If you walk regularly on the coastal path in West Penwith, you may well have stumbled – literally – across the painter Mark Preston. Sat at his easel, paint brush in hand at a vantage point which has captured his imagination, Mark is often to be found utterly absorbed in his work. “There is so much drama in the Cornish landscape – in Penwith particularly,” says Mark. “I love to immerse myself in those elemental qualities and soak up the essence of a particular day, watching as the scene changes and trying to condense everything – light, colour, depth and movement into each brushstroke.”
That said, he doesn’t mind interruptions either. “People are often intrigued to see me sat at my easel and like to strike up a conversation. Many people I’ve met this way have come to my exhibitions to see the finished article, or even bought work as a result of a chance encounter. That has a nice serendipity about it I think.”
This August and September, Mark returns to Lighthouse Gallery in Penzance with a solo show of 35 new canvases, recording his frequent trips to paint outdoors in Cornwall over the last two years. Mark paints in acrylics and most of his canvases are started and finished in-situ – an approach which is becoming more unusual.
Of course, many artists inspired by the Cornish landscape sketch and paint on location. However now that photography is simply a matter of reaching for your phone, the majority return to their studios to ‘work up’ an idea. Mark is quite unusual in his commitment to experiencing the landscape and elements directly in order to capture them in paint.
Mark explains: “When people see me lugging my equipment to some remote spot, they frequently ask whether it wouldn’t be easier to work from a photograph. Although digital photography is very good these days, I don’t believe it makes producing a good painting any easier. For me it’s the immediacy of working from nature that keeps me interested; nothing focuses the mind more than trying to finish a painting before the sun sets, the tide comes in or the rain arrives!”
Mark is based in Derbyshire but has visited Cornwall every year of his life, first on family holidays and then – from his twenties onwards – on numerous painting trips each year. Many of his latest canvases were painted around The Gurnard’s Head, a favourite spot. He says: “I don’t usually go for the obvious, or ‘iconic’ views of Cornwall. I’m more interested in the glimpses over a hedge, round a bend – those every day views seem to resonate with people, recalling the simple pleasures of a walk in the countryside.”
Mark Preston’s solo show will take place from 30th August to 15th September in Lighthouse Gallery on Causewayhead and promises to be one of the highlights of the summer for art lovers and collectors.
To find out more, visit www.lighthouse-gallery.com