Art on the Hill attracts some very talented local artists, such as portrait painter Mark Fennell, who has lived in Brill for 23 years. We went to talk to him about his work and being able to exhibit it on his own doorstep... ‘It’s great for the village and great for the kids’ he says. ‘The workshops are great, and it’s nice to think you might inspire children in the village to paint- when they see some of the art there- if that’s what they’re into. It’s a great exhibition for amateur artists to exhibit and sell their work, and also draws in some other great professional artists from Bucks and Oxfordshire art societies. ‘
Mark paints in oil and acrylic. He has sold several of his paintings at AOTH over the years and has also been commissioned to paint portraits by people that have seen his work there- that’s the kind of work he really enjoys. His talent has been recognised in many places- most recently being shortlisted again for the Artists and Illustrators, ‘Artist of the Year’ Award, which will see his painting of Brill resident ‘ Tony’ on show at the Mall galleries in London in February and March this year. The portrait is an honest and incisive depiction of a human- deftly capturing his character and mood.
Painting a face with honesty has played an even more significant part in Mark’s work in the last year where he has undergone treatment for Lymphoma. During a period of his treatment, he set himself a task of completing a self-portrait every week for over 4 months. This took him through all the stages including losing his hair.
Some of them were from life- as he sat in front of a mirror. Some of them were from selfie photographs, and some of them- when he wasn’t feeling well- were charcoal sketches. He wanted to be proactive, keep busy and focused and make sure something positive came from this difficult time in his life. ‘The art has been my companion throughout. It’s helped me through it.’ He says. ‘I look back at the pictures and think that on the whole I look determined to beat this thing and get through it, and that was the idea with most of the pictures- to get across that determination. Of course some of them look a bit miserable- but that was part of it! There were days when I wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t want to spend too long doing it.’
Away from portrait painting Mark loves the landscapes and colours of Brill. His studio looks out across the common with the iconic Brill windmill centre stage. He goes out in all weathers, enjoying the atmosphere of a place, and likes to give himself 2 hours to paint a landscape, enough time before the light changes too much.
‘The Artist’ magazine will feature Mark’s series of self-portraits in their magazine in June. Mark’s Portrait of Tony AKA ‘Boulders’ has been shortlisted for the Artists and Illustrators ‘Artist of the Year’ Award. It will feature in the ‘Artists of the Year Exhibition’ at the Mall Galleries in London from 25th February to 2nd March 2019. You can vote for it online: awards.artistsandillustrators.co.uk/vote-now/