Mark Granlund: an artist grounded in nature


Meet Mark Granlund, a Minnesota landscape and still life artist, who frames questions and connections, blending symbolism, whimsy and academic depth in a well-developed fine art style. Granlund’s landscape painting flows from his sustained love of, and respect for, the geography and ecology of Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Seeing Nature as a whole system requires engaging all senses to capture and express the authenticity of a complex eco-system. In his paintings, Granlund builds detail, texture and layers using washes, fields of color, impasto strokes, glazing and scumbling, to bring light, textures and motion to the canvas.
Granlund’s abiding love of lakes and woods is rooted in his early years. His paintings pass on his delight in play and discovery, fostered early in his life while living in northern New Jersey on a lot with 100 trees to play amongst.

Where are you from?
I was born in Minneapolis, but my family moved for a short stint to South Bend, Ind. seven weeks after I was born. Soon, we moved and I grew up until I was eight years old in northern New Jersey not far from Manhattan, N.Y. We eventually landed in the western suburbs of Chicago where I lived with my family through high school. So, I am a Midwest and East Coast kid.

What is your career and art background?
I have a long career in the arts as an administrator, teacher and art maker. I received my masters of fine art degree from City University of New York at Brooklyn College. I moved back to Saint Paul to teach at Bethel College, my alma mater. I taught there for a couple years and then bopped around for a while. I eventually landed at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory developing art classes. I became the artist-in-residence there and helped to develop the education department. Over nine years I developed and administered a very popular botanical art and illustration program, and created a dozen murals and installations with youth. I continued to make my own art and exhibited it widely around the Midwest.
Eventually, the City of Saint Paul tapped me to start a citywide beautification program administering the public gardens and maintaining the public art collection – one of the largest in the state. I developed the Blooming Saint Paul program working with more than 30 community groups and thousands of volunteers to maintain and expand gardens throughout the city. I had a staff of up to 60 to help with the gardens, as well. I was Saint Paul’s Arts and Gardens Coordinator for 14 years.
I continued with my own art practice and began to create large collaborative projects. For example, “The Book of Bartholomew” where I wrote 48 short stories and illustrated them with 16 other artists. I also led a team that created a display for the International Children’s Festival six years in a row. These displays were made of as many as 10,000 flowers and included items like a 35-foot-tall spinning daisy and a 2,000-pound upside-down carved tree trunk. It was a fun period of big projects and big ideas.
For the last six years, I have been working for Metro Transit as their public art administrator and rededicating myself to my own art practice. I have been exhibiting and selling my work consistently over the last five years and just completed a five-year creative arc dedicated to landscape paintings. Now, stimulated by collaborations with fellow artists, I am finding new inspirations in the studio. Where this will lead I do not know and am excited about the journey.

Do you have a focus?
A key part of my art practice is to continuously consider and hone an earth-friendly focus. As a landscape painter, I am very concerned about the plight of the planet and want to do all I can to make sure that my art-making is not adding to the problem. For instance, because cotton canvas is water and pesticide-intensive, I have switched to linen which is virtually organic when grown in its natural environment. My next step is creating my own stretcher bars from sustainably-forested lumber. This is just beginning, and I am very excited about it. I will soon be painting on the most sustainable canvases that are available.

Was there a defining moment in your life when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always drawn, as long as I can remember. In elementary school, people always recognized this talent and I got to be known for it. I always took art classes whenever I could and thoroughly enjoyed them, especially in high school. So, I have always considered myself creative and artistic, but I never really thought of making art as being a career. Even after graduating from college and then graduate school, I still never conceived of art as being a career, although at this point, I considered myself an artist. Although I was making a living as an art administrator and continued to make art, it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I actually realized I wanted to be an artist. There wasn’t any particular defining moment, just a slow maturing into this realization.
More at Mark Granlund’s work can be found at a variety of places, including Everett & Charlie.


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