Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Influences on My Art: How Desert Painting All Started!

How, you may be asking yourself, did Mark Junge get into painting desert scenes? I mean, he could have gone in almost any direction with his artwork. So what got him going in desert painting?

Funny you should ask. It really goes back to my pre-painting. My family and I were watching Walt Disney's weekly Sunday night program (Wonderful World of Disney?), and they broadcast a program called "How the West Was Lost" with the esteemed scientist, Ludwig von Drake hosting. In the program, von Drake pointed out how music had changed and that it used to be beautiful and calming.

Then the show featured an animated sequence accompanying Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers singing Blue Shadows on the Trail. The animation highlighted the desert changing from dusk to nightfall, with cactus in bloom, tumbling tumbleweeds, hopping bunnies and a family of quail scurrying around. (The feature appears on, although not with the best visual quality, here).

Everything about the tune and visuals got to me: the desert scenery, the critters, the song -- not the lyrics themselves, but the whistling and "whooping" that take place in the background, simulating animal sounds. The images stayed with me for years.

Then -- my brother told me the little cartoon was actually the intro for another Disney project: an animated feature film called Pecos Bill. I looked up and ordered the DVD that had Pecos Bill (and some other shorts). There it was! It's the only thing I've ever watched on the DVD. Then it occurred to me to see if it is on YouTube, and it is! So here I am, writing about it.

Disney has made other cartoons that feature desert scenery -- others where I actually like the artwork better (Pluto: The Legend of Coyote Rock and The Coyote's Lament, both also on YouTube). But Blue Shadows was the first inspirational piece that started me down that road, and the other animated pieces (and desert paintings I began to see) fueled the fire. Not to mention trips to what was then called Joshua Tree National Monument.

I feel like I owe the Disney folks something. I can't imagine the original animators had any idea how they were going to influence a young kid who would someday want to capture the immerse beauty of one part of God's world.

As you know, you can see my stuff on my website: or