Mark Dahle Biography

Mark Dahle grew up in Southeast Alaska, where it rains 150 inches a year. After 18 years, he finally decided to dry out. You may not believe it, but people from Ketchikan go to the Seattle area for sunshine. Mark moved to Tacoma, freelancing in writing, photography and layout design.

Mark started his first painting in 1989 without knowing what he was going to paint. He was only sure of the colors for it. After about two weeks, a third of the way down the canvas, Mark knew what the painting was. "Red Sky at Morning" emerged quickly after that. It is based on the first half of a children's poem: Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

When the painting was done, Mark saw how good it was -- and that inspired him to keep painting.

Since Mark started painting, he has had five one-person shows: two in Chicago, IL, and one each in Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; and Escanaba, MI. Mark owned a gallery in La Jolla, California for 2 1/2 years before moving his gallery to the web (

Mark currently lives in San Diego. He has been falling down the coast most of his life, and he hopes he has the brakes on.

Questions About Style

Your paintings look like my five-year-old's art.

Awesome! Keep encouraging your five-year-old!

I don't like abstract art, but I really like your paintings.

This is one of the most frequent comments I hear. I'm not sure why it is. My abstracts seem to be accessible (and enjoyable) to people even if they don't usually like abstract art.

How do you know when you're done?

I can sense it. I keep painting until a painting is complete or it's ruined. Sometimes I think I've ruined a painting, but if I keep at it, it suddenly comes together brilliantly. Other times it's just ruined, and I have to scrape the paint off and start over. But when it all comes together, it's a great feeling.


How did you learn to paint? Where did you go to school?

My mom is an artist and an art teacher. She would often bring movies about artists home for us to preview before she showed them to her classes. When she was evaluating art, she would spread all her students’ work on the living room floor, so I got to see a range of talent and got trained in making evaluative judgments. Most of my training comes from her. The fine art classes I’ve taken have been in photography and cinematography. My one painting class was a critique class with the Dean of the Art Institute of Chicago.

What painters have influenced you?

All of them, subconsciously. I go to museums, galleries and art shows throughout the year. This year I've enjoyed ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI; ArtBasel in Basel, Switzerland; and ArtBasel Miami Beach in Florida.

What artists do you like?

My favorite abstract artists are Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Piet Mondrian. Non-abstract favorites include Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Vincent Van Gogh.

I like quite a few less-well-known artists, so any short list leaves off lots of great people. But I especially like Rory Wagner (Native Americans), Ben Kikuyama (found object sculpture and paintings), Gregory Lomayesva (Hopi paintings), and Pascal (sculpture).

I'm also watching the careers of Mike Larsen, Carole La Roche, and Joe Fettings. Artists I’d like to see more of: Walter Piehl, Graham Flatt, Julie Oriet, Gloria Gaddis, Houshang, Raven Buffalo, Tammy Garcia, Erin Currier, Jim Pitman, Mick Shimaneh, Karen Harms and Julias Seyler.

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Lectures on investing in art

What do you say in your lectures on abstract art?

My talk on Understanding Abstract Art includes examples of paintings done by Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko and contemporary artists. It helps people know how to react when they see art they can't "figure out."

My talk on Seven Things To Know Before Investing In Art highlights seven questions to ask when investing in art. Not knowing the correct answers to these questions has cost investors millions of dollars.

Both talks are interesting, entertaining, and packed with insider secrets.

How can I get you to come to my city to talk about abstract art?

I love to meet with individuals and groups to talk about art. Email MarkDahle at or write me to talk about possibilities.

Mark Dahle Gallery
PO Box 8309
La Jolla, CA 92038-8309

Do you give lessons on how to paint?

I don't give lessons as such, but people seeing my art and attending my talks on art are often inspired to begin creating art of their own.

Other questions

I read all the other FAQs.
What if I have a question you haven’t answered?

Send me an email with a subject line that doesn't look like spam. I usually read emails at least once a week. Or write:

Mark Dahle Gallery
PO Box 8309
La Jolla, CA 92038-8309


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Other pages you might be interested in:
Understanding Abstract Art
Art Basel in Switzerland
Art Basel Miami Beach
ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI
New York Art Galleries
Venice Biennale 2011
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Mark Dahle's painting Red Sky At Morning, copyright 1989

Red Sky At Morning. © Mark Dahle 1989

Abstract Painting. Copyright Mark Dahle 1991.

Abstract Painting © Mark Dahle 1991

Abstract Art. Painting copyright Mark Dahle 2008.

Abstract Painting © Mark Dahle 2008

Abstract Art. Painting copyright Mark Dahle 2008.

Abstract Painting © Mark Dahle 2008

Abstract Art. Copyright Mark Dahle 2008

Abstract Art © Mark Dahle 2008

Abstract Art. Painting copyright Mark Dahle 2000

Abstract Art © Mark Dahle 2000