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Painter of Florida dreams
Mark Stanford paints the Florida of memories, of palm fronds gently swaying to the songs of the ocean, of the panorama of poinciana trees and hibiscus flowers, of an Indian River Lagoon once clean, clear and teeming with fish.
“I grew up in Florida, hunting and fishing, but the old Florida that I knew is disappearing rapidly,” Stanford said.
Stanford is determined to save those idyllic scenes, if only through his paintings. He is represented locally by Eau Gallery, one of the oldest galleries in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne. Stanford specializes in dream-like tropical landscapes rendered in oils with a palette knife. The Sebastian, Florida, artist deftly delivers into the 21st century both the technique and subject reminiscent of the early knife works of the legendary A.E. Backus paintings.
Originally a goldsmith and later a case manager for a children’s services agency, Stanford had been painting for a couple of years when he discovered the works of A. E. Backus, considered Florida’s painter laureate and a mentor to the Highwaymen.
“Backus painted slowly and in detail,” Stanford said.
Stanford drew inspiration from Backus’ early palette knife works.
“I wanted to paint Florida how it used to be,” he said. Visitors to Stanford’s home were instantly drawn to his landscapes, prompting the artist to sell the works right off his walls at first and later to art dealers throughout South Florida, where the artist continues to have a robust following of collectors.
It is easy to see why Stanford has so many fans. Like potato chips, it is difficult to stop at only one Stanford painting.
“Some of my collectors have bought as many as 30 or more of my paintings,” he said.
Listed on AskArt.com, Stanford was for years a familiar figure at juried art shows throughout Florida. Like the Highwaymen, he is a prolific and popular artist.
“I would sell out and have to go back home and paint day and night between shows so I would have enough paintings for the next show,” he said.
He has since abandoned the punishing schedule to focus on galleries and commissions. Stanford has also completed commissions for residential and commercial murals, including the South entrance to the Vero Beach Mall.
In all his works, regardless of size, Stanford delivers a piece of the richness, color and drama of the Florida that once was.
A selection of Mark Stanford’s works are on display at
Eau Gallery, 1429 Highland Ave., Melbourne. For more information, call 321-253-5553 or visit eaugallery.com.