I have been fascinated by the figurative form for longer than I can remember. As a figurative and storytelling artist, my primary motivation is the element of human interaction, and how we engage within our environment. My work is continually adapting and evolving; a testament to the artist’s mindset, and the junctions we reach in our lives. I do not believe that artists should be constricted to what is expected of them to achieve. It’s important to have our own style and to be recognizable, but a painter’s work is a reflection of a journey of so many different parallels.
I started out painting Cityscapes in oils, a subject that still interests me today. For me, a scene without people is a recipe without flavour. My passion for depicting people originates back to the roots of my personality. As a curious person, I am constantly aware of how we differ, and what makes us deviate from one another. The characteristics of the way we walk, the way we project ourselves within the universe, the mannerisms in which we engage with each other. We are all unique in our own way, even if we don’t always see it.
Our individuality has played a defining part in my work for some time now and continues to intrigue me. But what captivates me deeper than this is movement. Many of us take this for granted and don’t give it a second thought. You can guarantee, if someone is walking down the street toward me, I won’t have the slightest interest in their destination. I’ll be too busy observing their walk, how they carry themselves. It’s this very fascination that led me to painting several dance-related subjects.
If there’s one activity that challenges our physical expression then it has to be the animation of dance. The choreography of two people entwined while reacting to the rhythm of music has to be one of the most magical concepts ever created.
Along with the square format, a wide panoramic format is one of my favourite choices and can present the most striking compositions. I had a basic image in my mind’s eye of what I wanted to convey before putting pencil to paper. The elegance and sensual nature of the female form, with a secondary emphasis on the masculinity of the male form. I didn’t want to include too much of the male subject, so the wide canvas angle would be perfect.
With over four years of Salsa and Latin dancing experience, I had a pretty good idea of the pose I wanted to project. I sketched out two initial ideas and decided upon the female form filling out the full length of the canvas. After selecting the colours for the figures, I chose to depict a semi-abstract background in darker tones to add a little secondary interest to the painting. It was a challenging but enjoyable subject to paint, and I was very pleased to sell the work to a collector based in California.
I vary the sizes of my projects quite considerably, but occasionally I’m drawn to the larger scales. For ‘Rhythm’, I selected a large rectangular format, which would incorporate both the male and female form from at least the waist up. After three pencil studies, the final composition was decided upon and an acrylic underpainting was put down. I wanted to depict a strong light source for this project, ensuring the focus remained on the facial aspects and the curves of the figures. When depicting a strong light source, it’s essential to complete a strong underpainting that will serve to enhance this. As with ‘Embrace’, a darker background colour was selected to ensure the focus remained on the subject. I was very pleased with the final painting and have since used the piece to promote my work at a large UK exhibition.
Arguably one of my most unusual pieces!! The Great Train Robbery is widely known as one of the most daring escapades in modern British history. After reading the book several years ago, I decided it was time someone should produce a modern oil painting based on the subject. This one took several sketches to determine the correct angle. The robbers passed the mailbags via a human chain down a grassy embankment, so eventually, the concept of the figures depicted in a dramatic perspective presented itself. As the event took place during the night and was to remain true to form, the only sources of light were the moonlight and the carriage light. The moonlight would serve to lead the eye naturally up the chain of figures along to the last man, before the secondary focus of the carriage activity. I was very pleased with the result of such a bold concept and the painting was sold to a collector in London.
The last year has seen me take a small break from oil paintings to work on some miniature sculpture commitments for collectors in the US. While I continue to do this, I am currently working on a series of smaller figurative paintings, largely inspired by my love of both film and music.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed a small insight into my painting practice and inspiration.
View Mark’s full gallery here.