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Orangeville man shares insights into his fine art career

April 18, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Peter Richardson

Orangeville resident, Mark Grice has a somewhat different approach to his art than most artists. For Mark it is a business, not his passion. As a result, he has set himself the goal of producing two finished paintings a week, a task he believes he will continue into his retirement.

Perhaps he might raise his prices and paint less, but as he sees it, he can produce two paintings a week and live well, well into his retiring years.

He values his paintings by the number of hours it takes him to produce them, at $250 per hour. He also has what he considers to be a maximum that people will pay, and so his largest painting sells for a mere $2,000 at the rate people seek his art, Mark could probably produce 4 or 5 a week and still not have enough.

His secret, he says, is his networking skills.

Mark has developed a large network of people who know his name, his work and most of all, how to reach him. He has achieved this over years of meeting people. He has a TV series on Rogers Television, Mark Grice the Artist, where he completes a painting in one hour, he is on Facebook and he has taught classes, up until COVID. Something he says he is considering starting again.

Mark was born in Mississauga, when it was primarily rural. He had horses and some cows, as pets. His grandfathers had horses and although none of his siblings seemed interested in them, Mark was captivated, starting his lifelong passion for horses.

He also says he was always an artist, from the age of six he was drawing. He went to Sheridan College for art, and began a career as a commercial artist. he worked freelance in the advertising industry and had horses on his farm.

Mark began training and raising horses and left art for a period of time, knowing that he could always return to it. Mark sold his farm 13 years ago and indeed, returned to his art.

When he first opened a studio/ gallery in Alton Mill, he was on the second floor, at one end, then moved to the other end before ending up in his present basement studio. Recently, he opened a gallery on the second floor, once again. The basement studio was big enough for Mark to run classes.

He has had as many as 27 students there at one time, several times week. He did corporate events as well and built up his base, until COVID brought it all to a grinding halt.

Fortunately, by that time, Mark had a good network and has painted and sold throughout the pandemic.

During his horse training years, which were very busy, Mark showed Quarter horses at the World Championship level. He also judged horse shows and he rides hunter jumpers even today. He has been President of the Ontario Quarter Horse Association twice.

Mark has trained horses that have been shown all over Canada and the US and he has now added announcing to his resume, becoming the voice at many horse shows. He will do some 70 hunter jumper shows in Palgrave this year alone, plus 15 Quarter Horse Shows.

Mark has one horse now and expects to get a couple more this year.

As a member of the Hunt Club, he rides regularly and two years ago had quite the wreck. He came off his mount after a jump and suffered three fractures, including his pelvis. Two months later he was riding in Florida, to the amazement of many. Marks response, it’s what he does, simple as that.

Mark hopes to have another farm this year and says he will treat it as a hobby operation, but he has a Hanoverian now that is going to be a big horse and he wants to have another quarter horse too, so it’s too be determined how much of hobby farm it will be.

Another endeavour Mark has been exploring is acting. He has been in various commercials and did a series last year. He has acted on stage but currently told his agent to put him on hold till things come back to a semblance of normal.                                                                                                                           

Mark paints exclusively with acrylic paints and he actually uses dollar store brushes! he says his art store owner friends are horror struck.

Mark paints in almost every style, from abstract to very realistic horses and other animals as well as landscapes.

One of his distinctive hallmarks is exotically textured backgrounds in his abstracts. He creates these with shower squeegees or kitchen spatulas, rather than pallet knives and they make his paintings stand out from the crowd.

The paintings of animals and horses are all started with amazingly realistic eyes. The eyes are the first thing that attracts you to the painting, you could almost swear they are actual eyes.

From here, Mark chooses the unique colour schemes that make his abstracts so unique, or continues to paint a more realistic approach. The end results are beyond eye-catching and sell quickly.

One of his styles looks so real you would think it was a photograph in black and white, He works from photographs, which he holds in one hand as he paints. Mark uses a sheet of paper for his palette and mixes his colours on this. he puts all his colours down and paints and mixes as he works.

In the theme of painting being a business, Mark will repaint a work to suit a buyer.

He said if someone likes one of his paintings but worried that their living room had green accents and there were no greens in the landscape painting, he would ask where they would like to see the greens and he would go down to the studio and paint them in.

When asked how he uses acrylics and not oils, Mark said the drying time and the different technique.

He said acrylics dry in minutes compared to days even weeks and for oil. Acrylics are just an extension of his hand. he has no interest in painting with oils, though he did one when he was about 15 years old.

Charcoals hold some fascination, but he feels he has not done enough to muster the art form, so doesn’t do them at this time.

Mark does some work with pastel pencil and he draws his forms on his canvases before painting them. This gives him an outline for his shapes he works with.

Mark buys his canvases ready-made at Michaels. He doesn’t stretch his own.

“Why would I?” says Mark. “This is my business and my time is better spent painting than fooling with canvas.”

Look at the Group of Seven, he says. They pained on whatever they found – handy, old pieces of plywood or boards. They weren’t worried about materials, only the resulting art.

Many of his sales, come from Facebook. He finishes a work uses his phone to snap a photo, maybe adjusts the exposure slightly and then posts it to his page. The sales inquiries soon follow.

All in all Mark Grice has led an interest filled life as an artist, businessman, actor, champion horseman and all round interesting guy. He is a living example of someone who saw where he wanted to go and who he wanted to be and got there, in grand style. Perhaps, the perfect subject for a book or autobiography, with a touch of fiction for mystery.

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