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 enjoy and thrive in one of those two fields. Because he always liked to draw as child, 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 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 Mortensen Design and then moved to Palo Alto in 1981 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 companies like Apple Computer, Intel Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, 3Com Corporation as well as numerous startup companies. In addition to running Mortensen Design, he also enjoyed teaching Graphic Design and Brand Identity for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco from 2008-2018.
Although Gordon continued to paint during his successful design career, in January of 2016, Gordon decided it was finally time to fully reengage his passion to become an abstract painter. So he closed his design business and officially launched his painting career. Since that time he has had four exhibitions of his work and in 2019 he formed Abstract*, a group of talented abstract painters whose mission is, “To enhance understanding and the appreciation of abstract art”.
As an observer, I am intrigued by scenarios that appear to be nothing more than layers and layers of visually busy, noisy, random chaos. The unexpected juxtaposition of colors, lines, shapes, orientation and textures can at first seem overwhelming, but if one looks closely stunning combinations of color, texture and structure within the busyness can be found that is unlike anything that could be planned or conceived. The potential for something profoundly expressive is just waiting to be discovered.
As a painter, experience has taught me that the road to completing a successful painting is going to be chock full of unexpected surprises and detours. So to help get the process started, I begin by deliberately creating a condition of uncontrolled clutter as a base foundation to my paintings. Sometimes the foundation is simply multiple layers of colors while at other times I’ll create an underlying system of dynamic lines, shapes, colors and textures (sometimes randomly, sometimes loosely controlled). When satisfied with the foundation, I'll coat the entire area with a single color and then begin to selectively remove the top coat to reveal what's beneath. Often, I’ll draw shapes and lines over the mash of colors and textures and then look for areas I can combine or capture within the randomness. Finally, I harness the energy and the painting's discovered personality by combining the disorder with deliberateness into the final piece.
I think it's important to note that in spite of all the work and explorations, in order for a painting to be deemed a success, there needs to be clear communication between the painting and the painter throughout the process. The painting tells the painter what it needs and the painter responds accordingly. Abstract painting is a collaboration of the highest order.