Castro Valley locals may know Mark Mertens for his serene landscape pastels, two of which sit proudly perched behind the circulation desk at the .
Among his art fans is State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), who honored him as Tenth Senate District "Artist of the Year" last night during a reception at the Castro Valley Library.
"It was a complete suprise," Mertens said. "I had no idea this was even done but it's wonderful that the Senate has this program that honors artists in the community."
Corbett said she's had her eye on Mertens' work for quite some time and chose him not only for his artistic talent but also because his pieces highlight some of the most beautiful spots of the East Bay.
Among all his pieces, Corbett selected "Reflected Clouds," to hang at the State Capitol for the next year. The painting shows a mellow scene of the Hayard shoreline with clouds reflecting off the water.
"When I first looked at it, my heart just stopped," Corbett said. "He's depicted [the Hayward shoreline] in this amazing pastel to show other senators the beautiful district I have the honor of representing."
Mertens' love for art began at the age of 8, when he started drawing images of his native western Montana. After moving to the Bay Area in 1971, he enrolled at the California College of the Arts to study still life along with figurative drawing and painting.
However, he's best known for his rooted realist traditions found within his painted pastel landscapes. Through extensive observation, Martens aims to capture the effects of light in color from the various nature scenes he paints.
About 50 people attended the reception, most of whom were local artists supporting one of their own.
"We're very proud of Mark and we're happy to see him being acknowledged and supported," said fellow A.R.T. Inc. member Bev Lindsay. The non-profit art association has highlighted Mertens work in several venues throughout the area including the and .
The Senate established the Artist of the Year award in 1997 to recognize contemporary California artists. Senators select artists from their districts, whose work is then exhibited in the State Capitol for a year.
In addition to showcasing Mertens' work in the State Capitol, the Senate has included his biography and an image of his work in its contemporary art collection catalogue.