TRADING IN DRUM STICKS FOR ART BRUSHES MARC POTOCSKY By Sandra Castillo
TRADING IN DRUM STICKS FOR ART BRUSHES
THE INCREDIBLE ART OF MARC POTOCSKY
By Sandra Castillo
When one feasts their eyes upon the hyper-realistic images, whether it’s the exquisitely detailed rendering of the late Johnny Cash or a breathtaking aerial view of the Manhattan skyline at dusk, it’s a prescribed challenge not to feel that this definitive brand of art will somehow resurrect itself as the real thing, by way of its own volition. If you are still not convinced, then one, quick glance of Marc Potocsky’s portrait of New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter just may change your mind forever.
The artist and owner of MJP Studios creates works of art that need to be seen to be believed. He is a master of his craft, applying a deft touch which elevates his creations to an exemplary level of excellence. Such is the superlative quality of his work, Potocsky has garnered a reputable coterie of music and sports celebrities as clients, who he has politely declined to name, mainly out of respect for their privacy. Along with these elite patrons who proudly showcase his art in their homes, his work has also been exhibited in local galleries throughout Connecticut and Nashville, Tennessee. Of note, he has been featured on several TV programs, including “This Old House” and “Extreme Home Makeover.”
Though Potocsky is a renowned artist, he is also a veteran musician, who started playing drums at the age of thirteen, eventually taking his well-honed skills on the road throughout the United States and abroad. He was heavily entrenched in the Rock and Roll scene for three decades, having played “professionally most of his adult life.” He has performed with the likes of Michael Bolton, Johnny Winter, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson, Brooklyn’s and The Laughing Dogs, a seminal, Rock/New Wave band out of Brooklyn, New York. This particular chapter of his career, as a successful, touring musician, bequeathed him the moniker “Moe Potts.” He once confessed that he put his “art to the side, until about 10-12 years ago.”
Marc Joseph Potocsky entered this universe on September 30, 1952 in New Haven, Connecticut. The artist, who lives and works in North Branford, located a few miles away from the origin of his birth, was gracious enough to speak with RG Magazine about his humble beginnings-where he would spend hours staring at children’s Golden Book encyclopedias, totally captivated by the tome’s collection of striking illustrations. This obsession eventually inspired him to create his own masterpieces that many will find themselves spending hours and hours gazing upon. This is what he shared with the publication…
Let’s take a glance back, when your creative curiosity got the best of you. What exactly kickstarted your foray into the world of Art? Was it a love of doodling, art classes or taking a Crayola to the wall of your bedroom as a small child?
I was always drawing as a kid and making models. As a child with severe ADD (at the time I didn’t know I was), it was hard for me to focus on normal, day-to-day stuff and school work. Drawing felt normal to me. I would get lost in it; I would get in “the zone.” I felt alive. It’s hard to explain. It might sound weird, but it was like time would stand still, and I would get this calm, peace. This was normality for me. I would draw for what felt like ten minutes, but in reality, two-and-a-half hours had gone by. My mother got a children’s Bible story book with illustrations and paintings that looked like photos. The pictures blew me away. I was enthralled by them. She would get these children’s Golden Book encyclopedias from the A & P grocery store, and each week or so, I would get a new volume; the covers were illustrated with fantastic trompe l’oeil paintings of different objects/still life. I was fascinated with these books, staring at them for hours. I knew they were paintings, but they looked so real and life-like. I would draw pictures for all my classmates and make models for my friends. Being an artist became my identity, along with music after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. I was brought up in a tough, low-income neighborhood. I could have ended up in a gang but instead, I ended up in a band.
Where did you receive your art training?
Although I wasn’t a very good student, most of my elementary teachers knew I had some talent and was supportive of me. In junior high school, I had my first, real art teacher, Mr. Carmen Negri (1963-64). He was the coolest and most supportive teacher I ever had. When I went on to Richard C. Lee High School in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1965 to 1969, Mr. Negri was transferred there, also, so I had him for another four years. I learned some elementary, basic skills from him. I was undisciplined, and he was loose and always let me do whatever area I was interested in, artistically and creatively. It was the 60’s, so I was inspired by Psychedelic and Pop Art, Peter Max and others. I am mostly self-taught and never had any real, formal art training. In my senior year, Mr. Negri had gotten me a free ride to Cooper Union in New York City, but I turned it down. I had also become a musician at the time and was in a Rock band, so in all my “youthful wisdom” couldn’t see how art and music could fit together in my life. I was such a bad student that I was failing in most of my classes. In order to graduate, I ended up giving all my art away to my teachers for a passing grade. I don’t recommend this method of education to anyone. Music sidetracked me from art for 20-30 years. Most of what I’ve learned over the years was from books and trial-and-error.
I got to see my old high school art teacher before he died. I told him I had only one regret-not taking that chance to go to art school. And he tried to encourage me by saying, ‘You didn’t miss anything, Marc. Believe me.’ A wonderful man, but I would go today, if I could. You can never stop learning. Once you stop learning, you stop living.
How would you define your area of expertise as an artist?
Although I paint murals, scenic, landscapes and architectural art, I really enjoy drawing and painting trompe l’oeil still life. I worked for a company in L.A.-Victory Fine Art-for a few years doing sports art. It was great but couldn’t make a living from it. I do a lot of sports art and music legends art. I finally found a way to fuse art and music together in a way that made sense to me and can help people appreciate and enjoy. It feels right!
What mediums do you employ to create your masterpieces?
At this point in my career, I use a combination of acrylic paint and pencil. Everything is brushed, drawn with some airbrushes, also. I usually paint on canvas and, sometimes, Masonite panels.
How many hours do you paint on any given day?
It depends on the piece or the commission. At times, I will paint 5-7 hours straight. At other times, I will pick at a piece, an hour or two here or there. I like to live with my pieces whenever I can and when time allows, so I can revisit them in my studio with fresh eyes. Some drawings can take 2-7 hours, some paintings 10-100 hours to complete. I did the “NFL 50th-Anniversary Super Bowl” for the commission that took about 90-hours-plus and was commissioned to do three paintings of the “One World Center Freedom Tower” in New York City, which took about 100 hours each. They were a good-sized 36” X 48,” with a lot of detail.
Have you ever received any awards for your Art?
None, but one of the biggest and most recent rewards that I received was when one of my paintings-a large piece of New York Yankees great Derek Jeter-auctioned off for $15,000 for the CT Cancer Foundation in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. That was a life changer for me!
When you are not creating magnificent works of art, what constitutes a typical day in the life of Marc Potocsky?
I run a decorative painting company with my son, David. We offer murals, faux finishes, marbleizing, wood-graining, trompe l’oeil ornamentation and decoration, gilding Venetian plaster, painted furniture and floors, etc. So that’s what I do, when I’m not painting.
You mentioned that you are currently building and establishing relationships with major celebrities to do more charity work.
Yes, I am. I am working with Bret Michaels of Poison for the cure of diabetes, Willie Nelson for Farm Aid, Michael Bolton for Women and Children At Risk, as well as more sports art for the CT Cancer Foundation.
It’s obvious you are a bona fide Rock and Roll aficionado with the type of portraits you’ve executed of certain R & R heavyweights. What is it exactly about these performers that revs your engines and gives you reason to instill their likenesses on canvas?
It all started when I received a call from an old friend, Brian Phelps, the owner of the legendary Toads Place in New Haven, CT, where many great artists have played over the years. Acts, such as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, U2, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, James Taylor, Muddy Waters…the list goes on and on. Well, Brian asked me to paint some murals of some of the artists who had performed there, so that’s when I began to paint music icons and began to paint some of my favorites. I love painting music people and the joy I get from a fan who appreciates their favorite artist being portrayed on canvas. As a musician, I never thought I would be painting someday, but it all makes sense now. I started out as an artist who became a musician. Now, I’m an artist, painting musicians. I traded in my sticks for some brushes.
To view more of Marc Potocsky’s work, please visit-