The Grace of Mark Demsteader

I’m excited to share a conversation I had recently with one of my favorite contemporary painters, Mark Demsteader. A self taught artist out of Manchester, UK, Mark may be most recognized for his beautifully graceful figurative works featuring Emma Watson. From the oil black shadows and hauntingly realistic facial features to the thoughtfully simple outlines and raw smeared paint, his works are the epitome of the artist’s touch. They are deceptively straightforward, uniquely his own, and have been amongst the most inspiring contemporary pieces to me personally for years. Enjoy.

I had a difficult journey into the art world as I was brought up away from such things.

How did your art journey begin?

I had a difficult journey into the art world as I was brought up away from such things. When leaving school, I ended up working as a butcher, which wasn’t what I wanted but had little choice. I went to life drawing classes for many years and eventually learned how to draw so when the job I had went, I took my portfolio to galleries and tried to get in a show — eventually I did and just went from there.

How would you describe your work to a friend?

Contemporary figurative, I think. I start very roughly and work up to the details so I leave a lot of it loose, which I like. I’m not sure where I’m going or why, I just do it and hopefully keep away from the world of butchery.

I’m not sure where I’m going or why, I just do it and hopefully keep away from the world of butchery.

I like a whole number of artists like Rembrandt, Degas, etc — I just pick elements of them and mix them together.

How do you prefer to work?

I use mainly photographs for reference and as a starting point. I can work out the composition from there, and Imake up a lot of the colour schemes and compositions.

How do you balance creativity with the professional side of art? What advice would you offer your younger self?

Probably the hardest part as being a professional artist is not as enjoyable as being an amateur artist, the demands from galleries and tax collectors do take the edge of any creative thinking so I just muddle on. When I started, there wasn’t the internet as there is now so it was harder to get noticed, however that meant I had to work harder at being good at what I did—I think artists today should hone their craft before getting caught up in the corporate world of art as you need to think long term.

What’s your favorite failure?

I sent a couple of drawings to a gallery and had no luck selling them and the gallery closed down a month or so later, so i had to drive a long way to get them there in the first place and drive to get them back which was a complete waste of time, but I didn’t know that a young Emma Watson walked past the gallery on her way to school and saw the drawings which later led us to work together.

…but I didn’t know that a young Emma Watson walked past the gallery on her way to school and saw the drawings

Do you have moments of doubt or creative blocks? And how do you deal with them?

Yes, I had a point some time ago which lasted about 3 years, couldn’t do anything so gave up. But after a while, I got a few ideas and got back into it. It’s difficult to continuously be creative so its important not to beat yourself up about it. Just accept that’s the way it is, and wait for a space to come back into it.

It’s difficult to continuously be creative so its important not to beat yourself up about it. Just accept that’s the way it is, and wait for a space to come back into it.

Are you satisfied?

No.

Next upcoming show

Mark Demsteader’s next show is in November at Painter and Hall in London. Be sure to check it out — the works are all based on the theme Ophelia. You can see more of Mark’s works on his website (https://www.markdemsteader.com/) and his Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/markdemsteader/).