Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017
by Gordon Veniard
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Interview with Fine Artist Mark Langley

Around a century ago, Swiss/German artist Paul Klee suggested that 'One eye sees, the other feels'. In this weekly series, we'll be asking contemporary artists to share their complete vision with us in a series of in-depth interviews. We kick-off with Mark Langley, who grew up near Derby and cites the adjacent Peak District as a source of much inspiration.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: What got you interested in art?

I always drew as a child more than most children I think. I wasn't any good at it by my standards until I really tried to draw like a photograph at age 13. I kept drawing pictures of old train photographs until I reached a true photographic likeness at 17. Its within you to self develop as a photorealistic artist or not I tell people who try to push their children forcibly to be better. I would say I had no real ambition at school and fell into a general graphic design course at 16 and didn't look back. Somehow I kept drawing in pure graphite into my 20's and it wasn't until a gap I returned to pencil mixed with colour pencil.

When people ask you what you “do”, how do you answer?

'I'm an artist'. I am always unsure about telling people I'm an artist. I don't think people take you seriously at first, think you paint with big brushes or make weird objects with a message and no likeness. I get different reactions and mainly the same boring replies. Most people are not very interested and I would say I get no work from it amusingly. The actual work in front of people at shows with me sat with it has most people asking if I am the artist and despite labelling they ask the those certain questions that make your head spin. I find the people who talk the most don't buy much if not at all. The buyers are quite business like and some people just don't want to look at me or discuss it. Most visitors to my work at shows appear defensive and talk about someone they know who is brilliant at art but didn't carry on. I get shown work by these other artists as well. Good comments though are very good! I certainly think people in everyday life now in this decade are really not that interested in art and think they have become immune to imagery and don't look closely and digest my work and see it is not a photographic effect.

What is your preferred medium and why?

I work in pencil and colour pencil, I combine the 2 as the tones and line work are better in graphite that colour pencil. I always liked the immediate thing about pencils. I am returning to paint but find it frustrating at times when I can't just work out from one area and complete it and move on.

Can you remember one of the first things you drew? What makes it memorable?

I remember drawing all sorts of things but for some reason horses I kept returning to as a child, I don't remember why. I didn't ride until I was 26 but I found the shape of a horse interesting to get right. I think I didn't have any real structure or ability with my work until I was allowed to get carried away and illustrate my English lesson stories at age 12.

What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them?

I find I naturally gravitate towards detail, its just that this also is a cross to carry unless I select the right type of image to create. I suffer from mild depression that comes and goes and I'm left flat some days. The days when I'm on form are the days when I go around and finish a picture or improve it as that is my finished work mood kicking in. I believe every artist creates an image according to what they want to express but also what they can deal with. Work can drag you down so the radio or music helps keep me level. My therapy is finding the positive spirit in my pictures. I occasionally like the idea of getting darkness into my pictures but the fragility and beauty of the subject set in the darkness is the outward reality I love. Beethoven, Bowie and Turner as creatives captured the positive spirit or hook whilst finding balance between truth and darkness the best with discord or minor key, its hard to describe but capturing it is such a great energy to find. You can't be a shallow or average person and create effective art. It is like nature always shows it but few humans convey it well at the top end of ability. I believe in talent and that you can't really teach something from within that is channelled well in the spirit of a picture, much to the frustration of the most highly educated tutors who believe they can teach anything to anyone.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

I love looking at clouds, I take pictures of clouds a lot, its all there. When I'm down or feeling really inspired I look out at a hillside opposite my studio window with its stonewalled field network and big sky and watch the seasons and weather drama unfold, it puts me in the right mind. A good walk or cycle ride can help the mind also. I get those moments when I see great landscapes, animals or buildings but skies never fail to satisfy the need to see natural proportion happen and change as you watch. I love proportion of scale in art, I'm not an abstract or conceptual visual individual. Nature provides a lot externally but I find I have to edit the many ideas that stay with me down onto paper. I realise more and more its the filter of the mild that conveys that visual experience. I'm not an inner person wanting to express the inner emotion of the human condition in my art, that would not make me happy.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

You would be surprised and I have upset artists by saying I don't like sketching. I simply work in my mind to plan something even before gathering photographs to work from. I love to take my camera out and take working source material right through to good quality shots of landscapes. With animals I have to snap away and find the picture that says something to me. I was a graphic artist and that never left me as we used cameras at college and I love that way of obtaining my ideas, I'm not ashamed of admitting this. Design training is so valuable. We live in the digital age and we can't un-invent the camera and it's usefulness. I don't sketch on an iPad though despite using a computer in my admin work, again I just don't get it, its not in my DNA I suppose. I'm not art school and happy about this as I really loved exploring illustration projects whilst at college and won a few things along the way. I think we all approach image making in all different ways. A lot of artists are actually pinned down by frustrating conventions that unless are part of your selling point blurb are meaningless restrictions on freedom of creativity. That said, I am going to get myself out and work from life soon to try something new but on my terms as I might not initially enjoy it. Sketches that take hours and are a kind of proper development in detail are probably not what some artists think will be sketching to them. I have never seen sketching as necessary except when I was a graphic designer and then it is needed for the designing process.

Do you have a favorite artist? What draws you to that person’s work?

I would say I have discovered or returned to different artist's work as I have gone along but the best rediscovery is Andrew Wyeth. This is because I needed a fresh look at the world and I like the way his work has detail, large areas of open space and realism in the way that isn't readily demonstrated in much art today. His work crosses over to rough paintings in a really rare way. I can't leave small detail behind and I connect with this in his work when he could work so well with a brush stroke saying so much.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?

I have a website: I also use Facebook, Twitter, Wonderstreet and more which you can find through the website.

Do you have other interesting hobbies, or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?

I have interests that compliment my work mainly. My wife and I share our horse Lexie and country lane rides are always a good way to see the world and get away from work. I like to cycle for exercise. I walk and take my camera to find subjects for my work once a week or more. Organising myself and producing the work takes up a lot of my hours.

Is there something you are currently working on, that you can tell us about?

I have a piece of architectural work I have returned to. The pencil and colour pencil drawing is of Masson Mill in Matlock Bath which is about 10 miles along the Derwent valley from me. I chose this study because of the name on the building and the old mill building picked out in a minimal way. Detail but also my usual use of white paper is quite typical.

Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?

I am at the Great Dome Art Fair in Buxton, Derbyshire in July. Melbourne Art Trail in September (Derbyshire), Ferrers Gallery in Leicestershire for a wildlife exhibition in Autumn as well as another art fair at Tatton Park in Cheshire. There should be another exhibition of my work before 2016 but that is not confirmed yet.

And finally, could you please share a few images and tell us a little about each?


The first of a few brown hare head studies, this one is from 2010 and has been very popular as an image. Hares are a popular subject material for artists but I wanted to make the animal have a character or expression as with all of my animals. I was out on the lanes last night so I think I have found my next hare drawing!

Nosey Cow

This orange cow has fetched me more recognition than most of my other work. It has been used by Arqadia with a range of new frame samples, its been in a few magazine features and been a very popular print. The simplicity of an eye catching image is an important lesson to experience as an artist a few times and it was one I related to when I was a graphic artist, bold and memorable was important for some design work. I didn't quite know how successful this cow would be from saying it was just up the lane from me. I also really enjoyed creating every moment of it and that is part of it.

Tom, Georgia and Isla

Some commissions shout a big approach of many hours to show what you can do. It took about 150 hours work and was drawn in pencil and colour pencil. This portrait of the children and dog in an Autumn setting on this recognisable Peak District bridge wasn't a first choice. I suggested an Autumn setting I think and the client suggested a humpbacked bridge further up Bradford Dale. I walked the valley and though the first bridge was a bit deep and would not be so attractive as this bridge. I met the family in Youlgreave and both the father and me took many pictures of the setting and the very active dog and cooperative children. I ended up piecing together each from different photographs and the background received more yellow leafs and extra floating leafs in the water.

Stable Door

I find a lot of old buildings around the Peak District, doorways being the most interesting bit about them. I found this barn at Bakewell facing into a meadow next to the river Derwent and instantly thought it would be worth spending 100 hours drawing it. The detail on this picture was fascinating for me, but the blue window reflection attracts many people to it as a print for the wall. I would hope my work is appreciated for more than a colour palette match though.

Cut Hay at Wormhill

I have returned to landscapes and skyscapes after many years because a friend said I should try, and I have many photographs of places sitting around with many ideas waiting. The approach bothered me somewhat until I remembered Andrew Wyeth and Harry Epworth Allen. I wanted a way that I liked and didn't require the great detail and hours spent in my established style. Also as a starting point was a return to watercolour instead and working with the media's strengths, and be more bold in approach. This painting is my new starting point and things will evolve from here.

Thanks to Mark for his time and providing such an insight into his work. Mark, and many other exciting artists, are part of our WonderStreet community. We'll be featuring another talent next week.

Have a look at the WonderStreet profile of Mark Langley here.

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