Monday, April 17, 2006
Skyway Portrait Painter
By Breanne Doroff
An artist on display
As a child, Mark Sanislo honed his artistic
talents by copying
Encyclopedia photos of notable figures, like Michelangelo Buonarroti
and George Washington.
Today, at age 44, Sanislo is a nationally known portrait artist who
shares his talent for capturing a person’s soul through his art in his skyway-level
gallery in the Baker Center, South 7th Street and
in my view, are representing who they are. Their
character and personality,” he said. “I’m taken
by the subject matter.
The qualities people bring are infinite.”
Many of his works are featured in executive offices, private
collections and religious
publications. But when Sanislo opened his
skyway shop in October, he found a way to share with the public not
only his gift for realism but also his other two loves: family and
Mark Sanislo Portraits
in the Baker
graphic design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, St. Cloud
University, and portrait painting at the Atelier Lack School of Fine
Art in Minneapolis.
While working through college, Sanislo discovered his
true passion: painting quick public portraits in an amusement park in
Chicago, working as people
hovered over his shoulder.
still like being able to have someone there, to
race to complete a painting and capture the qualities of the person
quickly, like a camera snapshot,” he said.
Following college, Sanislo became a photographer and
commercial artist. But doing freelance drawings on the side wasn’t
enough. He needed to fill his creative void with something more
I’ve always wanted to be challenged. You
can’t fake [portraits]. You have to get it right,” he said.
During the 1990s, Sanislo painted portraits with
several other artists on Mackinac Island, a tourist resort in northern
Michigan, and later opened up his first Minneapolis gallery in the
Gaviidae Commons, 6th Street and Nicollet Mall.
He went on to co-own Fiat Studios, an art-distribution
company serving religious gift shops, before opening his shop in the
Baker Center and dedicating more time to the craft of portraiture.
Photo by Amber Procaccini
Mark Sanislo stands amid
his portraits in the Baker
For many clients,
portraits are a new adventure.
Nick Berry recently commissioned a painting by Sanislo
of his two little girls as a gift to their mother. “I would come by
everyday and talk with Mark. I saw the portrait evolve. We made
decisions together and I worked with him the whole way through,” he
Sanislo meets with clients at least three times in the
portrait process. He discusses why the clients want the portrait,
photographs the subjects and makes head studies.
It can take a lot of time to capture these
Pastel drawings take weeks to complete, while oil paintings can take
months, depending on their size.
Sanislo said that oil paint allows him to add more
texture, more detail and thick brush strokes to the painting. Pastel
drawings are much quicker to produce and give a different look.
Dianne Parent recently commissioned an oil painting
completed by Sanislo as a surprise for her husband at his retirement
party. She contacted him after a referral from a friend and after
viewing many of Sanislo’s religious pieces. “I’m usually kind of
critical about things, but he did a fabulous job. There wasn’t a thing
I didn’t like about that picture,” she said.
exercises allow him to conduct preliminary
drawings and take notes. Thumbnail pictures miniature examples of the
portrait are used in the process.
Touch-ups and eye and hair color
are matched during the final meeting.
find a quality in each person that makes it more
than just some technical craft. The painting has to speak to me. It’s
much more than just an artistic exercise,” he said.
Photo by Allen Smith
Mark Sanislo Oil
Painting an Board Room Portrait
artistic passions run deep, they soar beyond his studios. He devotes
much of his talents to his religion. He is also a husband and father of
six grown(ing) children.
One of his proudest accomplishments is his life-size
portrait of Father
Bernard Reiser of the Church of Epiphany in Coon
Rapids. Sanislo grew up with Father Reiser, so the work carries
Influenced by his sons, who are sports fanatics,
Sanislo has completed a life-size Kirby
Puckett portrait, which he
began the Friday after the baseball great’s death. It is on display in
his skyway studio.
Sanislo plans to hang the Puckett portrait in his
gallery for the next month, while completing a series of people who are
considered to be Minnesota legends. He wants to include Paul Wellstone
and Charles Lindbergh, too.
Sanislo said notable artists are his inspiration,
including, John Singer Sargent, Edgar Degas and Michelangelo Merisi da
He also finds inspiration in his subjects, people who
have, in his mind, built legacies. “There is so much more
representing their life and work,” he said.
In the future, Sanislo said he’d like to build a body
of work and have it displayed in a gallery or in a church. Other goals
include painting a governor or senator’s portrait and painting murals
at rapid-transit stations.
Until then, Sanislo continues to polish his skills by
attending night classes. He also loves to analyze the art in local
museums and bookshops.
like a chef that tastes the soup, and I figure
out what ingredients they used. I find the palette of colors, and look
at the textures and methods,” he said. “Even today I will go to
& Noble and when I walk in, they ask if I need help finding
anything, and I just say, ‘No thanks, just looking at pictures.’”
Portrait price ranges
Oil paintings range from $1,500-10,500, depending on the size.
Pastel drawings range from $750-5,500, depending on the size.
Additional charges may apply for additional subjects, backgrounds,
travel and photography expenses.