Mark Loughney

American Portrait Artist
ArtworkSpecial Projects

About the Artist

All of my drawings were all created in what might be considered a strange place for a studio: my prison cell in Pennsylvania’s Sci-Dallas. The same cell that serves as my studio was also the setting for a mere miraculous intervention in the form of a radio interview given by artist, Johnny Romeo.

It was September of 2015 as I lay in my bunk, weighed down by the gravity of facing a lengthy sentence, when I heard on public radio a message that spoke directly to me. It was so moving that I couldn’t lie there for another minute. I had to get up and draw. Johnny’s message saved me from a darkness I couldn’t shake, and it also jolted me from the paralysis of non-productivity.

All the pieces were arrived at in roughly the same way. My process begins with being terrified of a blank paper until I conjure enough mettle to make an initial intuitive stroke with my pen, then another stroke, and another. It is not until after initially getting the drawing off ground that I take a step back and make conscious design decisions. The first step is almost always to figure out what the drawing wants to become, then kind of helping it along. Small strange animals and insects are all over the place in my drawings. The most prolific cast member, the MVP, is a striped pupa that I have dubbed “botfly”. This element kept showing up in my drawings and one day I stood back to try and understand why I liked it so much. My analysis revealed some parallels to my own life: The black and white stripes that commonly indicate a prisoner, the transitional life stage, the vulnerability, and the way they look like they want to just go bouncing down the hallway. This series of drawings was only possible because of Johnny’s persistence in his own development, which has served me about as much as it has served him. If I had not heard him give that interview in 2015 there would be no drawings, no botflies, no redemption through art, no light in the tunnel. But I did hear it. And because of it I have been reborn into a newly focused obsessive. This is how I have found a way to be free. When I draw, when I paint, I am truly myself. I cling to it as if it is my life raft to redemption, as if I might be able to right the wrongs I am responsible for. When I draw I feel like I am tapping into a universal mind from which I borrow these archetypal elements and stick them into my drawings. It is my meditation practice and my communion with all that is life. I never really had any faith in ever being anything more than an amateur artist until I heard Johnny’s interview last year on WVIA. Since then I have kind of been reborn into an obsessive nut that rarely thinks about anything other than drawing and painting.

Artwork by Mark Loughney

Special Projects and Exhibitions by Mark Loughney

Trophic Eggs

trophic egg – (n.) a rejected egg, usually degenerate in form and inviable, that is fed to other members of an ant colony

The Trophic Eggs collection of drawings was inspired by resurrected thoughts and ideas that I had previously rejected as nonsense. It is easy for me to dismiss my good ideas because they are mine. Then when a stranger expresses what I had felt, I recognize my own rejected thoughts in their work and it all comes back to me with an alienated twist, and I am forced to take, with regret, my own opinions and ideas from another. So, for Trophic Eggs, I set out to put down on paper some of those once rejected, inviable ideas to find out if any nutritional value could be squeezed from them.

Insects have again made their ubiquity apparent in these works, as they had in my previous collection, Letters From Desolation Row. Bugs fascinate me. Among other subject matter, these drawings include some of my interpretations of my experiences living with insects and other small creatures… How they look, how they feel, how they make me feel, how they taste, how they feel crawling through your hair. (You have something in your hair!)

My drawings all begin in pencil, graphite, and colored pencil. Then I refine them by cross-hatching with a ballpoint pen. If the composition calls for a large area of value, I use acrylic paint. Every piece begins as an egg of an idea to be hatched and grown out on the paper. As I work, a blob and a couple of squiggly lines help to get the overall composition to emerge, then they slowly begin to turn into a gallbladder, a foreleg, a chine, a river, etc. The more absurd the final result appears, the more I love looking at it. I take absurdity very seriously.

-Mark Loughney

“If you can master nonsense as well as you have learned to master sense, then each will expose the other for what it is: absurdity. From that moment of illumination, a man begins to be free regardless of his surroundings. He becomes free to play order games and change them at will. He becomes free to play disorder games just for the hell of it. He becomes free to play neither or both. And as the master of his own games, he plays without fear, and therefore without frustration, and therefore with good will in his soul and love in his being. And when men become free, then mankind will be free.”

-Malaclypse The Younger