Born in Idaho and raised in Utah, Gordon Mortensen began his education as an artist quite by accident at Utah State University. 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 thrive in one of those two fields. He chose art and then decided to transfer to Weber State University in his hometown of Ogden, Utah. Studying art at Weber State opened a whole new world for Gordon as he excelled at both painting and graphic design. After just one year at the school he accepted a student assistantship, to become part of a two-person 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 if he pursued a career in graphic design, so that's the route he chose. As an editorial designer he worked for Better Homes & Gardens (Des Moines, IA), Playboy Magazine (Chicago, IL) and was the art director/designer at Skeptic Magazine (Santa Barbara, CA). In 1981, he formed Mortensen Design Inc. (Palo Alto, CA).
The successful new company specialized in designing annual reports and brand Identity.

During his design career he earned hundreds of awards and was recognized for his fine work by the following organizations: Communication Arts, The New York Art Directors Club, Art Directors Club (Los Angeles), Print Regional Design Annual, Graphis, How International Design Annual, How Self-Promotion, AIGA, The Big Crit, The One Show and The Society of Publication Designers.

Shortly after moving to Sonoma, California in 2012, he decided it was finally time to reengage his passion to become an abstract painter. Presented here on his website are his most recent works. 

In addition to painting he also enjoys teaching brand identity design online for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.


As an observer, I see beauty in what might seem to be random chaos. The unexpected juxtaposition of colors, lines, shapes and textures can at first seem overwhelming but if you look closely you can find stunning beauty and structure within the chaos that is unlike anything you could plan or conceive. Fundamentally, when I'm painting I'm trying to capture and exploit the energy contained within the chaos. 

To that end, each time I begin a painting my focus is on the discovery process. I ask myself, what would happen if instead of a pencil or a brush, I used a twig from a tree, a single-edge razor blade, or any other unorthodox tool that could be a source of inspiration.

Because my focus is on discovery, I deliberately try to create chaos by first applying multiple layers of colors and then scratching, gouging and removing color to reveal what's beneath. Often, I'll draw random shapes over the mash of colors and textures and then look for areas I can combine or capture within the randomness. Finally, I harness that energy and the discovered personality by combining the disorder with deliberateness into my final painting. 

Although I'm always observing and learning from other artists I have been especially influenced and inspired by artists Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell and Richard Diebenkorn.