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Check out Mark Carroll’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Carroll.

Mark, we’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I come from a family of artists. My father, Richard, was a wood and stone carver, my mother, Mary, a landscape and portrait oil painter. I grew up watching my parents and their artist friends creating art. We lived in East Aurora and were surrounded by renowned regional Western New Your artists. It instilled in me an appreciation for the value of a life spent creating art.

I majored in art in High School and at S.U.C. Buffalo. Later, I returned to college to become certified in Art Education. After teaching high school art for 8 years, I deciding to take the plunge and make creating sculpture a full-time job.

I started out as a wood carver. I developed sculpting skills by sculpting realistically rendered bird carvings, and human characters in wood. My father made a living sculpting life-size wood figures for churches, and carving granite monuments. Following his death, I was asked to continue making the wood carvings for churches. For several years, I carved numerous life-size figures for churches and hospitals.

While teaching a class on woodcarving, several participating sculptors from the local toy company, Fisher Price, asked if I thought I could do model making. After making a sample piece, I was brought on as a freelancer. The Fisher Price designers would give me a drawing of a figure, like a Little Person, or toy part. Then it was my job to sculpt the model master in clay or wax which was then sent on to production to be cast in plastic. This precise and demanding work served to develop my technical skills.

Whether I was teaching High School or doing model making, I was always creating my own sculpture in wood and stone, and then eventually in welded steel.

Two end-to-end thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail were a profound influence on my aesthetic approach to sculptural form. In 1977, and again in 1986, I walked the entire length of the wilderness trail from Georgia to Maine. Living in the natural beauty of the forest and mountains for five months at a time left a deep impression.

The long-distance walks through the forest of the Appalachian Mountains gave me insights into the way nature creates the sculptural forms of the weathered stone landscapes and the organic growth of trees and flowers.

After my teaching career, I established a full-time studio in East Aurora for creating both commercial sculpture and for making my own art work.

My experience in decorative bird wood carving took an interesting twist. I was commissioned to carved scientifically accurate reproductions for the Buffalo Science Museum. Working from a plaster cast of the fossil remains, I carved an Archaeopteryx, the first bird, with its wings extended in flight. While I could take accurate measurements of the bone structure from the fossil remains, no one knew the color of the feathers. I decided to paint the body mottled browns and the tail an iridescent bluish-purple.

Another assignment for the museum was to sculpt a 32x enlargement of a Western Conifer Seed Bug for the entomology department. I made detailed drawings using a dissecting microscope to view the specimen. The discipline of model making really helped in reproducing a precise rendering of the different body segments. Later, a fun job for the museum was sculpting a baby mastodon from a cherry log which was placed in the Discovery Room for children to climb on.

After my father died, he left me all his wood carving and stone carving tools. He had been a master carver in stone, both in marble and granite. He had worked in the stone mills of Rock of Ages when we lived in Graniteville Vermont. I regretted not having learned from him how to carve stone with the pneumatic tools. Back then I was just a kid and was more interested in photography.

To learn how to use his tools, I signed up to take a marble carving class at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in W. Rutland, Vermont. I was soon captivated with the many tools and techniques of stone carving. From marble, I went on to learn how to carve and polish granite.

For thirteen years, I attended the Limestone Sculpture Symposium in Bloomington, IN. Participants are given a 1,200-pound block of limestone to carve during the week-long symposium. Limestone is a softer stone than what I had been carving, and was a joy to carve. With the pneumatic hammer, the chisels glide through the stone. I began to appreciate the two different stone carving cultures, the harder stones and heavier tools in Vermont, and the limestone traditions in Indiana.

A desire to combine metal with stone prompted an interest in welding. Combinations of limestone and rusty steel, or granite and stainless steel, were soon becoming part of my work flow. After taking an adult education class in stick welding, the studio began to fill with welding equipment. Used MIG and TIG welders were acquired. By watching videos and asking a lot of questions of everyone welder I met, and most important, just a lot of practice, I gradually improved at laying a better-looking bead.

While having gone to college, most of my practical learning for stone carving, model making, and welding came from working with people who were experts in their fields, and just doing it myself over and over again.

I began my art career creating very realistic sculptures, as I have progressed my sensibility has become more abstract, even non-objective at times, appreciating the aesthetic quality of pure form. I moved on from copying nature, to creating something more interpretive, a suggestion of natural forms, an image created from imagination that has never been seen before. The inspiration for my sculpture comes from nature’s organic forms, and the human figure. The artistic statements are always affirmative.

I moved to Arizona in 2009 and set up a studio in Cave Creek. I continue to create sculptures for private residences, corporate offices, and public spaces. I was commissioned by the Town of Cave Creek to create two monuments to be place at the south and north entrance to the town. The monuments depict a rehearing horse welded out of stainless steel and stands on a rusty-steel and stone base. The stainless-steel horse stands 9 feet in height and is mounted on the 4-foot-tall base.

The tallest sculpture I’ve made is for the City of Avondale. “Avondale Birds” is a 15-foot-tall sculpture composed of four rusty steel columns with five white marble abstract bird shapes on top. The sculpture is placed in front of the Civic Center.

My sculpture sales come from my web site, participating in local art shows, and working with art consultants. I also show my work on social media, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. I enjoy having visitors to the studio, and commissions are always welcome. Stop in at the studio and see how sculpture is made.

Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
I think that the Phoenix area holds a lot of potential for artists to sell their work. The towns and people support the arts. Driving around the area I see art works everywhere. And weather is great for putting sculpture outdoors, it doesn’t have snow on it four months out of the year.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour 2018, November 16,17,18 and November 23, 24, 25. Stagecoach Village Christmas Village, Dec. 8-10, 2018. Carefree Fine Art & Wine Festival, March 1-3, 2019

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All photos by Mark Carroll.

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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