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Baltimore Artist Celebrates Charm City & Jazz In Black History Month Exhibit

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Mark Cottman was born and raised in Baltimore. He’s a self-taught artist who gave up his career to pursue his passion.

As we celebrate Black History Month, Ron Matz has more on a talented Baltimore man who’s living the dream.

The world of artist Mark Cottman is rich with vibrant colors. He’s never had a lesson.

“A lot of people say self-taught. I’m leaning towards organic because it comes from inside out. Maybe an ancestor two or three generations ago was an artist,” Cottman said.

At his Federal Hill gallery, for Black History Month you’ll see his love for jazz, including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

“I’m a big lover of jazz, especially the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” Cottman said. “The music was rich and takes you different places. I try to incorporate that in my paintings. I had to do Miles Davis. It’s my celebration of everything he’s given me.”

His most popular work is “Can’t We All Just Swim Along.”

And his piece,“This is Baltimore,” is a collage of local icons. It’s his tribute to his city.

It’s “a painting I’ve been thinking about for a very long time,” Cottman said. “I wanted to celebrate Baltimore as a great American city. The Star-Spangled Banner was written here. It has so many highlights of Baltimore. This is crab town, Druid Hill Park, the Maryland Zoo, the arabbers, Pimlico Race Course. It’s great to remember these things. It was a pure labor of love.”

Cottman is a graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Thirteen years ago, he gave up his career as a successful architectural engineer to pursue his passion.

“I did paintings and portraits,” he said. “I apparently had this creative seed inside of me. I did it as a hobby. It was kind of like therapy, but then it just germinated into something else. I would be up til 2 or 3 in the morning painting and trying to go to work next day. I thought something had to go– the job or the painting. I couldn’t stop painting so the job had to go.”

He’s never looked back.

“I had a good job as an architectural engineer for the state of Maryland. It was very rewarding but this is where I’m supposed to be,” he said.

His gallery opened on South Charles Street just two years ago.

“It’s a humbling experience when they come to the gallery and they get excited about it,” Cottman said “It’s a place of joy and peace and thought. With all the craziness in the world, they can stop by the gallery, and we can have a great conversation and see some great art.”

To view more of Cottman’s work, click here.

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