Painting a Story

Artisan Mark Witzling's contemporary abstract paintings tell a different story for each person who sees them.

By Kellie Hynes
Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


Each one of Mark Witzling’s oil and cold wax paintings tells a story. But the story is different for everyone who gazes at it. Where some see nature, others see religion. Or a still life. Or a figure. This is the beauty, and the challenge, of contemporary abstract painting. As Witzling says, “with abstracts, you remove the literal constraints. You’re not grading it against another image.” Instead, his work explores color, shapes and lines that are juxtapositions of intricacy and simplicity. 

An accomplished marketer by day, Witzling taught himself how to paint after he was inspired by “art in the place that the artist meant the art to be” during a vacation to Italy. He credits American artist Rebecca Crowell for introducing him to the oil and cold wax medium. Before painting, he mixes cold bees wax, which has a soft, cake frosting-like texture, with oil paints. The wax adds texture and transparency to the oil paints, which are applied in layers to wood panels. There is a surprising lack of paintbrushes on display in Witzling’s studio. Instead, he uses tools like steel wool, sticks and pastry cutters to dive through the layers and allow previously applied colors to peek through. It’s a technique Witzling describes as process painting. “You have to let yourself make the marks without being judgmental. Eventually the painting starts to speak to you, and interact with you.”

The hardest part of painting, Witzling says, is knowing when a piece is finished. So how does he know? “When the viewer can see a complexity of layers, but feel the unity of a piece, that’s when it’s done,” Witzling explains.

Witzling’s paintings will be available for sale at the Midwest Salute to the Arts, August 25-27, at Moody Park in Fairview Heights. For more information, visit his website or instagram.  

Mark Witzling, 314-307-7973