Mark Demsteader Interview

Ashleagh Hurren from Davidson Fine Art interviews Mark Demsteader

Your early working life was far removed from that of a painter, when was it that you realised art could actually be a career for you?

I kept up my interest in art by doing evening classes and life drawing classes for many years whilst working as a butcher, when the business closed I was out of work and thought i`d give it a go so took my portfolio to London and went round the galleries. Eventually got some in a small gallery and sold them, it wasn`t until that point I thought I could make a living at it so just carried on from there.

In a parallel universe, if you weren’t an artist – what might you be doing?

I`d be on the meat counter at Tesco.

Do you have a daily routine to how you work? Are you very disciplined, or is it a case of being clouted by inspiration?

I work every day with varying levels of success, it`s just an on going process the ideas come from working at things rather than thinking about them.

You have now painted 3 strong women, Erin O’Connor, Emma Watson and Marianela Nunez, what was it that attracted them to you as sitters?

They all differed in how the shows came about but I was interested in trying to capture them as normal people rather than celebrities, each one was interesting to do in a different way but I was trying to capture the person behind the image.

Often your work feels very intimate – do you feel you’re privy to seeing a different side to your subjects when they sit for you?

I work mainly with professional models, I like the fact I have no real relationship with them, if it was a family member or someone close it changes the whole emphasis of how you portray someone, the models become a part of the overall painting as opposed to the subject.

Was there anything about Marianela in real life that you felt should specifically be captured?

She was an amazing athlete and I wanted to avoid any cliché as can easily be done when painting a ballerina, I didn`t want it to be a scene from swan lake but as I mentioned before a study of someone who is a person that happens to be exceptional at her craft.

Was there anything about working with her that surprised you?

I was amazed at her overall muscle structure and physique and the incredible work that goes into making something look effortless.

Your paintings of Marianela are so rich and dramatic, your use of colour so confident, can you give us an idea of how you begin these pieces? Are you able to clearly envisage what you want the final result to be?

I knew I wanted the red dress to play a part as she is well known for her role in it, so I knew the colour scheme beforehand and just worked from there, and built up the image as I went.

Can you tell us about some of your other passions beside art?

I used to play guitar in numerous bands in Manchester when I was younger, don`t do so much now but still a big music fan.

At the moment it really feels like your career is going from strength to strength. Can you tell us what you still hope to achieve in the coming years? What would your pinnacle be?

To just keep going and hope I can improve on what I`ve done, you never know when your pinnacle is and when it`s gone.

Still living or deceased, if you could have anyone sit for you, who would you pick and why?

One of my favourite musicians who`s just gone alas, David Bowie would be up there I would be interested in the person behind the mask.

What do you think of the great art institutions like the Royal Academy? Ever fancy RA after your name?

Not really, seems like the same people handing out titles to each other, don`t think it`s relevant to anything.

I know you’re a big music fan, who are some of the musicians that have had a big impact on you?

David Bowie, Joy division, Nick Cave, Scott Walker. Plenty more I could mention I also like classical, theatre music especially if it`s a bit camp and a bit of opera thrown in.

Which other contemporary artists do you admire and what do you think of the YBA’s?

Odd Nerdrum, Hughie o Donoghue, Jenny Saville are all good painters, the YBA`s are not.

Do you have any advice for young creative people, who – let’s imagine – are currently butchers themselves, and are interested in turning their hand to the palette?

I think it`s possible to turn your hand to anything as long as you do it as you would any other profession, if you wanted to be a hairdresser you wouldn`t be put off because you can`t be Vidal Sasson you would approach it as a chosen career path and just do it. I think the creative industries have a lot to offer as long as you learn your craft, as you can get found out very quickly if you don`t.

Who, from history, would you like to buy a pie and a pint for?

Adolf Hitler as I hate teetotal vegetarians.

View paintings by Mark Demsteader

art gallery devon