Interview : Mark Vice, Awesome Artist
Photo : Mark Vice at our 2016 #ThisIsMe Rooftop Garden Party | Credit : Carol-Anne Shaw
Edinburgh-based artist Mark Vice creates expressive drip and splatter art portraits that are as bold as they are beautiful. An unrestrained and energetic painting style results in pieces of art that are strong, powerful and passion driven – it is difficult not to be drawn in by their raw intensity. We’ve been a big fan of his work for a while now and we’ve worked with Mark on a number of our own events. He also designed the striking cover of Issue1 of our #ThisIsMe magazine. It’s been quite a year for Mark – he was named the winner of the ‘Cultural Icon of the Year’ award at the 2016 ICON Awards and there is a lot of buzz around his work.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Eccentric but still with it.
Did you always have an interest in art when you were growing up and did you have a desire to do it as a career?
Yes! Making art has been a massive part of my life since a very young age. I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on something creative and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I deviated slightly and studied pop music at university – but looking back I’ve always been more of a visual person!
Were you encouraged to follow your dreams by your family?
Absolutely, I am lucky to be surrounded by such a creative and supportive family unit – they’ve really set me on the right track. My gran taught me to paint, my parents sent me to weekend classes at art school and my sister studies fashion, so we are a very creative bunch.
The one thing I remember my parents constantly telling me was “do whatever you want to do, do what makes you happy”, so it doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Thank god they didn’t force me into a 9-5 career. That could have been disastrous.
Did you have any creative role models growing up?
I’m told we shouldn’t idolise but to hell with that…Madonna was and in many ways still is at the center of my creative world. I remember my mum would constantly play all of her back catalogue – Madonna, Like a Prayer, Erotica, Bedtime Stories, Ray of Light, American Life – I could probably name every lyric. The thing I love most about Madonna is her ability to act as a visual curator. Throughout her career I think that her magpie approach has produced some innovative work and I love that she is still bringing new things to the table. She is a total rebel and a big risk taker, qualities that I greatly admire.
“I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on something creative and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
How would you describe the art scene in Edinburgh?
Hmm…seeing as I come from a music background I’m relatively disconnected from the Edinburgh art scene so that’s difficult to answer. I’m quite lucky to have gained an international following through social media, especially from people in America, so I don’t really think in terms of geographic scenes.
I appreciate the beauty of the old town here in Edinburgh but no, the city doesn’t directly influence me or the themes in my work. I am inspired by pop culture and the human psych – the way people interact with each other fascinates me. I also like the paradox that exists within popular culture – at one end it is a vacuous and frivolous part of the human experience and on the other it is an amazing way to stay connected with the world. I think of our popular culture and media like a divining rod; if you know what to look for it can be fascinating.
What is your favourite part of the city?
I love hanging out in the meadows during the summer because it’s like being at a festival. On the really warm days everyone is drinking, cooking on barbeques, playing music and chilling out – all cares are put aside for a few sun baked hours – it’s glorious!
How would you describe your art style?
Bright, bold and sexy – get ready to be TITALLATED! All of my pieces mean something to me because they each remind of a specific moment in time. Right now, my favourite pieces come from my ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ series which is all about celebrating glamour, fashion and opulence!
Mark designed the cover of Issue1 of our #ThisIsMe magazine. Here he is with our limited edition print.
When are you at your most creative?
My most creative ideas happen when I am in contact with water, either doing the dishes, in the shower or when taking a bath. I’ll just sit there for ages and think about things, round and round, until the idea clarifies in my mind. I’m going to get one of those waterproof stickie pads and pens to put on the bathroom wall because I always risk losing the ideas as soon as I get out of the bath!
What’s a typical day like for you?
My typical day is probably anything but typical! I go to bed very late, usually 3-4am, so I normally don’t rise until about 10/11am – any earlier than that and I just can’t function. As soon as I get up I check instagram, Snapchat, facebook, twitter and my emails before going for a quick shower.
Breakfast rarely happens (it’s my least favorite meal) and I go to the office with a black coffee and do all admin and marketing tasks. If I have any sales from the previous day I’ll spent time processing the payments, wrapping and shipping the pieces, which takes much longer than you would think!
About 2pm I’ll have a snack and then go to the studio. I’m lucky enough to have a painting studio in my house, it used to be a garage and now it is a fully functional studio and gallery space. For most of the afternoon I will do physical tasks sketching, prep work, painting, varnishing, resining etc. I now also have a secondary woodwork studio 20 minutes away, so if I have to build new box canvases, sand or prime anything I will head there and get on with those tasks. If I have finished a new piece or a series of work I will spend the afternoon photographing my work so it’s ready to upload to the website and shop.
My partner comes in around at around 7pm and we will catch up on each others day and have something to eat at around 8pm. Nightshift usually begins around 9pm. Depending on what I need to do I’ll either go back into the studio and paint or I will categorise all of the photos I took in the afternoon, edit them and upload them to my website.
During the week I try and make it out to as many events as I can to catch up with friends and the people I collaborate with. I go to quite a lot of drag shows and love supporting local queens – there is so much talent in Scotland and this art form needs much more support.
“I think we all have doubts in our life but I believe it’s what makes our achievements and moments of success more thrilling.”
Do you ever have self-doubts professionally and personally? How do you overcome any hindering thoughts?
I think we all have doubts in our life but I believe it’s what makes our achievements and moments of success more thrilling. Sometimes I feel that not having a visual art degree means I won’t be taken seriously as an artist, but then I think “f**k this” and get on with it. I hate being told what to do and to do things in a specific way. So when I remind myself of this fact, I know for sure that I shouldn’t put myself through an academic system again. Aside from that, long discussions with my partner and a bottle (or two) of wine always helps quell any doubts.
If you could be teleported back to spend ten minutes with your 16 year-old self, are there any words of advice you’d give yourself?
“Pick something and f**king stick with it!” – I think that if I had made the same commitment to art when I was 16 I could have done some really great stuff by now. My advice would definitely be to master your field before trying other things – it will be an easier path!
What’s your most cherished possession?
I’m a non-materialistic kinda person so this is a tricky one. I only buy people perishable gifts that must be eaten or used within a given time frame because I think we need to stop filling our homes with crap! If I had to pick something it would have to be my Macbook as (sadly) my whole life pivots around it.
Photo : Mark with a selection of his awesome work | Credit : Carol-Anne Shaw
What are you most proud of?
My proudest moment to date is probably selling artwork to a client in New York. For me, it’s amazing to take an immaterial idea from your head, bring it into existence and then send it halfway around the world to hang in someone’s house.
Congratulations on winning the ‘Cultural Icon of the Year’ award at the 2016 ICON Awards
Wow – I was shocked, delighted and ecstatic to win the award. Thank you to everyone who nominated me. This award recognises a creative individual who has promoted and supported diversity through the arts so it’s an honour to have received this for the work I’ve been doing. Over the past twelve months I have been working and collaborating with some amazing LGBT+ creatives, LGBT+ allies and LGBT+ supporters, so thank you to everyone who has been part of the journey so far. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months holds – I’m sure there are going to be many more projects, collaborations and events in store!