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The Verve: With arts degree, artist now focused on mastering technique, fundamentals

Artist Max Marlett, a recent graduate of Gonzaga University with a degree in art, stands with some of his work June 30 at GU. He is mainly an oil painter, and his work can be seen at the Satellite Diner and Missing Piece Tattoo. (Jesse Tinsley)
Artist Max Marlett, a recent graduate of Gonzaga University with a degree in art, stands with some of his work June 30 at GU. He is mainly an oil painter, and his work can be seen at the Satellite Diner and Missing Piece Tattoo. (Jesse Tinsley)
Jennifer Larue jlarue99@hotmail.com

Max Marlett, 23, is an emerging artist who will most likely be emerging for quite some time.

“It is once the artist has experimented enough to become comfortable with their style and skill that they can begin on the quest of their artistic endeavor,” he said. “You have to embrace who and what you are as a painter and a person. There is a lot to say, and that changes as you journey through your career.”

Marlett grew up in Oregon and remembers as a 4-year-old drawing a fairly accurate dinosaur’s skull. In high school, he was known as being artistic and was always called upon to draw one thing or another.

When it came time to graduate from high school, Marlett’s seat was empty; he had a manic episode and was hospitalized. “I was diagnosed as bipolar about five years ago,” he said. Medication stabilized him but art is his therapy.

To Marlett, art is a coping mechanism that allows him to express himself, but it goes much deeper than just applying paint to a canvas.

“I am in no way restricted but that doesn’t mean that I should forget about the past or fundamentals,” he said. “It is easy for an artist to have a strong agenda and message and push that harder than the actual work, but painting after all is supposed to be about the work.”

After high school, Marlett enrolled at Gonzaga University. He considered taking business courses but realized that his brain leaned more toward the arts. He graduated this year with a degree in art but he has yet to move out of the studio space; he assists art professor Robert Gilmore, enabling Marlett to continue to learn.

For now, Marlett concentrates on the fundamentals and technique. He paints from live setups, often using objects that he finds at junkyards. He abstracts his findings, making the familiar ambiguous with interesting angles or close-ups.

“I use a limited color palette with predominantly semitransparent paint to produce luminous effects with high contrast and gradations of color. This technique also allows me to glaze and layer with ease,” he said.

He focuses on perspective, shadow, blending, depth, color and glazes. He enjoys mixing the organic with the inorganic in his imagery, like fruit and steel.

“I like opposites,” he said, “like manic and depressive.”

Still in the very early and experimental years of his career, Marlett is content to keep learning.

“Right now I’m balancing between the fundamentals and a personal journey,” he said.

He has shown his work sparingly, including at the Jundt Museum and at the Satellite Diner. His plans include getting a master’s degree and continuing to emerge.

“I might start adding symbolic things to my work like blackbirds.” His name means blackbird in French.

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