At the beginning of each week, Mark Peterson fills the automatic bread making machine in his Somerville studio with dough mix and turns it on. He starts it early so that the bread is ready to eat when lunchtime rolls around. That’s why, no matter what day of the week I might visit, there is a lingering fresh bread scent about the place. I was once lucky enough to have an appointment with Mark on bread-making day. I arrived at 10 am to the aroma of a golden raisin and plum bread that had been baking all morning. By midday, I was biting into a thick slice of it. (Note to self: Remember to go there on a Monday.)
The comforting smell of baking bread is not what you’d expect from outside 86 Joy Street. This stretch of Joy Street is, well, not exactly inspiring. It’s drab, industrial, and noticeably void of greenery. The predominant color is grey. A garbage processing plant across the street from the studio building plays a loud, intermittent recording of seagulls squawking, presumably to keep birds away. A brick wall on one end of the street has the words “NO JUMPING” painted in dull red across it. No jumping for joy? The bright yellow door and railings of the Joy Street Studio entrance are the only real spark of color in an otherwise dull landscape.
Mark is a photographer. The charcoal-colored walls of his studio are a perfect backdrop for his photographs which include some of the bleaker pockets of Boston and surrounding towns. When I look at Mark’s photographs, I can’t help but notice how beautifully the shabbiest of elements come together. Rundown alleyways, grimy smokestacks, chain link fences. Stained concrete, rusted metal, and thick rivers of electrical cables. The wear and tear found in many of these scenes form
striking and comforting images, despite their often gritty feel. For one, the compositions alone are lovely. But Mark’s sense of color and light bring these photographs alive.
Not only does Mark have a fine eye, but he’s also got a giclée printer! I go to his studio when I want to have prints made of my digital paintings. As he explained to me on my very first visit, my images are never going to look exactly the same on paper as they do on the computer screen. The luminosity from the screen can’t be reproduced. And because I tend toward wild colors and combinations in my work, there are sometimes compromises to be made when deciding which way to go with a print job. If I really want the purple to look a certain way, I may have to compromise a bit on, say, the rose color or the lime green. If I’m not willing to compromise the rose or green, then I may end up with a purple that lacks the intensity or depth I think is important to the piece.
Sometimes we’ve had to consider cropping versus reshaping, when a piece wasn’t quite going to fit the matted frame I’d bought for it. Occasionally a little electronic stretching or scrunching in one direction doesn’t affect the look at all, and other times it can make a cat’s face look oddly bovine or a landscape lose some of its airy feel. Mark is great at understanding what the heck his color management program is telling him and in pointing out the color and sizing issues to me. He’s also remarkably patient with flipping back and forth between my options until I settle on the one that works for me.
Today I went to pick up some prints he recently made for me, including the portraits of two feline friends, Mildred and Fig. I was very pleased with the color on these pieces. There were also a couple of experimental florals—something I don’t usually paint, but I thought I’d print them and see. They’re okay, but I think I’ll be sticking to other subjects.
If you’d like to see Mark Peterson’s photos in person, he’ll be showing “Near and Far: East Boston” as part of the Joy Street Open Studios November 20-21 from noon to 6 pm. For more information, visit www.joystreetartists.org.
If you want to see more of my digital paintings and illustrations, drop by http://iodine.redbubble.com