Black painting, therapy, Black Sabbath, New York comedy. These four things are major influences on Enterprise native and artist Travis Marak. Marak’s paintings on the whole display the dark extremes of his emotions. Extremes are shown through abstract painting. Sometimes his art is simply abstract, but often Marak creates patterns in his abstract paintings such as faces, landscapes, eyeballs, and vultures, among others. With his improving emotional state and a growing fan base for his art, Marak hopes to make painting his career.
“I don’t apply black paint as much as I used to. That low at the base level is still there, so it’s still coming out,” Marak said. “It started as therapy and then it sort of continued. It’s still therapy, but I also try to do things that will make you want to see more.
Travis Marak’s life began in Montana. Marak’s father was in the US military, so the move was part of the Marak family. When Marak was in college, his father was ordered to transfer to Germany. Marak graduated from high school in the European country and started his adult life there.
In high school, Marak began listening to Jim Norton and Opie and Anthony and other comedians from the New York comedy scene on the radio. Marak said he fell in love with comedians because of the extremes and the willingness to joke about anyone.
“I really like individuals who do their own thing and really try to make a statement no matter what they’re doing,” he said.
As he established his life in Germany, his family prepared to move again, this time to the United States.
“I had a choice when the family came back here. I could either stay there or move to Colorado. I made the choice to move to Colorado,” Marak said. “I ask myself questions every day. I had really settled down a life there, but I probably had too much fun there. Probably smart, I backed off.
Marak lived in Colorado for a few years, working at a record store. Music has a huge influence on Marak’s art. Most of his art is named after the name of the song or part of a song’s lyrics. His musical preferences lean towards heavy metal. He listens to any part of the genre, from Poison’s hair metal to Cannibal Corpse’s death metal. His debut in the metal world started with the first metal band, Black Sabbath.
“I started there in Germany,” he said. “I bought the ‘Paranoid’ record just on a whim. I was in a thrift store. It was like $5 and I was like “let’s see what happens with that”. so I was totally hooked. My parents listened to country all my life, so I heard it and it freaked me out. Then I listened to Black Sabbath’s first album. It was the first time I was afraid of music.
His father was later transferred to Kansas. Marak decided to return to his hometown in Montana. Back in Montana, he stayed for about six years, working as a line cook. For part of those six years, Marak endured what he described as a “bad time”. Long working hours every day every week, bad relationships and other factors led Marak to depression.
“One day, I decided that I had to (paint). I do not know why. I was just like ‘I have to try this.’ So I went to Michaels, bought a little bundle of canvases and some cheap paint and went home and started,” he said.
His first paintings were abstracts. His colleagues liked them, which motivated him to create a Facebook page for his art.
“It just kept progressing. The Facebook page almost turned into weekly posts. I painted all the time there. That’s all I had. I worked, sometimes 100 hours a week or more. I was the only employee for a while in this kitchen. I would go home. I would paint.
Marak then began to incorporate his feelings into his art, which is when art became therapy for him. Marak said the darkest emotional art he ever created came from the era. His most used motif, acrylic faces, began to appear. Eventually he also began to create landscapes.
While he started out with brushes, Marak’s methods veered away from traditional styles. One of his most widely used methods is to pour paint onto a flat canvas and move the paint by tilting the canvas. Once he has created a pattern, Marak will then modify parts of the pattern to form a face, using the established pattern and colors to determine the size and shape of the face. Another method developed by Marak involves taking a palette knife under the paint on a canvas to shape the paint into any shape he wants.
“It’s a lot of experimentation, constant experimentation. I would say for every 10 experiments I get a painting, so that’s a lot of failures before it starts. Once you get the technique down, you can really start tracing them and trying to do more,” he said.
After six years in Montana, Marak decided he had had enough of his life in the state and decided to move to Enterprise to be closer to his family in Kansas and “restart” his life. At Kansas, Marak said his emotional state had improved. Her art has reflected this, as her more recent designs contain more colors other than shades between white and black.
Marak is now experimenting with new painting techniques and creating with his usual patterns and returning to the patterns he used when he started painting. Some of Marak’s unfinished paintings feature a giant eyeball usually in a natural setting. He created a couple when he started painting, but now he’s returned to the motif, which he’s obsessed with, with more painting and life experience.
“There’s a good part of the eyes that, I don’t know why, it has to happen,” he said. “The eye in nature; I don’t understand that myself… It’s kind of a combination of being watched, I also like the eyes and you can learn a lot from the eyes. You can look someone in the eye and tell you if they are a good person or a bad person, if they are up to something, if they are full of it. Everything else about their body can tell one thing, but their eyes will tell you a totally different thing. This is the basis of my obsession.
As for new art techniques, Marak said he was testing a method involving water, rubbing alcohol and spray paint. First, he soaks the canvas in water. Then he sprays alcohol on it. Then he adds spray paint as he pleases on the canvas and moves the paint on the canvas as needed.
“It gives it this weird crackling effect… If you hit (the canvas) while it’s wet, because spray paint dries really fast even when it’s wet (and) too dry to blend,” said he declared. “If you can work really fast and keep adding colors, you can try getting different colors for the shading.”
Now that Marak has the opportunity to develop his career as a painter, he wants to push the boundaries of what his career can be. Marak said he hopes being an artist will become a full-time career. If his social media pages and sales grow as they have been, he hopes to go full-time next year.
“I don’t really have a goal as to what I’m going to paint,” he said. “It’s more of a goal of how far I can go, how far it will go, and hopefully one day it will piss some people off. That’s how you know you’ve done it. .
“I think it’s important if you’re doing something, if you’re going to do music, do comedy, whatever,” he said.
Marak said he believed in being an individual no matter what. People can create art even if their work isn’t to everyone’s taste or even if they’re not the best artist – none of that matters as much as the expression of self.
“You want people to look at what you’re painting and be like ‘oh, that’s Travis,'” he said.