“Quiet Telluride Morning” by Mark English: A Cover Story
The Telluride Tourism Board has a new CEO/President, Michael Martelon, an out- of- the-box thinker, ergo a perfect fit for a town that touts its uniqueness. A man like Martelon was not going to settle for your run-of- the-mill photo of someone skiing on a mountain kicking up pow for the cover of his first Telluride Visitor’s Guide. Why look like and act like every other resort if your claim to fame is you stand out from the pack? Martelon was after something different. He wanted a painting on the cover of the Visitor’s Guide that said “Telluride” without screaming “resort.” He found what he was after at the town’s premiere gallery, The Telluride Gallery of Fine Art: a snow scene of Main Street by painter Mark English, a mainstay of owner Will Thompson’s powerhouse stable of artists.
Snowscapes were particularly popular in the mid-19th century when the Impressionists became Top Dogs in the art world. Before the Impressionists, Courbet tackled snowscapes, but he was all about stags and the hunt. Not Monet. He liked the fact that snow allowed him to study variations of light and to use different nuances of color. And English? “Quiet Telluride Morning” is a townscape in composition and chromatic impetus, but the snow on the ground (like his representation of the sky) is an abstraction, which clearly presents an opportunity to play with light and color in order to build white, as in Monet, iridescent with reflections.
To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to the interview with Mark English.
Pulling back to the Big Picture, seen through his veil of snow, Telluride appears to be a place where time stands still and indeed your eye is drawn in particular to two iconic buildings: the San Miguel County Courthouse, destroyed by fire in 1887 and then rebuilt with salvaged bricks, and the New Sheridan Hotel, the Grande Dame of Main Street, likewise destroyed by fire in 1894 and rebuilt in 1895. Otherwise Colorado Avenue is empty: no cars. Nobody home. The work is typical English: this townscape and his landscapes are places anything can happen. Beyond the visible surface, English depicts scenes where magical worlds come alive. Worlds like Telluride.
Born in Hubbard, Texas in 1933, English has come a long way from the days of his youth picking cotton and painting signs on windows of small-town businesses. As a boy, English watched painters advertise upcoming rodeos on the windows of cafes and hardware stores in Central Texas. It occurred to him that painting signs would be easier and a lot more fun than working in a hot, dusty field picking cotton from sunup to sundown. He taught himself to draw and paint and the rest, as they say, is history.
For three decades, Mark English was one of the leading illustrators in the world, his unique style easily recognized in publications from Time to Sports Illustrated, Redbook, McCalls and Atlantic Monthly. English literally won hundreds of awards for his work, becoming the most awarded illustrator in the history of the Society of Illustrators in New York. In 1995, he began painting in earnest, apparently seeking the opportunity to articulate a personal integrity difficult to express when laboring as an illustrator on somebody else’s ideas.
English does not generally work from photographs. ( In this particular case, however, for “Quiet Telluride Morning,” he took a snapshot in order to retain all the architectural details.) Nor does he draw landscapes. But scumbled surfaces are built from memory and like memories, contain many rich layers.