Born in Luton, Mark studied technical and scientific illustration for four years. After graduation, he became a member of the Society of Illustrators, Artists, and Designers (SIAD). Since then, he has had a full and demanding 33-year career as a full-time artist and illustrator, producing work for numerous national and international publishers, advertising agencies and galleries. Mark has served with the Artists’ Rifles; he is also the founder of CGI-company, Mission 3D.
Outside of work, Mark is a keen rider who has learned the hard way that you can lead a horse to water, but that’s about all you can do with it! He also loves being taken for a walk by his two young Schnauzers, Connie and Alf. For relaxation, as well as his love of painting, Mark is a part-time student of classical history at the University of London.
BOOK ART SERIES
I love books. Real books, as tactile objects that you can feel the weight of in your hands, leaf through, and into which you can simply disappear. Of course, like most book lovers, the excitement of a new novel, especially of a favourite author, is always an occasion to be savoured. But I find the books I treasure most become old friends. I love to revisit them and celebrate down the years their graceful journey as they age – so often to marvel at their maturity, and sometimes to stand back with wonder as my youthful friend has become a classic! I love the feel of these my inanimate friends, who live with me and in me so vividly. Their stories, their feel, their warmth, and their comfortable familiarity – it is all these qualities that inspire me to paint them.
THE BOOKS I PAINT
Most of the books I’ve painted are very old and have had many owners, yet their fine condition suggests a much-pampered life in careful hands. Others have not been so lucky. With creaking spines, dog-eared and with fading colour, they may be battle-scarred, but they are still as precious. Many of the books I paint are now quite rare and sourcing them has required great patience, while others, I’ve simply stumbled upon, languishing unnoticed and un-remembered on dusty shelves in second-hand book shops. But, good design is timeless and as precious as what is contained in the treasure between the covers. These books, I am deeply convinced, deserve to be noticed.
While wanting to honour and pay tribute to the original jacket designers and their unquestionable talents, my paintings are portraits of some very old, well-loved books, the way they are now. Novels, poetry, history and a range of subjects all attract my interest. It may not be possible to judge a book by its cover each and every time, but a great engraving or a modern jacket certainly promises much.
The paintings themselves are much larger than life with every tear, crease and blemish, carefully and accurately recorded. You see my aim is not just to reproduce the original cover artwork like a poster. It is to paint the whole book as a real, three-dimensional object with all its imperfections – the evidence of life – so that when mounted and sensitively lit, the illusion is created of a real, giant 3D book. It really is a living thing.
Calmann-Levy, Paris 1912. Jacket design by Louis Strimpl
H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man is one of the greatest sci-fi / horror stories of all time. This particular publication is a rare, delicate, French paperback edition by Parisian editor-publishers Calmann-Levy.
The story concerns the arrival of a stranger at the small English town of Ipping, and the problems and conflicts that emerge, as the stranger’s secret is – literally – uncovered. The stranger’s head is almost completely covered in bandages, he wears sunglasses, gloves and so on, and maintains that he is recovering from the effects of an accident. Only his nose is visible. This leads to an interesting situation when the stranger has his trousers savaged by a dog, and one of the onlookers swears that he could see no skin through the torn cloth…
This is an excellent, thought-provoking tale, on a par with Wells’ other classics like The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.
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