Mark Preston – artist

Changing Light, Froggatt EdgeThe future of the Preston dynasty of Derbyshire artists looks to be secure; Joseph – just two-and-a-half – already has a painting in pride of place on the family fridge.

Before even thinking about showing off his own work in the studio upstairs his father Mark, whisks me through to the kitchen to point it out.

“A robin,” he says with glee as he gestures towards the brown and red blobs of paint  his toddler son has daubed on to the sheet of paper.

With Joseph’s pedigree there’s every chance the youngster could be destined for a life dominated by a paintbrush and easel.

Not only is his father one of Derbyshire’s best-known young artists, but his grandfather is Rex Preston, his great uncle is James Preston and his extended family own Duffield Gallery.

If his childhood is anything like that of his father’s he will be surrounded by paintings and painters, assume everyone’s dad has a studio and will spend his weekends frolicking at the coast or in the hills.

“He is definitely already aware of what’s going on,” said Mark. “I have paintings everywhere at the moment in preparation for my next exhibition and when we took them down to protect them from DIY dust at the weekend he asked where daddy’s paintings had gone.”

Mark, 37, is preparing for his fourth solo exhibition at The Ridgeway Gallery in Bakewell. He has a collection of more than 50 new works painted in situ in the landscapes of Derbyshire, Cornwall and the Lake District. They all convey his fascination with the effects of the changing weather and the seasons on the landscape.

His love for painting en plein air was borne of his sketching trips with his father, his uncle James and their friend and fellow artist Wilfred Ball.

“My father always used to say it was important to paint from nature but I don’t think he ever expected that I would take it one step further and paint everything in situ instead of the studio.

“I feel I have to be there to experience the elements directly so I can respond to the spirit of the landscape.

“It is when I am happiest. I was once told nature is the teacher and that is where you learn the most.

“As Monet said ‘one hour in front of nature is worth ten in the studio’.”

Painting outside means that he has been buffeted by gales, frozen and soaked. He has been known to tie his easel to the rocks in Cornwall to capture the crashing waves – although he admits even he wouldn’t have attempted to paint in the recent weather to hit the coastline.

“There are some limits,” he says, “and I admit I have had to abandon paintings which have been covered with an inch of snow or even frozen.

“Sometimes though the rain can mix with the paint and actually give it a more abstract feel. I like that idea.”

When asked when he sold his first painting he recalls that his grandmother Doreen sold one of his childhood paintings at Duffield Gallery when he was just ten.

“I think she sold it for a fiver, but actually it was much later – when I was 21 – that I sold my first work at the former Granby Gallery in Bakewell owned by the late Mike Mosley.

“He gave me my first break and exhibited paintings I had done on a trip to Cornwall with my father just before my final year at university where I was studying illustration. I think Mike gave me the confidence to think I could be an artist and actually since then I have never done anything else.”

Married to Mel and with two children – Joseph and eight month old Benjamin – he has remained living in Derby around the corner from his parents who have always been very supportive and encouraging.

He greatly values his artist friends such as Andrew Macara and Douglas Hill and regularly goes on painting trips with Julian Mason and Colin Halliday.

In recent years Mark has gone on to have considerable success which he says is much to the delight of his father.

“It just seems normal to me to be surrounded by these artists but I am exceptionally lucky to have them and my father who takes an interest in everything I paint and is always ready with feedback for me.”

For more information about Mark’s work go to http://www.markprestonartist.co.uk