Interview with Detroit Artist Marcus Glenn: ‘It All Comes Down to Inspiration’

 In Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections, Marcus Glenn, Video
Marcus Glenn at work

Marcus Glenn at work

Marcus Glenn has been part of the Park West family of artists for over 20 years, a fact that speaks both to the quality of his art and his long-lasting popularity in the contemporary art world.

Collectors love how Glenn borrows various artistic elements—everything from Cubism to illustration—and reinterprets them like a jazz ensemble, creating his own unique visual style.

The musical quality of Glenn’s artwork is so apparent that, in 2014, he was selected as the official artist for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Glenn recalls that the event “was a big honor and truly an exciting moment in my career as a professional artist.”

Glenn poses with his artwork in front of the Grammy Museum

Glenn poses with his artwork in front of the Grammy Museum

Recently, Glenn was kind enough to sit down with us in his hometown of Detroit to talk about his creative process, giving us an inside look at how he approaches new works of art.


You have several artistic series that you’re known for—one of the most famous is your “Piano Man” designs. When you’re creating a new work, how do you know when you’ve found an image that you want to explore over a series?

MARCUS GLENN: I think for me it all comes down to inspiration. That can come from my travels or sometimes just my life. So, when I go into the studio, I make sure I have a theme nailed down, and that gives me a direction where I want to begin to create.

“Piano Man Melts Your Heart,” Marcus Glenn

Using my “Heart” series as an example, I felt like we live in a world that seems divided. That got me thinking about trying to use my visual talents to create a symbol that we all have a connection to and that lead me to hearts. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s a known symbol that people can relate to and that has a lot of resonance with people.

I’m a spiritual guy and I believe, when you read the scriptures, it tells you that we are obligated to show love because the scriptures say that God is love. So that’s really the essence behind most of my compositions.

“Three Bass and a Lady,” Marcus Glenn

Over your career, you’ve explored so many different artistic mediums. You’ve even invented a few of your own, like your “Flat Life” method. When you’re working in your studio, how do you decide what medium you want to use for a particular work of art?

MARCUS GLENN: Well, I’ve been doing this for so long. I’ve been painting since I was 14. And, I think, for artists, when you get comfortable in a particular medium… it’s like your comfort zone. I have my favorite mediums—acrylics, oils, fabrics, torn paper—all of those are materials that I love to use.

"Three for the Groove," Marcus Glenn

“Three for the Groove,” Marcus Glenn

My paintings are usually considered mixed-media because I work in so many different elements. I even use stickers sometimes, because I grew up with three sisters and I have four girls, so they taught me how to play with dolls and stickers and things of that nature. So I incorporate all that into my process and technique. When you’re working with these materials for so long, it just comes naturally for you.

“Find Love Among the Chaos,” Marcus Glenn

Are you working on any new images or compositions that you’re particularly excited about?

MARCUS GLENN: I’m actually working on a new series featuring bees—I’m calling it “Bee All You Can Be.” I thought it would be appropriate to utilize a bee as my central symbol. If you talk to a lot of people, they are afraid of bees. They don’t want to get stung by a bee. But I want to change how we perceive that word and play off it.

"Jazzy Butterfly Jazzy Butterfly," Marcus Glenn

“Jazzy Butterfly Jazzy Butterfly,” Marcus Glenn

I like the idea of using the symbol of the bee to instead say, “Be loving, be caring, be kind, be encouraging.” I want the series to uplifting and fun for the viewer.


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