Human Symbolism

Categories: 2020 November-December Issue, Kelso, Mark, Oil, and Wildlife.

There’s often a moment during Mark Kelso’s design process when he discovers something familiar in what he is painting. For example, while working out the design of a piece that showed two bison in rut, violently going after each other, Kelso recognized the same intensity he experiences while practicing martial arts. Seeing that helped him to reframe the design. Instead of painting full bodies of both bison, he zoomed in to focus on their huge, colliding heads.

“You can see the slobber flying, their tongues lolling, their eyes rolling back,” Kelso says. “It captures the intensity that I saw in them, the same intensity that I see in martial arts.”

Read the full article in the November/December 2020 issue.

Rally on the Ridge


36” by 48”

“While wolves will howl to communicate with rivals, the behavior is also a strong bonding mechanism, and I liked the idea of tackling a painting that had something to do with the concept of family ties. This scenario also touched, more subtly, on the ties I personally feel to the natural world, with a wolf’s howl being one of my favorite sounds in all of nature.”

Zeroing In


30” by 30”

“Every painting takes on its own identity, and this painting quickly became all about the play of light and shadow for me. My reference images and original sketches had far less contrast. However, I really liked the cool blues and purples of the shadows against the warm hues of the cat’s coat and the grasses, so I emphasized the light quite a bit. The stronger lighting contrast also helped to add drama to the narrative within the scene.”