Born in 1956, the fifth of seven children, Mark Daly grew up on Long Island, New York. With his mother’s encouragement, he began to draw at a young age. Living near the Long Island Sound, however, meant that young Daly was also fascinated with boats and fishing, and when he met Woodhull B. Young (1910-1998), he discovered a kindred spirit. Young was the curator of the nearby Vanderbilt Museum, which had opened to the public in July 1950, but he was also an avid fisherman. As Daly recalls, he spent hours learning to draw in Woodhull’s studio near the harbor, and an equal amount of time learning to fish in his dory. These early experiences would prove to be formative.
In the late 1960s, Daly’s focus shifted to music. He acquired a guitar at age twelve, learned how to play it, and like many teenage boys of his generation, was soon working in bands. Music had become a central element in his life.
After graduating from high school in 1974, he decided to take some time to work before starting college. Not surprisingly, he chose to work in an audio store, beginning as a stock boy, but moving quickly into managerial roles and helping to expand the chain of stores throughout the New York City area. The business experience he gained during these years was also beneficial to his musical career, teaching him how to make informed strategic decisions that would allow the band to prosper financially.
Two years later, and considerably more savvy about business, Daly set out for Cornell University to study economics. It was there that he was introduced to art history, an experience that he still recalls with pleasure. During college, he was also given a mandolin by a former girlfriend; today, he not only composes for the mandolin and produces his own music, but also plays with a variety of very well-known musicians and bands.
Daly graduated from Cornell in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, and immediately put his entrepreneurial skills to work when one of his brothers wanted to start a new business selling horse tack room products. That was followed by a stint as a market research analyst for CBS in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Daly’s personal life took an unexpected turn when he met a woman during a visit to his sister in Key Biscayne, Florida in 1980. He proposed to Gigi three months later, and they were married in September 1981.
By this time, Daly had realized that he needed a master’s degree in business administration in order to move ahead with his career, and had applied to Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He and Gigi packed up and moved to Philadelphia immediately after the wedding. In 1982, he was working through his MBA program, found a job with the Gillette Company in Boston and became a father for the first time.
The whirlwind of schooling, moving and starting a family settled into a more measured pace when Daly moved to Cincinnati to accept a position as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble Company in 1983. He remained with the consumer product producer for five years; during this time, his second son arrived in 1985. In 1988, Daly left P&G to start his own marketing business, On Target Media. This gave him room to develop his services as a strategic marketing specialist. Although this does initially appear to be related to Daly’s work as an artist, it is in fact at the core of his thinking about how to approach any creative endeavor. Putting together ideas, people and resources in a way that makes a contribution to society is central to Daly’s approach.
Throughout his years of working primarily in business, Daly also continued his career as a musician. His work as a mandolin player has allowed him to enjoy the pleasures of playing with a number of well-known musicians without the disadvantages of living on the road. His family continued to grow when a third son was born in 1991, and his business ventures continued to evolve as well. In 2005, he authored the well-respected book, 5 Steps to Board Success, a how-to guide for small and mid-size businesses.
Daly’s return to the visual arts began in June 2007 when his oldest son suggested that the two of them spend a day painting together. The result was that Daly saw new perspectives opening in front of him. Although he had not drawn or painted consistently in many years, his early training with Woodhull B. Young served him well as the foundation for what would ultimately become a new career.
As he became increasingly immersed in plein air painting, Daly read voraciously, soaking up everything from Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit (1923) to John F. Carlson’s book Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting (originally published as Elementary Principles of Landscape Paintings in 1928 and re-issued in 1953 and 1973.) In addition, he studied and absorbed the lessons of artists such as Guy C. Wiggins (1883-1962) John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) and Childe Hassam (1859-1935) as well as more recent painters like Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) and Edward Seago (1910-1974).
Perhaps most significant has been the mentorship offered by C. W. Mundy (b. 1945), the Indianapolis-based American Impressionist painter. Mundy has been a consistent guide, providing direction, suggestions and critiques as Daly developed his own artistic vision. He remarks that Carolyn Anderson has also been an influential teacher, especially in showing him how to see the edges of objects and how to be purposeful about painting. Daly credits her with encouraging him to have confidence in his brushstrokes.
Daly keeps a diary of every painting that he creates, making notes on what worked, what didn’t and what he’s hoping to improve. This kind of attention to the lessons absorbed in each and every painting not only provides Daly with a method of recording what he perceives as the challenges of each artwork, but also provides a useful reference for future canvases. Being able to look back at the diary and remember what he’s learned in the past is an invaluable tool.
Daly’s first national recognition as an artist came in 2011 when one of his paintings, Lifting Fog, was accepted for the American Impressionist Society's 12th Annual National Juried Exhibition in Carmel, California. Other nationally juried exhibitions followed promptly every year thereafter. In 2015, six of Daly’s paintings featuring the American flag were included in E. Ashley Rooney and Stephanie Standish’s book, Stars & Stripes; The American Flag in Contemporary Art; in fact, Daly’s painting Presidential Flags was featured on the cover. In addition, Daly is a member of the American Impressionist Society, Oil Painters of America, Cincinnati Art Club and Greenacres Artists Guild.
Today, Daly maintains studios in Ohio and Maine and travels extensively to paint. Recently, he spent three weeks in Paris, painting people and street scenes everywhere from the Champs-Elysées to the Cafe des Flores. Most memorable, however, was painting the exterior of the Cafe de la Palette, where Picasso and Braque once gathered with friends, when a waiter approached to tell him that the owner wanted to purchase his painting.
In explaining his artistic process, Daly says: “Every painting is an opportunity to grow. To improve, I travel to new locations, try experimental paintings, keep a diary of every painting, participate in critique sessions, visit museums and paint/talk with gifted mentors. For me, every painting is a new adventure--a journey of discovery, growth and creativity. I like to capture the visual joys of life--people walking the streets of the city with patriotic flags flowing, families playing at the beach, peaceful boats reflecting in a calm harbor. A good composition, strong sense of light, honest color, confident brushstrokes, engaging edgework, and a connection with the viewer are outcomes I strive for.”
Janet Whitmore, Ph.D.