The Charismatic Hustler: A Profile of Marc Dennis By Emily Diamond

Marc Dennis is incredibly charismatic. He has the energy of a teenager but has more captivating stories than most people’s grandparents. Dennis acknowledges some of his stories may have been better left untold over the years but it isn’t his personality to hold back.


Dennis was born in Danvers, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, and is one of five sons. He is a huge sports fan, especially football, and although he moved a lot throughout his life the Patriots are still his team. The family moved about 15 times before Marc was in high school and he quickly became the troublemaker of their tight knit group. In high school in New Jersey, Marc was “the good kid who illustrated the yearbook” during the day. He hung out with the nerds at school, but after the bell rang he’d go out with “his boys.” 


It turned out he was pretty good at breaking into homes and his new group of friends appreciated his skills. They mostly broke into garages and workshops looking for power tools, TVs and stereos to resell. A local biker gang would buy whatever they stole. During this time Marc was also taking art commissions from fellow students. “A guy would come to me in the cafeteria and say ‘can you do a drawing of my girlfriend for me?’ so he could give it to her as a gift. I’d charge him $50 to $75 or something.” 


Marc was making a fine living between theft and photorealistic pencil drawings. “I was a hustler,” he admits.


The breaking and entering eventually caught up with Marc when he was 15. He had robbed about 50 homes and finally got busted. While he probably would have been found guilty if he was anyone else, Marc stood before the judge and explained how he couldn’t be sent to reformatory school. He had big plans: to become an artist. For 20 minutes, he outlined how he was going to become a famous animator and help the industry get back to its roots. Impressed, the judge let Marc off and he finished high school. In college it became clear that animation wasn’t Marc’s path.

He began studying painting and ultimately received his M.F.A. from the University of Texas in Austin.  His hyper-realistic paintings laced with dark humor are parallel to his persona. The works combine the unexpected, often mocking the art world status quo. His paintings are influenced by great European artists such as Velasquez, Manet and Magritte, as well as American Norman Rockwell. Marc still draws today, but his newest venture is in the world of film.


The judge in court 30 years ago would be happy to know Marc was telling the truth. He has become a successful artist who continues to challenge the art industry.