Our south West region of France: Gascogne, shelters thousands of english citizens usually settled in the countryside for climate and sweet life style. Mark left his Surrey village West Clandon not far from Portsmouth and settled down in Lectoure, Gers, homeland of Armagnac.
Mark: "Thanks very much Vincent for inviting me to appear on your blog full of my favorite things! As you might already have guessed, my paintings reflect my passion for motor cycles and cars. The 70’s was for me a most influential period, growing up amidst a growing Custom car and bike scene in England, the fashion, music, my pocket money all went on Custom Car and Chopper magazines (I still have them!)"
My first set of wheels was a Lambretta TV175 during the first scooter revival and runs to Brighton with my mates, to go sea fishing rather than to do battle with the rockers. My brother rode a Triumph Tiger Cub and a 1950 BSA A10 rigid frame and side-car, he wrote the side car off when he hit a runaway horse, and the bike suffered a few bruises when he clobbered a granny crossing the road! He still has the BSA now undergoing its third restoration! He’s also just finished a 1939 Norton International, all done in his garden shed. He was always rebuilding something unusual in the garage. One day when he’d just finished restoring an early Alvis prototype, an old boy stopped by in a ‘Brooklands’ Bentley and asked if he wanted to do a straight swop, he declined, a decision I suspect he now regrets.
We were surrounded by automotive activity of one sort or another. Team Maclaren were down the road working out of a small workshop, and Ken Tyrell owner of the F1 team lived up in the village; all his old racing cars were stacked up against the garage wall, including the one with four front wheels! James Hunt was racing with a small team based in a farm building next door. The remains of the Brooklands race track were a cycle ride away, so we were surrounded by racing history and history in the making!
In those days the nearest I got to the art world was a few weeks in a sign writing shop and 2 years studying typographic design, but I had other plans. I did a building apprenticeship before heading off to France to fulfill a long term ambition that involved wearing a Kepi in hot and sunny climates! For several years cars and motorcycles took second place to an alternative lifestyle. Later I returned to England but discontent and still harboring the travel bug, I took my van back across the channel loaded up with my Harley chopper and other essentials.
Seduced by the South-West I bought a big old house and embarked on eight years of renovation, anyone thinking of doing the same my advice is don’t! During this period I was also working in overseas, and it was only when the renovation task was finally complete and constant air travel had lost its appeal did I begin to paint.
I often travel to California, amazed by the variety of architecture framed by seemingly endless and un-spoilt open spaces, and it remains one of the great places to visit for anyone in love with the vintage lifestyle! My artwork is a humble tribute to those that designed and built back in the day, be it architectural or mechanical, but equally to those that continue to build and rebuild today, all those restorers of old buildings, cars, bikes and anything else of timeless design and taste.
At the moment I am importing from the US a Panhead chopper and a Knucklehead motor. Benny at Bone Shaker Choppers (near Birmingham in the uk) is building the Sportster bobber, and that should all be up and running early next year. Benny and I have also discussed plans for the Knuck engine, but thats going to be a longterm project built form period parts as they become available.
The Ford coupe is being built by my friend Robert in L.A. He is a great guy, very passionate about hot rods and his car created alot of excitement amongst the hot rodding fraternity when it was unveiled a couple of years ago. It should be finished by next summer, but Roberts a perfectionist and the car will be 100 percent period perfect, so he won't be rushed into completing the build. The coupe will run a 49 Cadillac motor with a 36-speed Lasalle box, a future Southsiders feature perhaps?
My intention one day is to buy a little place in California, somewhere along the central coast, and enjoy running around in the coupe for say three or four months of the year, and generally soaking up the atmosphere and painting at the sametime! I don't plan on bringing the coupe back to Europe, but sometimes things change so we'll see about that later. I have made a couple of good friends out there, they are complete petrol heads and like Robert are perfectionists in the art of restoring classic cars, I'll gladly put you in touch with them next time you're out that way...