Carol & Mark Kortnik's Bio

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Carol Kortnik

As an artist living in the mountains of northeast Oregon, I am provided with inexhaustible inspiration for the watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media paintings that I love doing. My husband, Mark, (also an artist) and I live in the small town of Joseph where we have our gallery and studios. We feel privileged to look out our windows and see so much beauty in our world. It is exciting as an artist to seek new ways to express what I see.

My backpacking trips into the Eagle Cap Wilderness area have been the inspiration for a series of landscape paintings that reflect the beauty of our area. I feel a special sensitivity to the quietness of a day spent among trees laden with snow, seeing little birds on a winter morning, appreciating the smallest wildflowers that bloom so quickly after the snow recedes. These wilderness experiences represent the moments that I enjoy painting.

It was on a boat trip on the Snake River when I discovered petroglyphs and pictographs on the walls of the Hell's Canyon. My experience will be one that stays with me forever. I felt a connection with a different person who, a thousand years before, had stood at that same spot with reason to carve those images into the rock surface. Since then, I have been researching rock art sites in the western states, wondering what those drawings could possibly have meant in the existence of people living so long ago. Their function was to increase the knowledge of those who lived in a world long ago, whose survival depended on understanding things as seasonal changes and the nature of the animals in their environment. We do not experience life that way. But there is a message that be learned from them, and their art form is there for us to enjoy as we try to imagine how those people lived and what the messages meant. With my unique style of mixed media painting, I undertake to preserve that art form, down to the very cracks that have reshaped the rocks on which they have existed for thousands of years.

My further interest in rock art has lead me to the caves in France and Spain, where carbonating has confirmed the age of those paintings to be from 10,000 to30,000 years old, the oldest paintings known to man! There drawn or engraved on the walls of many caves are images of life-size horses, bison, mammoths, ibex, reindeer, rhinos, and lions. Altamira in Spain was discovered in 1868. In 1940, the cave at Lascaux France was found by youths while exploring a deep hole in the ground. The latest discovery, in 1994, was the Chauvet Cave in the south of France. They represent "our most direct contact with the beliefs, pre-occupations of our ancestors." In order to protect them, many of the caves have been closed to the public, but photographs exist in books that give us our access to this artwork. After remaining in the dark for thousands of centuries, they become an important part of the lives of everyone who experiences this connection to the Mysteries of the ancient past.

It is with respect that I share with you my artistic response to these ancient images, and to the beauty of the natural world.


Mark Kortnik

The excitement of discovering new artistic imagery will always be of great inspiration to me and to those who experience my work. Since moving from Sacramento, California, in 1986, where I received my Bachelor of fine Arts degree, I now make my home near the snow capped mountains that surround the NE Oregon town of Joseph. I am a full time professional oil painter whose main influences come from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest wilderness and the wildlife that inhabits it. My wife, who is also an artist, and I feel that the art we create speaks of a concerned awareness of the fragility of our environment and its diverse forms of natural life. I work from photos and drawings taken from my outdoor explorations to achieve the realistic effects I want in my paintings.

Recently my interest has turned towards painting ancient Indian rock art called petroglyphs. In my paintings, I depict Pacific Northwest rock art designs that I discover while photographing the sites. I then paint from the photos when I return to my studio. People always comment to me on how much my paintings look like real stone surfaces. I have learned that these two thousand year old symbols on stone may represent great mythical stories, important dreams, or magical and religious events. My personal belief is that the ancient rock art represents rnan's fundamental need to seek out answers to the questions of his existence and to communicate some sense of his experience with the natural and supernatural order of life. I believe that the petroglyphs sites themselves are a kind of meeting place spiritually between primitive man, nature and his conception of Deity.

Lately, I have developed a series of paintings based on the oldest paintings known to man, found in Southern France at the famous Lascaux, Cosquer and Chauvet Cave sites discovered from 1940 to 1994. After remaining in the dark for thousands of centuries, the discovery of these prehistoric cave drawings this century have provided the basis for my new series of paintings. These Ice age animal images are dated from 17,000 to 30,000 years old. They prove invaluable insight into the life of our Paleolithic ancestors and the mysteries of our ancient past.

I sense a connection with those ancient artists and those primal impulses that moved them to express themselves creatively. I hope that you too will experience a unique connection through the excitement of experiencing my original oil paintings and Limited Edition Prints.


Carol Mark Kortnik, Voyage on the Water



Carol Mark Kortnik, Spirit of the North



Carol Mark Kortnik, Flint



Carol Mark Kortnik, Days of Thunder



Carol Mark Kortnik, She Who Watches



Carol Mark Kortnik, The Tenuous Light of the Dream



Carol Mark Kortnik, Untitled



Carol Mark Kortnik, Canyon Spirit


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