Please share a bit about you and your artistic background.
From a young age at school, people noticed I had a rare artistic gift, but it wasn’t fully realised until much later on in life. As I have autism and severe dyslexia, I use art as a visual medium to communicate my feelings and share the beauty of the natural world with others.
I have always enjoyed painting the natural world. I try my best to paint with passion and capture the little details that are often overlooked. One of the things that excites me the most is the unpredictability of the weather. I’ve lived by the sea and the mood is forever changing. My main motivation is seeing others react positively to my work. People have told me that my art has triggered an emotional response - they may spot something that reminds them of childhood, for example.
Mark with his bedroom mural.
The Romantic and Impressionist movements really inspire me. I consider myself to be a creative painter specialising in these types of art. Fellow artists have given me the title ‘Turner of the 21st Century’. I call myself the ‘Painter of Light’. Ever since I was a young man, I’ve wanted to follow in the footsteps of Turner, Edward Church and Constable. These legendary artists created beautiful dream-like worlds using natural light. I find the ways in which light bounces off different surfaces to be fascinating. Whether it’s a cold and crisp winter scene or the warm glow of summer sunset, the wonders of the natural world are captured in all of their glory.
For the most part, I taught myself how to paint. I found it hard to concentrate and learn through traditional teaching methods, but I do have qualifications from Strode College and Bath Spa University. Some very kind people supported me while I was studying and I’m very grateful for that (charities like SANE and Outside In have been great too).
How is your work influenced or informed by mental health?
I am a disabled artist (autism and severe dyslexia) creating environmentally friendly art. I have a unique perspective and an important message to send. Painting the natural world means everything to me and I want people to reconnect with nature. I believe that environmentally friendly art or art that gets people to talk about climate change/pollution is not often talked about in the mainstream media. The same goes for art made by disabled artists. People sometimes overlook important statements made by artists or they look at art but fail to realise the context. It is my belief that we need to talk more about difficult topics, inspire change and allow everyone to express themselves creatively.
'Glimmers of Reality'
There has been a huge push globally for diversity in the art world and I think this is fantastic. I would love to see the same for disabled artists, political artists and artists who are actively trying to source recycled materials or lessen their impact on the environment. In March 2021, I became an ambassador for a charity called 'Outside In' who help disabled artists. I’ve also been busy teaching, working on private commissions, exhibiting, developing new work and getting children involved with art - one of my latest projects is a Lottery-funded mural at a local school in Glastonbury.
Can you tell me about your sustainable art practices?
I am currently focussed on painting landscapes/seascapes on recycled materials such as wood, bark, stone and even old tiles. These pieces are part of what I call the ‘Driftwood Collection’. I either find materials lying around or I ask friends/family if they have any old objects that I can paint on!
Please talk through one of your art pieces with us, outlining your process & meaning behind the work.
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I produced 3 abstract paintings reflecting my (and many other peoples’) feelings at the time. The image is called ‘Recovery’. I wanted it to be ‘explosive’ and not have a specific form or function. I started with colour washes then added different brush strokes and colours over the top in a haphazard way, letting paint run and just being free with it. These types of paintings are quite different than my normal fine art pieces, but very enjoyable to do and quite liberating. I also very much enjoy painting galaxies and supernovas. I call these my ‘Cosmos Paintings’.
If you’d like to learn a little bit about how I paint basic landscapes on wood, please check out this video.
Can you tell me about some of the previous projects or exhibitions you have been involved in?
Several years ago, one of my paintings was chosen to be exhibited at a special show at Westminster celebrating 40 years of the Disability Rights Act. That was a very special time for me. In 2018, I exhibited at the Tithe Barn in Pilton. Some of Somerset’s finest artists were there. Michael Eavis opened the event and it was a great success. Last year, I sold a seascape at an exhibition called ‘Parkinson’s Art: VIVID Dreams Art Exhibition & Charity Auction’. It was held at the OXO Tower in London. Some talented audio artists composed an ambient track to go with my painting.
Any lessons you have learned from your artistic journey?
I’ve learnt a lot over the years! The most important thing is to believe in yourself and your own creative ideas. Take ideas/inspiration from other artists and visit as many galleries as you can. Travel the world if you are ever able to. Respect your fellow artists. Look beyond a canvas and ask yourself what an artist may have been thinking when they were producing their work. My best technical tips are to experiment with different tools and your fingernails (not just brushes); go easy with bold colours (try natural colours instead) and keep your paint brush clean with warm water. I always encourage artists to be inventive! I regularly share art across all of my social media platforms. LinkedIn is great and I have a large following there.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue raising awareness of climate change and engage with a wider audience. I would also like to do more to expose discrimination against disabled people, whenever and wherever it occurs.
In the summer this year, I am running a very exciting exhibition at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset. Much of my organic work will blend in nicely with the beautiful gardens there!
'Bay of Moonlight'