Born in Idaho and raised in Utah, Gordon Mortensen began his education as an artist quite by accident at Utah State University. Because he was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, his university counselor suggested he try either music or art as his entry-level exams suggested he might enjoy and thrive in one of those two fields. Since he always liked to draw as child, he chose art and then decided to transfer to Weber State University in his hometown of Ogden, UT. 

Studying art at Weber State opened a whole new world for Gordon as he excelled at both abstract painting and graphic design. After just one year at the school he was offered and accepted a student assistantship, to become part of a select student team to design posters and graphics for the school's theater productions.

Upon graduation he was at a crossroads with his creative career. Should he attend graduate school and receive an MFA in painting or find a job as a graphic designer to support his young family? While his main passion was to become an abstract painter, he also loved design and he reasoned he would have a better chance of becoming successful and making a living if he pursued a career in graphic design, so that's the route he chose. 

His career as a designer proved to be both rewarding and successful as he was able to work for companies positioned at the top of their respective fields. Including: McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, MO, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, IA, (where he worked as an editorial designer for both Successful Farming and Better Homes & Gardens magazines) and Playboy Magazine in Chicago, IL, where he first began to gain some national recognition for his work. After five rewarding years at Playboy he was approached by a corporate head-hunter about becoming the art director and designer at Skeptic Magazine in Santa Barbara, CA. The position at Skeptic turned out to be a great career move as in addition to winning numerous design awards and having a solo exhibition of the magazine’s original art at the prestigious New York Art Directors Club in New York City, he was invited to serve as a judge at some of the nation’s top commercial art exhibitions, including: American Illustration (New York), Society of Illustrators (New York), Communication Arts (Palo Alto, CA) and The West Coast Show (San Jose, CA).

In 1978 Gordon formed his first graphic design studio, Mortensen Design, in Santa Barbara. Three short years later he moved the business to Palo Alto, CA to take advantage of the rapidly expanding Silicon Valley. The decision to form his own company and move to Silicon Valley proved to be the right decision as his new client list included: Apple Computer, Intel Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, 3Com Corporation and numerous startup companies. In addition to running Mortensen Design, he also enjoyed teaching Graphic Design at San Jose State University and Brand Identity for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. 

Although Gordon loved design, early in his design career he continued to paint. He taught painting in Iowa and was accepted into juried exhibitions in both Utah and Iowa. However, after arriving at Playboy he realized that in order to consistently produce the kind of work expected of him in his new position he needed to devote all of his creative energy to perfecting his craft as an art director and a designer. In 1972, he put his development as painter temporarily on hold. 

In January of 2016, Gordon decided it was time to fully reengage his passion to become an abstract painter. He closed his design business and officially launched his painting career. Since that time he has had four exhibitions of his work (Bump Wine Cellars, Terra Firma Gallery and Lori Austin Gallery) all in California. In 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, he formed ABSTRACT*, a group of talented abstract painters whose mission statement was, “To enhance understanding and the appreciation of abstract art”. 


Working on a painting is like having a serious talk with a good friend. One never knows where it’s going to go but someone has to begin. Sometimes it’s easy and everything flows smoothly. Then again, sometimes you fight and argue but you keep talking because you care. If you stay the course there’s a good chance everybody wins…or not. In the latter case, it might be time to take a break and/or start a new relationship.

I usually begin my conversations by making a number of fluid expressive marks with a variety of tools, sometimes with four or five colors but often with just a single color. While I want my paintings to feel loose and spontaneous I’m always aware of how and where I’m placing my marks. I never worry about making mistakes or changes as they are all part of the conversation. We argue some when I push my paint into areas of chaos but relax I say, it’s important to take some risks. It’s unsettling. However it’s going, I can always be sure my good friend will express its opinions. And on and on it goes until we hug and say, “See you later my good friend.” Or not.