I did for class, and no matter how hideous it is, im quite attached to it. Is there one work that you have done that are extremely attached to?

KM: I don’t have a particular piece that I’m attached to as an object. I guess that means I’m a process oriented artist. The pieces that I feel are successful do tend to propel me forward in my process somewhat. But I find that once a piece is finished and no longer part of my creative process, my interest in the piece fades. It’s kind of like a flower that is clipped from it’s roots and then begins to wilt.

CM: If we were to look in the future 10 years from now, what would we see you doing?

KM: I don’t want to jinx myself and say that I’ll be wildly successful, but at the very least I want to continue making art for the long haul and find an audience who understands my work.


CM: Ok lastly, since I i’ve been told I need more practice asking dumb questions, here is
a small list to finish.

a. cheap paintbrushes, or the most expensive they got?

KM: I gotta have the most expensive paint brushes they have. But nowadays, I mostly paint with palette knife. It forces me to work decisively and loosely in a painting and not get caught up fussing with details and smoothing things out.

b. favorite band or musician?

KM: Nine Inch Nails is the best thing to listen to when I’m trolling for ideas because I like my ideas to have fangs. I want to make images that are cute and seductive, like an adorable little animal that you are charmed by and when you go to pick it up, it bites you and draws blood.

c. “if I couldn’t paint I would……..?

KM: If I couldn’t paint and could do anything else, I’d play in an acid jazz trip hop group. Or be a surgeon.

d. one superpower, what would it be?

KM: If I could have one special power, I’d want to be a psychic like Edgar Cayce or Nostradamus. But not Miss Cleo.

Ok that’s it for me. Head on over to Kendrick’s homepage to get a look at some more art from him. He has a great clean webpage, and a lot more images to see there.

Kendrick Mar Homepage

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