I want to introduce you to a fellow artist and friend Mark Beam. He is a talented, clever and funny guy and his art reflects this. From giant cows doing a handstand to cow-pies, his work will elicit laughter from all that view it. His art has the perfect mixture of tongue in cheek humour and kitsch. Mark really knows how to reveal the fun side of life through his artwork. His lifesize cows are so popular that they are the characters and concept for the "Barnyard" movie featuring the voices of Danny Glover, Kevin James, Courtney Cox and many others. We did a few projects together in the 90s and it was a fun time. Mark came up with some clever conceptual ideas that I executed through the art of silkscreen and he came up with a walrus character and I created a painting that was used by Carolco Pictures for the project. Mark is a great idea guy. I asked him a round of art related questions and a summary of his career. This is what he had to say: born in detroit, moved to california at 19. i was looking for my place in the world. i didn't want to get a boring job and stay there for the rest of my life...discovered the LA art scene, saw that some were doing really well making paintings that make the viewer say "what is that?" i figured if they could sell those, then I could make funny, colorful work and i might have an audience. i was 26 and unemployed when i made my first piece of art, my neighbor bought it for $150.00. the lightbulb went off in my head... i made a couple more pieces, took them to a designer furniture store that had posters on the wall. they bought 4 pieces from me for $250.00 each. i kept making art, 2-3 pieces a week for many,many years. i got into galleries,shows, commissions etc. it quickly blossomed into a wonderful gig. it's been 25 years now!i saw the world in a great way, met some great people. if you get your work out there, it takes on a life of its own...people see your work and they have an idea or opportunity to use your art, you get calls and it feeds itself. i never could have dreamed up half the stuff ive been involved in. it just happened because of what i had already done and sent out into the world.
valgal: How did you find your style? mb: through experiments with materials...foam,resin,paper mache, etc led to my look.
vg: What is your creative process? mb: think it up and figure out step by step, how to build it.
vg: How do you market/ promote yourself? mb: in the beginning i sent out pics to stores and galleries,newspapers, etc. then i made a website, got on a lot of search engines and other site links helps too.
vg: Do you have an agent/rep? mb: i haven't had a rep in 10 years, group shows only, for me.
vg: What are 2 of your favourite pieces? mb: "Howdy Buddha" and the handstanding cow (my 1st cow)
vg: Do you ever have a creative slump? mb: yes, i do... ive gone for a year or more without making art. i don't fight it, i just make art when i want to or when i need money.
vg: What do you do for fun? mb: i rollerblade daily (keeps me healthy and sane), watch alot of movies, dining out.
vg: What is the best part of what you do? mb: getting paid...(kidding) delivering a piece to a happy client, making a creative discovery that i know is good.
vg: Do you have any advice for budding artists? mb: create alot of work that you think people will want to possess. start sending email pics to everybody that you think might want to see it and who can afford it. someone will bite. you really are on your own, but if you get cooking on getting your work out there (silent benefit auctions is a great start) you will find that you can make some things happen. research whats happening in the art scene in the closest major city near you. internet is great for that nowadays. there are alot of younger artists doing great things , check out wooster collective, juxtapoze mag and don't neglect the art blogs. send em pics of your latest and greatest, they may post it on their blog. here is a rule of mine...if i see someone that i think would like my work, movie star, business owner, whatever, send them a note and some pics. you would be surprised how many will contact you. don't let it go by, send the pics! if you hear of a benefit art auction, contact them immediately and say you wanna be involved, next thing you know you are at a splashy party and your art is hanging next to warhol, lichtenstein, mapplethorpe, etc. ...it feels good and the people who attend start to equate your work with the big guns.
vg: Would you like to talk about the movie? mb: i sold a cow sculpture to steve oedekirk, writer/director through a gallery in Laguna Beach. a few years later i contacted his office, hoping that he may want more art for his offices and he said he wanted to talk about my cows and animation. so we did an agreement, my cows would be the central figure in this tv show. then steve got a deal to make a 5-minute demo, if they liked it they were gonna make a tv series of it! well it kinda stunk, i was really kinda bummed when i saw it. the network passed and it was a dead issue for like 8 years...boo! then steve wrote "Bruce Almighty", it makes a ton of money, so steve gets a big 3 picture deal. he then announces that his 1st movie will be a cgi animated film called the barnyard, yeah! so we are back in business... yeah! because of this new position of power that he enjoyed he was able to get a feature film, tv show and video game commitment from paramount/nickleodeon. so it will live on and produce income for some time, god willing. you probably have gotten the idea that this whole thing has been an emotional roller-coaster hell ride and you would be right! but this is what i learned, the cosmos, fate, luck, whatever you want to call it, is as unpredictable as anna nicole smiths mood swings. as an artist you don't know where your going, really you just have to keep making art. then when your art gets into the world, it starts doing lotsa kookie stuff all on its own. all kinds of odd opportunity is derived from it. i guess you just have to create and trust... trust that it will become something else as time goes by... and you have to enjoy yourself in the meantime. you have no control but if you create, trust and communicate it works out...whew.
Gee Mark, this has been swell and I know everybody will gain some creative juice from this inspiring interview. If you would like to see Mark Beam's complete portfolio ( and I know you do!) please click on to this link. www.markbeam.com
Top: cowpie middle: surfin cow bottom: "Otis" from the Barnyard movie featured on the cover of Nick magazine. All artwork copyright Mark Beam