Between helping install our next group exhibition, ‘Motherhood’, Mark Stevenson catches up with us to share a few words about painting, life and inspiration.
How did you become a painter?
It took a while! At school I went down the science route – even though I wanted to do art I couldn’t – and after university I spent 17 years in the oil industry, exploring for oil and gas. Just after my 40th birthday I decided to take a break. It started as a year out but I never turned back. I was inspired and encouraged to paint by my mother, a watercolourist, and by an elderly architect friend. I joined his life class – pencil, charcoal, pastels – but soon realised I wanted to paint.
I studied first at Lavender Hill Studios, where they take a traditional approach to portrait painting, and then the diploma at Heatherleys where the project based course run by practising artists helps one find one’s own style – eventually.
In painting from life, whether a nude or portrait, it is such a challenge to compose and produce something worth looking at. So initially it was this challenge, and the thrill of composing and developing a painting, studying the landscape of the body or face and getting it on to paper or canvas. Later it became more about what I get back from painting, expressing myself and getting lost in a painting. It can be very fulfilling, and very frustrating.
Marta, oil on canvas, 24 x 30cm, 2011
Which other artists do you look to for inspiration and why?
I like painterly works, where there is movement and plasticity in the way paint is handled. I’m not keen on photo realism. It’s no surprise then that I’m inspired by Van Gogh, Lovis Corinth and Freud. Freud is incredible, I like his challenging compositions, relatively limited, subdued palette and bold juxtaposition of colour temperature in his flesh tones. Corinth is just amazing in his virtuoso handling of paint.
What, to you, constitutes a good portrait?
A likeness is only important to the sitter and people who know the sitter. Any portrait that moves you is a good portrait and far more important. A portrait that draws you in and says something about the inner life of the sitter is a successful work.
Do you have any projects that you would like to tell us about ( exhibitions, articles,websites, commissions, personal projects?)
I don’t have any big projects or themes I’m working on. I have a few portrait commissions coming up and I’ll continue my urban landscape painting when it stops raining.
Many thanks Mark! We hope to see more of your work soon.
(all images and text copyright thelotsroadgroup 2014, please ask permission before use)