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Immortalizing Orland Park’s past, in paint

Mark Lacien works watercolor painting his OrlPark home.  |  Jaime Angio~For Sun-Times Media

Mark Lacien works on a watercolor painting in his Orland Park home. | Jaime Angio~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 4, 2014 6:02AM



Inside the Orland Park home of local artist Mark Lacien is a gallery of watercolor paintings that preserve memories of the town he moved to nearly 20 years ago.

As an artist’s eye sees things in a different light, Lacien — a 55-year-old, married father of two — took notice of structures around him when he moved from Glenwood to Orland Park.

“When you’re driving somewhere, it catches your eye. It’s sort of beautiful and you see that something is out of place in the developed sense of the southwestern suburbs,” Lacien said.

What Lacien saw that he thought out of place were abandoned farm buildings and barns, silos and tool sheds.

He was enamored by the quiet beauty in how the land on which these structures sat was taking back its place.

“The trees and weeds were slowly overgrown around abandoned farm buildings, and I knew that within a few years these old barns and old buildings would be torn down or would collapse from the weather,” he said. “They just looked so beautiful, especially in the fall and winter, so I took pictures and I decided to paint and watercolor the ones that I thought would be the most beautiful to remember Orland Park as it was before it completely became homes.”

Lacien, who most recently worked as vice chancellor of marketing at Purdue University-Calumet, brought these abandoned barns and farm buildings to life through watercolor.

“There were four or five barns that were across the street from St. Francis (of Assisi Catholic Parish) that were obscured from overgrowth. I painted several of those,” he said. “There are a couple of buildings on Wolf Road off 139th that I did a couple of times.”

Painting watercolors requires paints, water, brushes and paper. Among the fine arts, it is considered one of the hardest forms for an artist to become adept at. Lacien said depending on the nature of the piece, it would take hours, days or weeks to complete.

Lacien, who grew up in Chicago’s Roseland community and attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, has been an artist virtually his entire life.

“When I was 7 or 8 years old I would win art contests in grammar school (St. Anthony in Chicago),” he said. “When I was in high school I was told that watercolor was difficult. I decided to learn it and I taught myself and I didn’t find it difficult because I painted in oil and acrylic and charcoal.”

Lacien graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in fine arts and a concentration on communication and design, and he was exposed to various artistic media. He found watercolor to be very satisfying because it is translucent, airy and can often show great light, as displayed in his paintings.

“A great sky and a great barn, and you use your talent for combination and present what you think is the best way to show that memory of that building,” he said, “because that building had a family that lived that there. A family’s livelihood came in and out of that barn.”

When people visit Lacien’s home, he said they often get a kick out of these watercolor paintings.

“Especially when I tell them it’s only a mile or two miles away,” he said. “Sometimes people have come in and said, ‘Did you go on a trip to Nebraska or Minnesota and take pictures of barns?’ and I say, ‘No, these are all within two or three miles,’ and they are sort of amazed and sometimes they’ll say, ‘I’ll try to pay more attention.’ ”

Lacien has taught watercolor to other artists. He has taught at Prairie State College as a part-time faculty member, and in the Glenwood Park District, and he now is teaching classes at Smith Crossing, a retirement community in Orland Park.

Lacien’s watercolor pieces that preserve memories and some of the history of Orland Park will be passed down to his sons, Marc and Zach.

“I think it gives something to others and I think it gives something to the next generation,” he said. “I’m going to try and do something off the beaten path in the future and see what it brings.”



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