Marcia Sparks Makes Madison Pop

Marcia Sparks Makes Madison Pop

Like many of us, Marcia Sparks has her Madison favorites—the Dane County Farmers’ Market, Bucky Badger and the area’s farming roots.

But she takes her love of local icons a step further, creating Pop-style pastel and digital art that captures the upbeat vibe of the city.

Here, she answers a few questions about her artwork and inspirations.

How did you become an artist?
I’ve always been interested in art, even as a youngster. I was always drawing or creating something, whether it be a painting, collage, ceramics, screenprinting or making something from nothing. I just couldn’t stop my brain from doing some kind of art.

What is your favorite type of art to make?
Right now my favorite is creating a new image with several photographs I have taken with my camera and downloading them into Photoshop to use digital paintbrushes to create a different look. Just like a painting but a different technique.

What medium do you prefer to use?
Playing with digital art and combining it with pastels to get the look I want.

How has your art changed over the years?
I have done “home portraits” for the past twenty-eight years or so. I would use pastels on a heavy paper and charcoal pencils for detail. I started this business while living in Illinois back in the ’80s. I still do some today, only through word-of-mouth orders. I’ve probably done over two thousand of them ranging from hunting cabins to million-dolllar homes and businesses..

What do you consider icons of Madison and why do you like to feature them in your art?
I guess I just love Madison and its people, which makes me think of the things that other people like here. I sell my art every Saturday at the [Dane County] Farmers’ Market and meet thousands of people who come from all over the world to visit Madison, Wisconsin, or many who are moving here because of what we have here. What could be better than that? To me, having such things as the Wienermobile, Bucky Badger, the UW and the best farmers’ market makes it a great place to sell my art and live.

Is there any Madison subject matter you haven’t covered yet but would like to?
I also like to incorporate farm animals in with the Capitol building, like the couple of prints I created called “Capitol Chickens” and “Goin’ to Market,” which has a couple of cows and or chickens strolling down the sidewalk of the farmers’ market with the Capitol building in the background. I have started doing some paintings of surrounding farmlands, cows and other farm animals on hilly and winding landscapes. I am inspired by the famous painter Grant Wood for these; I love how he created a look from different perspectives. Looking down over the farms and homes and fields of crops is very interesting to me.

How do you stay inspired?
That’s easy—it just happens! I’m not sure where it comes from but ideas just pop in my brain all the time and I usually go with it.

Where do you showcase your work?
My biggest place of course is the farmers’ market, just off the end of State Street where it meets the Capitol Square, in front of Teddy Wedgers. Every Saturday except when Art Fair on the Square or Taste of Madison is there or when the weather is bad. Other places include Meuer Art & Picture Frame in Middleton, Cluck the Chicken Store in Paloi and the UW Bookstore and the UW Hospital, too. I’ve heard that Epic in Verona also has several pieces of mine hanging in its buildings. Not to mention the thousands of home portraits hanging in people’s homes and businesses, including the one I did of Barry Alvarez’s home as a gift from Bret Bielema in 2006. You can see most all my work and order from my website.

What do you hope people get from seeing your work?
I hope they are seeing something totally different from most art! Lots of very colorful and fun works of art. I was once told by one of my art instructors in college many years ago that “Art is all around us!” And it’s true, it is; you just have to look.

Find more of Sparks’ work at