Born and raised in North Shields, 1971, my childhood was filled with happy times; from building tyre swings over streams to doing ''dodgy deals'' in bike parts with my friends. Some days I''d play football for so long that I''d hardly have the energy to walk home; arriving back to my dinner plated up and shrivelled to a crisp- my mam would never mind though. Memories of my father working in the shipyards (when they were still running) with other proud hard grafting men also sit clearly in my mind. Sadly all that remains today are ''fading ghosts'' of cranes and sheds! Much to the annoyance of my mother I often affectionately compare her to Flo, the long suffering wife of Andy Capp; only the shipyard wives understand what I mean though! Times were tough but at least we had a colour TV.
School was a whole different story. My report cards were witness to my failure to concentrate, with frequent "Mark is a dreamer" comments appearing. My ambition to be an artist was severely dented when a physical brawl with my art teacher led to me being locked in the stores cupboard facing a likely expulsion. In those days it was common to get a clip around the ear from your teachers, but on this occasion I inexcusably and foolishly retaliated, much to the delight of the on-looking teenage crowd. Luckily I was handed a pardon by the warden, however my chances of getting into college were ultimately ruined by this. With a sparse portfolio I was turned down on the spot, which left me feeling dejected. Fortunately I found my way into the world of photography and spent many years plying my trade. I learned many skills that I''ve been able to transfer over from photography to art. Having an eye for a photo is the same as imagining filling a blank canvas in composition terms.
To create an image, where the viewer can immerse themselves fully into the picture, enabling them to imagine being there is immensely satisfying. The ability to remember dreams which go as far back as my childhood also plays a big influence in my art. It''s like a slideshow reference library that I can call upon at any time.
These days I am not a prolific preliminary sketcher. It seems I have gone full circle! As a child all I would do was sketch and scribble anything and everything. Nowadays I tend to create the image directly onto the canvas. Due to working exclusively in oils the whole process is extremely time consuming. Initially I will lay the canvas out onto the floor and ''go at it'' for hours, filling the canvas with geometrical lines and shapes, working out where shadows will fall and experimenting with random colour tests. Once I am happy with the layout, I start building up layers of colour and improving areas that aren''t quite working in harmony.
I always leave painting the figures until the very end as they ultimately bring the painting to life. Next I will hang the painting up somewhere I can view it frequently, enabling me to decide if any adjustments are necessary. Only then will I be satisfied to let it go. Quite often the initial idea and the finished article are a million miles removed from each other. To say I am a non-conformist when it comes to the text book artist is an understatement! I paint in oils with watercolour brushes which I don''t look after, meaning they get ruined quickly. I leave paint tubes lying on the floor without their caps on, inevitably leading to me standing on them and having paint shoot up my leg. The calamity list is endless - I should never be approached for advice on painting!
Being an early bird, I like to start the day as soon as possible. It''s quite a lonely occupation so the radio is an essential accessory, stopping me from going stir crazy at times. I live minutes from the Northumberland coast so if I am in need of a good ''head clearing'' I can simply saunter to the beach at any time during the day for a burst of the cold northerly sea breeze. Throughout the day I drink enough tea to cater for a small retirement home, which is something I must really cut down on at some point.
It''s common place to find tea bags that have been sitting in filled cups for hours due to me getting side tracked and forgetting that I''d poured a cup in the first place. Having a structured day is fine in theory, but as I take my work home with me it''s impossible not to do a bit here and there no matter what the time of day. Either way my body usually tells me when it''s time to lay down my brushes.