Trees are the main focus for Mark Munroe-Preston’s art pieces. He considers that landscapes without these majestic beings don’t really feel like landscapes, they are such an integral part of our perception of the world about us. Mark feels drawn to these incredible organisms, which he finds can be diminutive, delicate, monumental, sculptural and have spiritual qualities. He says: “They provide so much for us, food, shade, air and protection. They have the ability to survive in the harshest conditions. Living such long lives it seems as though they become extensions of the land itself and that is why they have that connection with the ground in my artworks."
Each one of his marvellous trees has a different feel to them, some convey peacefulness, others vibrant energy, etc.
Mark Munroe was born in Yorkshire, England in 1968. He studied photography at Wolverhampton Polytechnic before moving to London in 1991, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant. After this, he became a still life photographer, and also worked other jobs (digital illustrator for book publishers & magazines, a digital retoucher for several national newspapers, a children’s illustrator working in 3D and the Creative Director for an American toy company).
Mark moved to Sussex in 2001 and started exploring the local countryside, particularly the Ashdown Forest and the South Downs National Park with his loyal companions, his dogs.
He feels lucky to have found the amazing varied landscapes in East Sussex, visiting them, even at dawn. From these visits started his journey into art. With the photographs taken, he has created a large catalogue of images from where he starts his works.
Mark digitally merges photographs, paintings, drawings, textures, and found objects to create the final artwork. Some of the pieces are more literal interpretations of the places he has photographed, while others are more conceptual or graphic in their approach, but all seek to evoke the beauty, drama, and atmosphere of the landscapes around him. All of these elements bring back detail and definition to the image while not actually being the original photograph, which he might use as masks to help with the definition. In this respect, it is like ‘painting’ and he is using these layers of images as his brush strokes to build up the final artwork. The colours are often based on the natural colours of the original scene with a tweak to get across the atmosphere Mark wants to communicate to the audience.
His artistic process is much the same as when he was a digital illustrator many years ago, but on a much larger scale, made possible by the power of modern computers. From the original source image, Mark extracts the parts that interest him and combine them with other photographs, scans of found objects, textures, sketches and paintings. Mark’s love of the landscape is matched by a lifelong fascination for the textures created by the decay of the man-made world and his work is often a combination of them both. The idea that something as unremarkable as a patch of rust can be transformed into a thing of beauty when combined with other elements. All these are brought together as layers, often several hundred, in the computer software and combined until he has achieved the desired result. These files are then sent to a specialist fine art printer where they are reproduced with incredible precision, using the highest quality inks and papers, as limited-edition prints.
The names of the pieces often designate the GPS location where the original photograph was taken and can be visited or found on Google Maps.
Mark considers that the composition is crucial and he is always conscious of the structure within the photographs he takes, because it is the skeleton on which the picture hangs. He finds shooting only square formats really helps with constructing strong pictures and is a habit that has stayed with him from when he used to shoot landscape photos on an old twin-lens Mamiya C33.
With the encouragement of his wife, he entered the art world and took part in a local art show. He was amazed and delighted by people’s reaction to his pictures and their interest in how he created them, not to mention the thrill of having someone buy his work to hang on their walls. Mark was deeply touched by the fact that people wanted to take his art into their homes.
In his creations can be found a range of trees and hues, that go from trees made with colours that could be considered more loud, colour wise, with bold vivid contrast images to the more subdued tones he uses in the softer pictures.
Today starts Mark Munroe-Preston's art exhibition with us, the fourth featured artist we will be showcasing for the Brighton Fringe Festival, we are very excited for each and every one of the artists exhibited.
Here, a questionnaire with answers by the talented artist, just so we get to know him a bit more. Enjoy!
Art5 Where do you live?
Uckfield, East Sussex
Art5 Since when have you been an artist?
I have been an illustrator for over twenty years but only started selling my landscape art about two years ago
Art5 What would you call your style of art?
A coalescence of photography and painting
Art5 Did you study Art or are you self-taught? What did you study?
I studied for a BA Honours Degree in Visual Communications, specialising in Photography, at Wolverhampton Polytechnic (as it was back then).
Art5 Favourite or most inspirational place?
I find myself constantly drawn to both the Ashdown Forest and the South Downs, where there is always a new path to explore or a new vista to inspire.
Art5 What are your hobbies?
I enjoy gardening and have an allotment. I also have a classic car (Karmann Ghia) which is great fun to drive around Sussex when the sun shines.
Art5 Where do you paint?
I have a computer studio in my house and a painting studio at the bottom of the garden
Art5 What mediums do you work with?
I work with photography as a start point for my work, then work digitally combining photographs, sketches, paintings, textures and found objects to create the final pieces.
Art5 Professionally, what is your goal?
To be able to support my family through my art.
Art5 Does personal history work its way into your practice? How might who you are be reflected in your current work?
Only in so much as my work is a record of the places I have been, though perhaps my mood might be coming through when I create the pieces, if they are dark and brooding or bright and playful?
Art5 What are you presently inspired by— are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
My inspiration comes from what I see when I am out taking photographs, whether that is the sculptural shape of a tree, the way the sunlight falls across a landscape or an interesting texture on an object I come across.
Art5 How has your style changed over the years?
I always enjoy experimenting and am constantly evolving my work.
Art5 What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Giving things space to breathe.
Art5 What makes you laugh?
Art5 What is art for you?
A journey of exploration and endless possibilities.
Art5 Three things in your bucket list.
A weekend away with my wife
Explore more of the UK
Learn how to fix my old car
Art5 Where is your favourite place in the world?
A sunny beach with my daughter, a warm evening in the garden with my wife & a game of scrabble or a misty morning out with the dogs.
Art5 Who are your favourite artists?
Dave McKean, Wolfgang Bloch, Edvard Munch, Andy Goldsworthy…
Art5 What is the most challenging part about being an artist?
Finding and connecting with customers, which is why it is so great to be working with amazing gallery like Art5
Art5 What is the best part about creating art?
The idea that people would hang my work in their homes and embrace it as part of their lives, its such a huge honour.
Art5 What is indispensable in your art studio?
A cup of tea - I am from Yorkshire after all.
Art5 How would your best friends describe you?
Haha! - I don’t know but I don’t think it would have anything to do with art.
Art5 How do you define success?
If I can bring a little joy to someones life through my work, then I think I’m doing ok.
Art5 What does family mean to you?
Art5 Who has inspired you in your life and why?
I have been lucky enough to meet and work with many exceptionally creative people during my long career and they have all inspired me in different ways through their work and lives.
Art5 Your favourite book or author?
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Art5 What is your favourite food?
Art5 What is the most interesting thing about you?
From this side of the fence I seem uniquely unremarkable.
Art5 What are you the most grateful for?
Art5 What words of wisdom would you pass unto your childhood self?
Kiss Helen (its a long story but we got there in the end!)
Art5 How do you want to be remembered?
Art5 Do you have pets? What are they?
I have two Scottish Terriers (Fergus and Rufus) and a pond with 112 goldfish, 8 frogs, 5 newts and 2 Toads (at the last count - not sure I can claim the newts as pets though?)
Art5 What’s your fondest childhood memory?
Watching the FA Cup with my Grandad and his mates
Art5 What music do you listen to? Do you paint with music?
Noise Rock (yes its really a music genre!), though I usually listen to podcasts when I am working.
Art5 What makes you cry?
Art5 What is “home” to you?
Wherever my family is.
Art5 What motivates you to succeed?
Starvation & homelessness
Art5 In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?
I still have blue eyes and my own teeth
Art5 How long have you been with ART5? How did your relationship with ART5 start; we contacted you or vice versa?
I have been with Art5 since 2018 and joined after being approached by Giselle, who had seen my work on Instagram.
Art5 Name something you love, and why
Other than my family that would have to be my dogs, though not when they eat my shoes.
We have a beautiful selection of art works by this fabulous artist, in our Brighton gallery and Online Store, art5gallery.com.