Point of Grace by Mark Reep

March 11, 2012
'Point of Grace' Charcoal and Graphite drawing by Mark Reep

Point of Grace Charcoal & Graphite Drawing, 8.5" x 11"

Say the world is a smudged charcoal drawing.  Slit from its frame, smuggled out of the Vatican. Don’t say it couldn’t happen.  Who would know.

Say the world can’t remember yesterday, or why its four corners curl up.  Now, imagine a man who can’t either, sitting at one of the world’s ragged edges, considering that sea we call Night, and Time.  From a waterstair he sketches by scraps of moonlight a crumbling wall he will one day call Point of Grace.  Mist and dreamdrift beckon and elude.

Say you are he, or someone like: You wonder, fear, hope, all the usual.  Mornings you wake clutching a duct-taped duffel; inside, you find a tin box of pencils, a swollen sketchbook, buckled drawings, scribbled warnings: Overstayed here. Don’t go back.  Maybe one day they will seem no stranger’s dreams.

Image and text © Mark Reep 2011. First published in A-Minor Magazine.   Mark’s work has been seen in the West End Gallery for many years now as it has gained wider and wider prominence.  We are proud to have been able to bring this beautiful and unique work to the region. 


GC Myers’ New Days by Mark Reep

August 23, 2010

The Proclamation- GC Myers

G. C. Myers’ solo exhibition New Days feels a little like a retrospective, but one comprised entirely of new work. Longtime followers of Gary’s work will find many of the signature elements he’s become known for during various periods of his career– among others, the Red Chair, the Red Roofs, and of course his solitary Red Tree– gracing these compositions as well, and in a way that not only reminds us of where he’s been, but invites consideration of where he may be going next as well.

Nightglow- GC Myers

One of the things I’ve always found intriguing about Gary’s work is that although he routinely employs bold, hot colors in his compositions, most of the places depicted somehow retain a sense of calm, of quiet. In this show, Gary’s included a small group of monochromatic images, and predictably, theirs is an even deeper quiet. These have a kind of timelessness about them, as though we view them across a remove of years.

The Test- GC Myers

Left of Center-- GC Myers

Gary is one of the few artists I’ve known who seem able to maintain a delicate kind of balance: That of continuing to create for his collectors and galleries the kinds of work he’s become most widely known, admired and respected for, while also continuing to evolve as an artist. Not easy, that. If New Days showcases much of the evocative imagery and iconography we’ve come to think of as uniquely Gary’s, it also demonstrates that he’s still only at the beginning of all he’ll become as an artist, and all he’ll share with us.

Emerge the Light- GC Myers

Mark Reep: In Silence

April 24, 2010

——Posted By Mark Reep———-


A few weeks ago on West End Talk I posted a series of in-progress scans and comments about my drawing The Nightingale’s Garden.  Here’s another making-of for the upcoming Process show at WEG.

1 Exploration and discovery remain a   priority of my process. In the first work-in-progress scan, I like elements of the outcropping to the right of the tower. But the crag the tower stands on doesn’t seem substantial enough, and the tower already seems to need adjacent structures.

2 In the second scan, the tower’s taking shape, and I’m working to bring the values of its roof and the sky behind into line.


3 Here, I’ve adjusted and cleaned up the tower’s lines and developed its surfaces further. I like the new bridge, the flow of the bridge and walkway, and I still like the outcropping below. I’m reluctant to give up any of those elements, but though I’m usually partial to solitary, stand-alone structures, it seems clear that this tower should be the focal element of a community or campus.

4 I wanted the adjacent buildings to tie the tower into its setting, without compromising impact or obscuring its brightly lit face, so I kept the new shapes and rooflines simple, clean, complementary. The small building breaks up the horizontals, and the light falling across it becomes another focal element. Trees and bushes function  in the same way, and soften shapes, surfaces, edges. More sky smoothed, values adjusted throughout the drawing- Always an ongoing process. The cliff to right remains a work in progress.

5 In the final scan, the cliff’s become more cliff-like, taken a step back into the shadows and assumed a supportive role, with a sloping lawn appearing at the top, between the building’s foundations. A rugged natural setting with another green tucked among the perhaps-ruins below, and carefully tended buildings and grounds above- In Silence is a place of contrasts, one I’ve enjoyed creating. Materials and tools include Bristol Board, charcoal and graphite pencils, kneaded erasers, Q-Tips.  Here’s the finished drawing.

Mark Reep, In Silence
Charcoal & Graphite drawing; 5 1/2″ x 16 1/4″, matted & framed to 13″ x 25″



March 15, 2010

I’ve been exhibiting at the West End Gallery for over 15 years now and have benefitted in many ways.  It was the first place I showed and sold my  first piece of work.  It was the first place my work was showcased.  It was the place that first gave me hope of doing what I love as a career.  So many other things as well.  But perhaps the greatest benefit may have been what I have gained from observing the work of the other artists there over the years.

I’ve talked here and in my own blog of how artists such as Mark Reep, Marty Poole and Dave Higgins, among others,  have shaped how I work and how I see my own work.  Another such artist is Treacy Ziegler who has shown her collagraphs and, more recently, her distinctinctive paintings at the West End for many years now.

From the moment I saw Treacy’s work, I was intrigued.  I instantly recognized that she was doing with her work what I wanted and didn’t have in my work at the time.  Her prints had great areas of dark and light contrast and even in the lightest sections, a sense of darkness was always present which gave every piece real weight.  Her bold colors and striking contrasts gave even the simplest compositions a deeper feeling.

They were also immediately identifiable as Treacy’s work.  You could see a piece from across the street and you knew whose work it was.  She has a very idiosyncratic visual vocabulary and her shapes and forms react beautifully with one another in the techniques she uses in producing her work.

At the time, my own work was still very transparent and very much watercolor based.  With Treacy’s work in mind I started adding layers of darkness in my own way.  Simplifying form.  Enhancing contrast and color.  All the time searching for my own vocabulary, my own look. 

I’ve always maintained that artists are often more like synthesizers than creators.  They absorb multiple influences and take what they see in them,  merging them together to create something that is completely different than the original.  For me, the West End has always been a great source for ideas and concepts to absorb.  It may be in a certain brushstroke or the way a painting’s composition comes together or just in being exposed to an artist’s body of work for a long period of time.  Whatever the case, I always find something in the work there.

And that has been a great benefit…

———————-Posted by Gary Myers

Mark Reep: The Nightingale’s Garden

March 7, 2010

Once or twice a year I do a series of blogposts with in-progress scans and comments about the development of a drawing.   Here’s a look at a 2009 drawing called The Nightingale’s Garden.


I don’t post works in progress much. Don’t take the time to make in-progress scans, usually; and of course on those occasions when I say hey look what I’m working on, it’s gonna be so freaking cool and then the next day I mess up and trash it and people say guy what happened, it’s embarrassing. But spring’s in the air- admittedly, that’s a statement of faith, but I’m sticking to it- and today I’m feeling emboldened.

No Planning

The drawing went well last night. Hadn’t planned on the pool, or getting all vertical, or much of anything else that happened. Never do, really. Planning’s overrated. If there were a universally recognized symbol for planning I’d get a T-shirt made, a big red slashed-circle NO PLANNING.

What I had thought might happen, sorta, was more of a ruin, emerging from still water, mist. Seemed a good way to go. But I guess I’ve gone there enough for now, because that seemed old news, safe, no fun. And why make art unless it’s fun.

Sure, saleable is good- And for some of us, necessary. But trying to hit that mark… If you’ve got those kinds of chops, that’s a good thing. Me, I’ve learned to draw what I love, and then think about sales. Because if my heart’s not in it… Well, that’s really all we have to offer, isn’t it: Ourselves, and our best.

For me, a lot of that’s about pushing aside preconceptions, refusing that intellectual overlay- mmn, this element doesn’t really make sense, how can I make it work with the others, that kind of overthinking- that often clouds rather than clears. Usually, if I leave well enough alone, the drawing will move forward in a way that’s satisfying and efficient. So far, so good.

So only a couple things, or at least their beginnings- not a lot, compared to the epic revisings some drawings have suffered- went the way of the Mayans. Who probably didn’t build any of this, even the oldest parts, not their style. You never know though. Maybe some rebellious Mayan princess went rogue on ‘em, blew her inheritance on a second year art student full of revolutionary new ideas, and this got half-built before the money ran out.

Half-hearted sucks. Half-built, though- That’s good. Leaves room for all kinds of possibilities.

Abandoned Flights

Not a lot to show for last night’s drawing time. Tried some things that went nowhere, but at least took awhile- Long day, or maybe I just wasn’t ready. Sometimes you know you’ve approached a new edge, something new, something. You don’t know what, exactly. A half-glimpsed dream you reach after, can’t grasp: The pools at the bottom of this drawing dissolving into a shuffle of architect’s sketches, layered transparencies, possibilities. Fragmented notes you intuit rather than read: Unresolved arcs. No conjoined returns. Eventually, you resign yourself that none of those will happen tonight, you don’t have the energy, clarity to allow them, and you clean up their thinning traces, contrails of those abandoned flights.

Quick & Dirty

Last night, more cleanup: Brightly lit surfaces, reflections, mist, fades smoothed with graphite pencils, kneaded erasers; and a quick-and-dirty tree roughed in with one of my most indispensible tools, a Sanford Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick. I sharpen the point with a utility knife, emery board or sandpaper to draw out fine lines or refine highlights. If you work in charcoal or graphite, you need one.

Where The Fun Waits

Last night I began with the remaining unfinished area above the middle pool, developing detail, bringing values into line. In these sessions when I’m resuming work on a drawing in progress, I look for the obvious, the first thing I see that clearly needs doing. A way of warming up, maybe: Small decisions before bigger.

The top pool was also unplanned. I’d do a few obvious, then see about the tree– Next thing I knew, there was another pool, and getting bigger, and and.

As usual, there are elements I’m not satisfied with- maybe never will be, not entirely, but I need to remember to leave well enough alone, sometimes- and that’s just what I can see, what seems obvious. What I can’t see yet, though, that’s where the fun waits.

Contrast & Consistency

A brief session, with more values brought into line. I look for distractions, too-brights, too-darks, make adjustments with erasers, graphite pencils, Q-Tips. Get carried away, and softly-lit becomes muddy. I’m always looking for that ideal balance between contrast and consistency. Elusive, that one.

The Nightingale’s Garden

The Nightingale’s Garden
Charcoal, Graphite; 5” x 9”

No scanner handy over the weekend, so this scan represents two sessions, about eight hours’ work. Trying to follow, flesh out the bones of the trees I’d sketched earlier seemed an almost certainly dissatisfying path: I wanted to get out of their way and my own, let these trees to be a product of this session, today’s energy and direction. So I began again, fast and loose– Q-Tips loaded with soft charcoal dust, initial shapes and highlights lifted out with kneaded erasers. Details developed with 6B charcoal pencils, softened & sharpened with more kneaded eraser, Dixon Ticonderoga graphite pencils, grades 1-4.

The last session was a Fussing Day– Cleaning up, smoothing out background and mist with a gazillion or minute adjustments. Kneaded erasers shaped to a very fine point, and a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 6H graphite pencil. The Nightingale’s Garden was done in several sessions over 12 days; total working time was about 22 hours.

Mark Reep’s Chapel Bell

January 26, 2010

Mark Reep, Chapel Bell
Charcoal & Graphite drawing
3 1/2″ x 2″, matted & framed to 7″ x 5″

It’s been awhile since I’ve worked this small and tight, and with West End’s annual Little Gems show coming up, a true miniature sounded like fun.  I began this drawing by laying out the chapel’s belltower on a clean sheet of Strathmore Bristol Board with a very sharp #3 Dixon Ticonderoga graphite pencil.  These pencils are a couple grades harder than the yellow #2s we all used in school, and create fine lines that erase cleanly.  With the layout established, I lightened the lines with a kneaded eraser, and shingled the brightly lit surface of the roof with the same pencil.  For the shadowed slope I switched to a very sharp, very hard HHH Wolf’s Carbon pencil that’s harder to keep sharp but produces marks a little darker than any of my graphites.  The deepest shadows were darkened with HB General Charcoal pencils.

For me, the process of stippling is about adding a little, taking a little away, adding more.  When a mark or area becomes too dark, I lighten it with a kneaded eraser shaped to a fine point- Essentially, stippling in the negative.  Not quick work, but continuing to build up and adjust marks as needed creates layered surfaces with texture and depth.

The chapel’s roof and walls were created the same way.  For the foreground evergreens I used a softer 6B General Charcoal pencil, lightening with a kneaded eraser, softening and blending with a Q-Tip, darkening again, definining further.  The foreground wall, bushes and ground cover were established with charcoal pencils, refined with graphite.  To create the effect of the farther trees receding into bright mist, I used only graphite pencils to keep values in those areas lighter.  The trees’ shapes and mist, the lawn and path were refined and smoothed with kneaded erasers, progressively harder graphite pencils, finishing with a Staedtler 6H.

I began the drawing’s remaining background by loading a cotton ball with powdered charcoal, scrubbing off most of it on scrap paper, then applying what was left very lightly, barely brushing the paper.  It’s a technique that borrows something from drybrush, creates a kind of dry wash that’s not as smooth as watercolor, but provides a good foundation for a somewhat similar effect.  I avoided the finished elements, and developed adjacent areas- along the chapel’s roofline, and at bottom left- with the Staedtler 6H.

And yes, I did remember to use my magnifier this time.

The thumbnail above should load an actual-size jpeg at most browser settings.  Here’s an enlargement.

Chapel Bell and other recent Mark Reep drawings will be available at West End Gallery’s Little Gems exhibit.  The show runs from February 5- March 12; opening reception is Friday, February 5, 5:00- 7:30.  If you’re interested, call Lin, Hedy or Bridget at 607.936.2011.