As a kid in the suburbs of Chicago, I always was interested in the mechanical creations of man. There is something about a purpose of design and the engineering solution to achieve that purpose that always created a spark in my mind. The forms those machines took were captivating to me - the pointed nose of a fighter jet; the exposed driving wheels of a mighty steam engine, the streamlined shape of a submarine. And the stories of the incredible experiences of the men who operated those machines are the stuff of legends and sometimes nightmares.
From an early age I tried to express my fascination through drawing. I suppose my first serious drawing experience was a mechanical drawing class in the 7th grade. This was in the days before computer aided drawing became the standard. The tools of the draftsman were his pencil, the t-square or straight edge and angles. I began to learn about the basics of line work, the concepts of scale, the function of form and the workings of perspective. I continued along this path through high school with more advanced drafting courses and some architectural drawing too.
At Purdue University I studied Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineering. During this period I also discovered some of the greater distractions in life such as alcohol and women. I entered a period in my life which was very exciting but eventually led to a downward spiral. During that time I worked as a waiter in many restaurants. Some of the places I worked were very high quality and the experience was interesting. Most people don't know I can cook tableside, de-bone a Dover Sole, carve chateaubriand and I still remember how to wow a guest with a flaming desert like Cherries Jubilee. As one who had aspirations of becoming an engineer, working in restaurants ultimately proved frustrating.
In an effort to change my life, I turned to God. I put my life in his hands. I began to live a spiritual life. I was still very unhappy as a waiter but the little bit of money I made at that job enabled me to keep a little two room apartment above the storefronts in a small town. I had hope that my life would become better with reliance on God.
One day a man came into the restaurant for lunch. He was the famous marine artist, Charles Vickery. We developed a rapport and soon he would always ask to sit at my table when he came in for lunch or dinner. At his request I shared some of my drawings with him; that led to an invitation to his studio. We soon became friends and I began to visit his studio on a regular basis. Our friendship developed into him teaching me about oil painting. I remember the early days. I would excitedly bring my latest (very amateurish) painting to the studio. He would look it over and only have words of gentle encouragement and kindly suggestions about technique or where to add little touch of color or a highlight. He was a wonderful teacher. I never felt uncomfortable showing him my creations and he always took the time to view them. We remained good friends until he passed away in 1998.
It was at this time I decided to be an artist. Some of my early commissioned works include small illustrations for advertisements in a local newspaper and portrait work for friends and associates. Commercial work followed and from 1996 to 1997 I worked under commission for the Illinois Railway Museum creating original works depicting many of the locomotives in the museum's collection. I was married and started a family during this time. The little two room apartment was getting crowded. I worked a series of factory jobs; learned to drive a forklift; built radio base stations for the railroads and law enforcement; assembled life-saving medical equipment such as defibrilators. All the while I kept practicing my art. On the strength of my drawing work I got a job as an engineer. Advancement with that company led me to start my own small business.
In 1999 I moved to North Carolina with my wife and children. At that time my portfolio continued to grow through ongoing commissioned paintings, drawings and technical illustrations for industrial and commercial clients as well as private collectors. Still, I found traditional media to be very limiting. It was tough to compete for business against artists working in digital media. I had not been too impressed with most of the digital stuff I had seen as it seemed somewhat sterile and lacking in feeling.
Some years went by and I decided to explore the digital medium a little more in depth. What I discovered changed my artistic life. I found the advancement in computing power and graphics abilities had made possible amazing digital art. In 2006 I made the switch to the digital medium. These days, all my work is painted digitally. It is my passion to bring to life those machines of man that still fascinate me to this day. I am blurring the line between digital and traditional media. I want my paintings to speak to the viewer the feeling I get from these subjects. Hopefully some of that comes through.
It has been a long journey from those first steps to today. My work is collected and has been endorsed by veterans from World War II to the present day. I produce many pieces for commercial clients. My work hangs in museums, military bases, The Pentagon, schools, memorials and private collections worldwide. I am an artist member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA) and the American Society of Railroad Artists.
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All content and images © Mark Karvon 1994-2013
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My makeshift studio in one corner of the bedroom during the early days of the two room apartment.