Enterprise artist paints his way to better mental health using experimental techniques, unique style | News


Black paint, therapy, Black Sabbath, New York comedy. These four things are major influences of Travis Marak, artist and Enterprise-native. Marak’s paintings overall display the dark extremes of his emotions. The extremes are shown through abstract painting. Sometimes his art is just abstract, but oftentimes Marak creates motifs in his abstract paintings such as faces, landscapes, eyeballs, and vultures — among other things. With his emotional state now improving and a fanbase for his art growing, Marak is hoping to make painting his career.

“I don’t go through as much black paint as I used to. That base-level depression is always there, so it still kind of comes out,” Marak said. “It started as a therapy, and then it kind of just kept going. It’s still therapy, but I also try to make things that will be more wanted to see.”

Travis Marak’s life started in Montana. Marak’s father was part of the United States military, so moving was a part of the Marak family. When Marak was in middle school, his father received an order to transfer to Germany. Marak graduated high school in the European country and started his adult life there.

While in high school, Marak began listening to Jim Norton and Opie and Anthony and other comedians in the New York comedy scene over the radio. Marak said he fell in love with the comedians because of the extremes and willing to joke about anybody.

“I really like individuals who do their own thing and really try to make a statement, no matter what they are doing,” he said.

As he established his life in Germany, his family prepared to move again, this time back to the US

“I had a choice when the family was moving back here. I could either stay there or move to Colorado. Made the choice to move to Colorado,” Marak said. “I question it every day. I had really kind of set up a life there, but I probably had too much fun over there. Probably smart I moved back.”

Marak lived in Colorado for a couple of years, working at a record store. Music is a huge influence on Marak’s art. Most of his art is named after song name or part of a lyric in a song. His musical preferences lean toward heavy metal. He listens to any part of the genre, from the hair metal of Poison to the death metal of Cannibal Corpse. His start into the world of metal began 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 some second-hand store. It was like $5 and I was like ‘let’s see what’s up with that.’ then I was completely hooked. My parents listened to country my whole life, so I heard it, and it freaked me out. Then I listened to the first Black Sabbath album. It was the first time I was ever scared by music.”

His father was then transferred to Kansas. Marak decided to move back 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 work hours every day every week, bad relationships and other factors drove Marak into a depression.

“One day, I just decided I had to (paint). I don’t know why. I just was like ‘I need to try that.’ So I went to Michaels, got a little pack of canvases and some cheap paint and went home and started,” he said.

His first few paintings were abstract. His coworkers liked them, which motivated him to create a Facebook page for his art.

“It kept progressing. The Facebook page turned almost into weekly posts. I was painting 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 that kitchen. I’d get home. I would paint.”

Marak’s then began incorporating his feelings into his art, which is when the art became a therapy for him. Marak said the emotionally darkest art he has ever created came from back then. His most utilized motif, acrylic faces, began to appear. Eventually, he started creating landscapes as well.

While he started out with paintbrushes, Marak’s methods have moved away from traditional styles. One of his most-used methods is to pour paint onto a canvas laying flat and move the paint around by tilting the canvas. Once he has a pattern created, Marak will then alter 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 Marak has developed is taking a pallet knife underneath paint on a canvas to shift the paint into the shape he wants.

“It’s a lot of experimenting, constantly experimenting. I’d say for every 10 experiments, I get one painting, so it’s a lot of failure before it gets going. Once you have the technique down, then you can really start plotting them out and try to make more,” he said.

After six years in Montana, Marak decided he had enough of his life in the state and decided to move to Enterprise to be closer to his family in Kansas and “reboot” his life. In Kansas, Marak said his emotional state has improved. His art has reflected that, as his more recent creations contain more colors other than shades between white and black.

Marak is now experimenting with new painting techniques and creating with his usually motifs and returning to motifs he used when he first started painting. Some of Marak’s unfinished paintings feature a giant eyeball usually in a nature setting. He created a couple back when he first started painting, but now he has returned to the motif, which he is obsessed with, with more painting and life experience.

“There’s a good part of the eyes that, I don’t know why, it just has to happen,” he said. “The eye in nature thing; I don’t understand that myself… It’s kind of a combination of being watched, I also like eyes and you can learn a lot from eyes. You can look into someone’s eyes and you tell if they’re a good person, a bad person, if they’re up to something, if they’re full of it. Everything else on their body can tell one thing, but their eyes will tell you totally different. That’s the basis of my obsession.”

As for new art techniques, Marak said he is testing out a method involving water, rubbing alcohol and spray paint. First, he drenches the canvas in water. Next, he sprays alcohol on it. Then he adds spray paint how he likes on the canvas and moves the paint around on the canvas if necessary.

“It gives it this weird crackling effect… If you hit (the canvas) while its wet, because spray paint dries really fast even when its wet (and) its too dry to blend,” he said. “If you can work really fast and keep adding colors, you can try to get different colors in for shading.”

Now that Marak has the opportunity to grow his painting career, 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 become full-time next year.

“I don’t really have a goal of what I will be painting,” he said. “It’s more a goal of how far I can take it, how far it will go, and hopefully one day piss some people off. That’s how you know you made it.”

“I think that’s important if you do anything, 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 self-expression.

“You want people to look at what you are painting and go, ‘oh that’s Travis,’” he said.

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