July Artisan of the Month: Mark McCrum

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

There is something about art - good art - that calls to us. When I see a landscape that is particularly well done, I feel like I was there - catching the mood, basking in the sunset. One of my very favorite artists is one I've just discovered, Mark McCrum. His watercolors are just incredible - extraordinary paintings of places around the world.

Mark McCrum

 

Mark is the author of the travel book, Going Dutch in Beijing, and while I was interviewing him for a book review here, I discovered that he is an extraordinary artist. I felt like I'd found treasure in his peaceful watercolors. To that end, I'd like to introduce Mark as our July Artisan of the Month. Let's hear what he has to say...

WE: Tell us about your paintings...

MM: I paint landscapes in watercolour on paper. I prefer to paint on location, and rarely change or redo my work in studio afterwards, as I like to try and keep the immediacy of my reaction to the landcape I'm sitting in when I paint. Watercolours reworked in studio can have a more finished look, but to me there is often something a little false about them, in that you are inevitably relying on memory to recreate what was out there. I like to work at a size no larger than 14 inches by 20 inches, which is highly portable, and also isn't so large that you lose control over what the paint is doing - something particularly to watch out for with watercolour.

 

Mark McCrum

Cornfield in l'aude, France 

WE: How did you grow up in art, i.e., how did you start doing art?

MM: I started painting properly at quite a young age, initially in oils. At the age of eleven I painted a number of quite elaborate imagined oil landscapes. I got a set of watercolours for my sixteenth birthday, painted a landscape with them on that day, and never looked back. I loved the immediacy of the medium, and the fact that it was hard to change stuff, so your painting either worked or it didn't.

Mark McCrum

Cloudy day, Great Barrier Reef, Australia 

 

 

WE: What medium do you prefer to work in?

MM: Have answered this, I think! Watercolour.

Mark McCrum

Wind and sun, Sound of Mull, Scotland 

 

 

WE: What do you draw inspiration from?

MM: From landscape, particularly at those times of day when shadows break it down into something more mysterious. I love painting at dawn and sunset, or in winter when mist and shadows can make a landscape highly dramatic. I also draw inspiration from certain artists who've triumphed in the medium - particularly, of course, Turner, to whose watercolours I return again and again.

Mark McCrum

Morning clouds, Lot, France 

 

 

WE: As a nature photographer, i am constantly aware of the light. Is light important for your process?

MM: Yes. Light is the key for me. Without unusual light, even the most dramatic landscapes can be a bit dull, and I would have problems summoning up the interest to bother painting them. But when the light is right, and the landscape comes alive, I can hardly wait to get my paints out. You are lucky as a photographer, in that it only takes a second to record what you see. One of the problems of painting is getting things down fast enough before the light changes. Watercolour can, fortunately, be put down very rapidly, but it's always a challenge.

Mark McCrum

  Chestnut barn, Umbria

 

 

WE: Where are your favorite places to paint? I love your landscapes, they should be desolate but somehow you infuse them with a happiness of being, or a love of place.

MM: There are certain places I return to, but only because they are convenient and I know them to be a source of the effects I love. North Norfolk here in the UK is a wonderful, flat, mysterous place, with huge skies, and plenty of reflecting water. Scotland, particularly the Outer Hebrides, is a gorgeous, constantly changing scene. The West of Ireland, too, has some of the most extraordinary landscape in the world, and the weather to go with it. In fact, these rainy, misty islands, with their damp, shifting, cloudy skies are very appropriate for watercolour. I paint sometimes too further south, in France or Italy, but the skies here are often clear and bright blue, and the light unrelentingly bright, so it's only at dusk and dawn that you get effects that are interesting.

 

Mark McCrum

Sun on sea, Funen, Denmark 

 

 

WE: Do your global travels influence your painting?

MM: Yes. I always take watercolours with me. I've painted everywhere from Australia's Great Barrier Reef to Chile's Torres del Paine National Park. Sometimes if I'm on a rushed press trip, I long to spend longer in a place, and hate getting back on the plane to go home. But yes, every painting I've ever done has influenced me - the failures sometimes more than the successes.

 

Mark McCrum

 Bagan, Myanmar, after dawn

 

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

MM: I could continue in this sort of vein all day. But maybe one important thing, which is that if anybody out there wants to paint, don't be put off by books or people telling you how hard it is, or that you need to do this course or that course. Buy some paints and get out there, in the landscape. That's the best place to learn - and you will rapidly improve. Van Gogh never went to art school.

WE: Thanks so much, Mark, for sharing your paintings and your time for this wonderful interview.

 

To view more of Mark's paintings, or to contact him to purchase one of his incredible paintings for your home, please see www.markmccrum.com.

 

To read Mark's interview about his book, Going Dutch in Beijing, please click here.

 

Mark McCrum

 

 

 

 

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