+ By Julia Gibb
In Cavite, a province along the southern shores of Manila Bay in the Philippines, Mark Peria grew up with his tight-knit family. He was introduced to his first love, printmaking, by his uncle, Gabriel, who was also a painter. Every weekend, Peria would hang out in his uncle’s studio, observing the printmaking process. Inspired by the art surrounding him, he would draw and doodle—sometimes landing himself in trouble in school. Once Peria’s father saved enough money, he sent his 14-year-old son to the United States. With encouragement from his uncle and much hard work, Peria has found a prominent place in the Annapolis art community and a growing career in graphic design.
After graduating from high school, Peria earned an associate degree in graphic design at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC). Loath to accrue debt, he held down three jobs while pursuing his degree: working construction, doing freelance graphic design, and serving as a busboy. The construction job made for an early start of the day. “I would be working, then getting home, and within 30 minutes I’d have to go to class,” he groans at the memory. “Then I would have to do graphic design until 3 a.m.” After catching a few hours of sleep, he would wake up and do it all over again. Despite the exhausting schedule, Peria enjoyed being in the AACC printmaking studio. “I’d been watching [printmaking] while growing up, so when I came in, I actually did my own thing . . . I really like the process,” Peria says. “It’s meditative.”
An offer to revamp Baltimore Washington Billboards’ website landed Peria a full-time job as a graphic designer for the company. As the owner’s business expanded, so did Peria’s responsibilities and challenges. He has gotten involved with architectural design, learning new software and creating concept art that is shown to clients so they can see what a completed project looks like. “It’s actually kind of interesting,” Peria laughs. “I didn’t expect to be doing this for a living!”
In his fine artwork, economy of line and bright, unexpected colors bespeak Peria’s experience in printmaking and graphic design. His preferred subject is the human form, often portraits. “I don’t know what it is about the human face, but I’m just so interested in it” he says. “I can tell a lot from how people look; people’s moods.” Working from photographs, Peria uses Adobe®Photoshop® software to create a sketch. “I draw [on Mylar®] with a paint marker. Before it dries, I use a wet brush and move [the paint] around—that’s how I get the watercolor effect.” Contrasting with the translucent, white backdrop of Mylar®, the colors and contours in his portraits seem luminous and shimmering. Last winter, he created such a portrait of rock icon David Bowie shortly after the star’s death. As a tribute to the musician, Peria sold limited edition prints of the piece, donating thirty percent of his sales to the Cancer Research Institute.
Peria recently created a series of portraits on plywood panels that incorporated collaged patterned paper and acrylic paint, the color and texture of the wood becoming part of the composition. The mixed-media works reflect Peria’s expert use of line and color, and in their layered materials and darker hues they are a distinct departure from the artist’s portraits on Mylar®. One piece in this series is another portrayal of Bowie. It was created at a tribute hosted by Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge. The artists and musicians involved donated the proceeds to the Cancer Research Institute and Keep a Child Alive, an organization providing support and care for families affected by HIV. Peria’s paintings are on display at Metropolitan indefinitely. Sherrie von Sternberg’s Gallery at Rock Hall, located, fittingly, in Rock Hall, Maryland also hosts a long-term exhibit of Peria’s work.
Annapolis is experiencing an artistic renaissance, and Peria has been at its forefront. Last fall, he collaborated with other local artists to create 45 West, a gallery, studio, and music venue. The pop-up blossomed into a lively place, luring locals and passersby. Its late hours, the sight of artists in action, the diverse selection of art, and live music made it an appealing destination. Peria creates music videos for the local band Pompeii Graffiti and made the cover for Kit Whitacre & the Chardonnay Boys’ latest LP. He is reticent about the importance of his role in Annapolis’ art scene and modest about his achievements, but mention his name in a local café or restaurant and one will find that he has a hand in many projects.
During his rare downtime, Peria likes to relax while listening to records in the basement of the home he shares with two sisters and a friend. Also a musician and songwriter, he hopes to start a band with some local musicians. He also trained for a half marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival; running, like printmaking, is meditative and helps settle his active mind. Peria contemplates going back to school someday, earning credentials to teach at a college level. It’s not hard to imagine him as a teacher—his skill and passion, combined with his humble and upbeat disposition, would make him a great mentor. Clearly a collaborator, he enjoys working with people. “For the most part,” Peria smiles, “I just cheer them up!” █