With the successful release of the beautiful second chapter to the Storyteller Collection, we catch up with digital designer Mark Davies who’s work can be described as a “strong narrative fused with striking imagery”.
Hi Mark! How does it feel to be represented at The Ideal Home Show this year? Tell us about the exclusive artwork that was on display…
I have been fortunate enough to appear at Manchester Buy Art Fair and Grand Designs Live – Birmingham in recent months and to be part of such a respected event as The Ideal Home Show in London was special. Generation Gallery’s’ stand was incredible and featured a great range of artists, the window of opportunity of having such a strong presence is so significant to help build awareness of the brand. I was lucky enough to be able to bring my parents to the show which was undoubtedly the highlight for me personally, for them to see the end result of what I do in this context was important and makes me even more determined.
When you work so closely and intensely on a body of work or piece in particular, throwing everything into it and you get the chance to see first hand how it is received and interpreted is very gratifying and beneficial. By being on stand and watching how people engage and interact with a piece up close helps you build on or adapt future works, feedback from the exhibiting gallery and those who view is so valuable and I feel that I have progressed as a result. It is genuinely humbling to see people who have purchased or commissioned pieces come to meet you and to open up to them on the narrative behind the particular piece and to learn how it was interpreted by that person, often generating an emotional affiliation to the art for them. That makes what you do and what you create so much more real and special.
With the incredible new 2nd Chapter from The Story Teller Collection artworks, what’s your interpretation of this theme and can you tell us more about the backgrounds of the brilliant scenes you’ve created?
The reaction to the first Chapter of the Storyteller collection was quite something and gave me the confidence, feedback and inspiration to build on this to create Chapter Two. The story theme is evident in many levels, from the individual subjects themselves, how the series evolves as a whole and also signifying my evolution as an artist and ultimately as a person. A successful story should always build as you turn to the next Chapter, expanding on the detail and style that has been laid down at the start, and this is what I set out to emulate for this next Chapter.
I am incredibly proud of these new pieces. I feel that they convey what I set out to achieve, and I especially love that people enjoy seeing how my imagination and head works! With confidence you can achieve so much and that really has been the fundamental factor, it embraces the demons that roam inside your head and establishes a mindset where you can be at your best. With so many great stories that exist it is easy to simply crack on and become formulaic, knowing what works and what doesn’t. That will not happen, each piece has to challenge you as an artist and build on what you have learnt from the previous piece, it’s as much about progression as an artist as it is the story itself. I have challenged myself with such things as perspective, lighting and the complexity and intensity of the retouching that exists within a piece, to construct from scratch, using random objects and textures to build something of significance and stature. You then end up with something that is visually perfect, apt and so much more satisfying even if the recipient may not know the lengths that you have gone to, it is the right way to keep integrity and to keep learning.
Can you tell us a bit more about your processes from an artistic point of view? And where did you get the idea from to create these pieces with such depth of underlying meaning?
The Storyteller pieces mimic the greatest appeal of when we were told stories as a child. Through not dictating every single aspect they feed our imagination, giving it the energy to run away with us, taking it to where we want it to go and therefore making the story our own. I was a nightmare when reading stories to my daughter, Olivia, I would always stray away from the narrative and twist it, often not intentionally but a random thought would typically pop into my head, leading to the most bizarre interpretations.
I was amazed when I started researching into the original concepts of the classic stories that we thought we knew and loved, I was shocked at how dark and harsh they were. So the seed was sown, I saw the opportunity to create a body of work that was truly unique and equally diverse. The fact that you don’t see the lead character of the story within any of the pieces has worked really well and people have really embraced this. However, I knew that by taking away the commonly focal and clarifying subject of a scene meant that the roles of the objects and detail within the piece were amplified and therefore so much thought has to go into what is shown, what is not and the clues that are left to help divulge the concept.
In terms of starting a new piece, it starts with researching the original version from the likes of the Grimm Brothers or Hans Christian Andersen. Parts of that plot will then spark a concept on how I could make that my own, be it linked to a topical or controversial subject or to something that I feel sufficiently strong enough about or have experience of to make the piece truly authentic. I never look for what other artists have maybe done on similar subjects as I prefer to keep a completely focused and personal mindset where it is purely my concept and have an uninfluenced way of thinking that drives the piece from start to finish. With that idea rooted I will collate a mood board of imagery and reference material from watching screen adaptations or reading the books. Scribbling in notepads also so that I can start to construct the scene from scratch and then integrate the detail within the piece to add layers to my work and to the story.
I try not to dismiss an idea, to be as open-minded right the way through the creation of the work as I find that when you truly live the piece you become so engrossed within it that more detail is born from being in that mindset, some of the nicest details have come from being added late on. Music has a huge role and influence within my art, whether that is reflecting my current mood or helping me to focus. If I am creating something that is emotionally challenging I will often listen to one song, on a loop for the entire duration of that piece, for me it will act as a comfort blanket as such and when a song ebbs and flows and epitomises the character that you can’t see then it becomes a key requisite and something that I couldn’t do without.
You’ve created a unique collection of works that has been represented as “reflecting thoughts, emotions through characters and conceptual scenes”. As cool as it sounds, is this something you set out to achieve when coming up with your ideas?
From looking back at my art pieces from my education days I have always created surreal and equally dark pieces but have never been one to create to shock, I will always produce work that is genuine that I feel as equally close to as I do proud. I am aware of how my mindset and mood changes so quickly and the reason that my work is so diverse is as a result of that. When you start out on creating a new piece you always have the option to create darkness or light, being in a particular mood will naturally influence the type of imagery that you look for even if the initial concept is already there. Even though a piece may be incredibly dark I will always bring a strong light source into the composition, this has always represented a sense of hope.
Some pieces I have initially thought would turn out light and surreal have in fact become particularly dark and intense. Even if the piece is ultimately dark, as it is created solidly over a number of days it will often result in a blend of subtle touches of humour or randomness because it genuinely is a visual indicator of where I am at that point in time. If for example I acknowledge that I am in a particularly dark state of mind, then that combined with adapting the role of narrator and lead role in the piece you really do become immersed in the scene. If the concept involves a reaction to a source of personal deep-rooted sadness or frustration then closing the book as effectively it is, becomes the final challenge, if even possible at all, maybe it is just a way of getting my thoughts down, playing out my characters and emotions on canvas. Because of this and with the growing intensity in my work and the challenges that come you are genuinely left drained and sometimes emotional when a piece is concluded. If the underlying personal reason for why that piece is the way it is is kept hidden then that can be quite difficult to convey to others how and why you feel that way.
The artworks released from your new portfolio for 2016 have so far revolved around creating unique original commissions, original and limited edition prints. What techniques and thought processes do you use to achieve such deeply detailed pieces?
The devil really is in the detail, quite often literally with my works. Chapter One of the Storyteller Collection showcased how I will put so much into the pieces, one of the first pieces of feedback I had from my Publishers – Wishbone was to look to introduce subtle details that had meaning and justification for being there. When you get the opportunity to see first hand how people view the pieces and what they spot and what they don’t that helps you on future pieces, whether that is making things more or less obvious or in terms of a commissioned piece, more personal for the recipient.
Chapter Two is a clear evolution and demonstrates my intention to progress and challenge myself, where possible I will focus on the lead object or composition within the piece and spend an absolute eternity on putting so much detail into it that it becomes a piece in its own self. A classic example of this is the ‘Dream case’ from the BFG ‘Dare To Dream’. I treated this part of the piece in isolation initially putting so much texture and detail within and then blending it into the street scene through lighting and tonal detail. Everyone has their own favourite part of their favourite piece, one persons love for a detail can be overlooked by another and that is why I will always put lots of tiny detail into the smallest for seemingly insignificant areas so if it happens to catch your eye then you are hooked!
On the other side however you have to keep pulling back and evaluating the piece as a whole, so many say it and it is so true that it really is about what you choose to leave out rather than put in. A great example of where this was showcased in my recent works is within ‘Where Demons Roam – Sleeping Beauty’. It was the first of a much more visually lighter composition, even though the darkness ran through and the intensity that surrounds the four poster bed there is so much pure space, which was a constant battle to not fill I can assure you. The end result is a piece that would hopefully appeal to a different taste or decor and also allowed for the most beautiful embellishing, an approach that I have embraced since.
We really love the fact that your original works are so unique. Are the techniques you employ in your workspace purposeful to ensure that extra bit of exclusively for the lucky collectors and clients that but your original art?
There is such a massive difference in technique from when you create and construct a piece digitally to when you then hand embellish the original piece. The last thing you want when you work digitally is for a great concept to look ‘photoshopped’, it cheapens what you aim to convey especially. Therefore, if you are constructing a scene or dominant object with that scene from scratch, maybe combining objects that really shouldn’t be put together for example the task becomes all about the technical ability, to make it look authentic, however random. Working with hundreds of layers it becomes quite clinical to achieve the result that you are happy with, yet you need to introduce drama, movement, warmth and a sense of unity to everything that resides within the piece so it just looks right and makes you feel that you are right there.
The great thing is to then be able to work on the original piece, this allows me to bring into play my fine art background and gives me the opportunity to be much more expressive with a wide range of medium, some that I had never used before my published career. I love hand embellishing my original works, I have had so much fun since working on the very first piece and having the courage of conviction to set fire to a very expensive frame, covering it in rose petals, feathers and oils! It really is about confidence and believing in your ability whilst ensuring that you remember that it is not a personal project but one that is destined for a living room wall for example so you always have to respect that.
As my confidence has grown with experience I feel that I am learning new ways to improve and have become more daring with how I tackle particular parts of the embellishing, be it creating a bespoke frame so that it becomes connected to the picture or the intricacy of the diamond dusting. By hand embellishing the canvases and frames and steering away from being formulaic it really does result in every piece being completely different and perfectly fitting for both concept and client. I’m never one to clock watch, I always have and always will throw absolutely everything I have into each piece and know that I have done my absolute best and am always open to trying and perfecting new methods to introduce into my original works, I am incredibly proud of what I have created to date and my reputation that has come from that.
For all enquires on the Storyteller Collection and Mark Davies please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Wishbone HQ via email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mark Davies’s Artist interview on our video page. Browse Mark Davies’s artwork on his artist page.