Everybody in Beaufort knows Mark Guilloud is an animal lover. He’s been a respected and beloved veterinarian here for years. But what you might not know is that after treating animals at his clinic all day, Mark typically spends his nights drawing, painting and sculpting them in his art studio.“Animals in motion . . . a sculptural expression,” a new exhibit at the USCB Gallery, will introduce Mark Guilloud, the artist, to those who haven’t seen this side of the good doctor. The exhibit will include drawings, oil paintings and relief sculptures, all of animals.
During the first ten years of his veterinary practice, Mark worked a great deal with horses, and the exhibit reflects his knowledge and mastery of the equine form. “I am drawn to horses as art because they move like music, naturally and effortlessly,” he says. “I build them as I would from clay, with their bone and muscle structure in mind. Using weathered live oak to express their attitude and personality seems fitting.”
Mark says he’s been kicked, pawed and bitten enough to respect that attitude. “I worked on a breeding farm and witnessed firsthand the beauty of life – labor, delivery, then watched a three-hour old foal stand to nurse. And I worked in an equine orthopedic hospital, so we spent most of the day watching their gate to decide what issue was causing lameness.”
Mark brings all this knowledge and experience to the studio – of horses and other animals – when he begins a new project. He also consults his materials for guidance. It all started about ten years ago, when he found a “perfect fish” in driftwood form. He started making furniture and other objects out of river and beach finds.
“I really wanted to learn how to paint like the masters. Renoir . . . Degas . . . Sargent . . . DaVinci . . . Michelangelo,” he says. “And I tried, failing miserably. First of all, I am colorblind, and second of all, they were just amazing people to follow. So I decided to stick with my comfort zone, relying on life experiences and the natural resources around us. We all drive by and walk by old trees downed by a storm or erosion. They have stories and lots of art in them. Pareidolia is the phenomenon of perceiving inanimate objects as something significant. (A cloud or toast looking like a face, Jesus, etc). Supposedly it’s a survival instinct babies have as they smile back at a human face. For some reason, I see a lot of those faces. Lots of horses, birds, fish, pigs, sheep . . and one Jesus. So far.”
When discussing his process, Mark says he starts with one piece of the puzzle, then builds the entire project around it. “I typically find a jaw, eye or an ear as my starter. It takes days or weeks to finish, but who wouldn’t love the hunt? Walking through a marsh or boating around the creeks and bringing back a ‘jackpot,’ as I tell my wife. From there I use a truckload of pieces to fit together. Lots of failures, occasionally a good one I am happy with. It has to have some soul, that gaze that forces you to look again.”
Mark says one of the most important influences on his work has been his friend and fellow Beaufort artist, Louis Bruce, with whom he’s studied. “There is always someone who impacts you, and that one is Louis for me. A true friend who knows a lot and is willing to share it. He’s passed not only the knowledge, but the continued enthusiasm we share in this little obsession.”
And speaking of little obsessions, this busy veterinarian says his prime time for painting and sculpting is between 10 pm and 2 am . . . while most of us are sleeping. “A successful day is when I forget the time,” he says, “forgetting to eat or drink, ‘almost sick from it,’ my wife scolds me. ‘You’ve gotta take better care of yourself,’ she says. ‘Get in here and eat.’”
Mark says his wife Alison is his biggest fan, but also a fair critic. “She has a great eye. ‘Not your best’ is code for ‘start over,’” he laughs.
When asked what drives this healer, husband and father of two to push the limits by adding “artist” to his list of identities, Mark muses, “For therapy? To slow the passage of time? To find that completely still pond in my consciousness? To make me smile? All I know is that it’s a romantic chase for a perfection that will never be attained. And that’s quite okay with me, for it has taught me to be a patient man.”
“Animals in motion . . . a sculptural expression” will open at the USCB Gallery on Thursday, May 7th at the USCB Gallery. The public is invited to meet the artist at an opening reception from 6 – 8 pm. The show will run through the month of June. For more information, call 521-4145.