Mark was brought up in Berwick on the north east coast of England. I’ve referenced his hometown in the blue bridge which arcs across the painting. Encouraged by his father, Mark loved being in the outdoors and was a champion water-skier by the age of 13. Growing up, there were no wetsuits small enough for Mark so his Dad made him one. Mark has inherited his father’s ability to turn his hand to anything, which I pay tribute to in the stitching pattern which runs across the painting.
In his teens Mark got really into the breakdancing scene in Newcastle. You can see this in the blue and white triangle and zip on the left-hand side of the painting referencing the shell suit fashion of the time. The graffiti character carrying the ghetto blaster also points to breakdancing.
Mark is really into a graffiti artist called Ed Roth, who was famous for creating petrol head monsters. As Mark loves rebuilding and modifying Land Rovers, I have created an Ed Roth character driving one as tribute to Mark’s amazing knowledge of welding, mechanics and metalwork. Mark also drew an Ed Roth character on his first surfboard.
Being a petrol head and a water-skier, it was probably inevitable that Mark would be drawn to jet skiing. He loved the joy of surfing his jet ski down the face of waves, so he sold it and bought a surfboard instead. It was while surfing on the east coast in the early 1990s that Mark met Jim Hope (also in the exhibition) at Coldingham bay. Mark first visited Lewis in 1996, then a few years later introduced Jim to Lewis.
Mark was working as a BT engineer and earning good money which allowed him to surf top breaks around the world and he also visited Lewis regularly. But despite the surf trips and the lure of a steady wage Mark wasn’t happy. In 2001 he sold up everything and travelled in his camper through Europe to the Canaries where he learned how to shape boards. The first board he created was called the Barvas Bullet. This seminal surfboard is referenced in the yellow shape that lies across the painting. The cyan and yellow design of the board is mirrored in the colour palette of the painting. Mark’s favourite break is Barvas on a big, clean day with light offshore winds. Perfect conditions for The Barvas Bullet.
Throughout this time Mark also built a reputation as a photographer and film maker. He returned to Lewis in 2001 to film the Hebridean Surf Festival and went on to release his first full documentary called Cold Rush in 2004.
Mark finally moved to Lewis in 2003 and has worked hard to create a work life balance that’s focussed on surfing and not around material wealth. He now has his own board shaping workshop in Ness. His brand is called Phoenix Surfboards, which is referenced in his paintings through the phoenix bird which sits on top of the Ed Roth graffiti character.