Monday, 31 December 2012

Visual Delights: Mark Hearld's Work Book

A highlight of my Christmas this year was being given a copy of Mark Hearld's 'Work Book'. What a treat! From the boisterous cover to the hand-written acknowledgments, this book overflows with life and vigour; designer Nicola Bailey of Merrell (the publishers) has succeeded in keeping the artist's exuberance under control while allowing his energy to shine through. I particularly love the end-papers, which would have delighted Edward Bawden, I'm sure.

Near the beginning of the book Hearld provides a hand-written chart of artists who (he feels) have influenced him. To my mind Bawden is his most obvious ancestor, particularly in the illustrations, although the spirit of John Piper seems to hover in those swirling dark backgrounds. It seems typical of Hearld's down-to-earth approach that he freely acknowledges these influences. In the same spirit he admits that he isn't a potter but enjoys designing ceramics nevertheless, and tells us that he decided against calling one picture 'A Rat in the Kitchen' because the r- word might put off potential buyers.

His mission appears to be to bring the ordinary urban-natural world to life in new ways, which I think partly accounts for his popularity. There is nothing sinister or brooding about his creatures (even the rat is cute), yet they have tremendous character. Energy surges through his pictures and designs, almost like the bracing winds that roar across the eastern counties of England, turning farmyard scenes into swirling visions. Occasionally there's just too much going on, but more often the layering of textures and techniques works brilliantly.

A thoughtful text is provided by Simon Martin (curator of Pallant House gallery and an expert in 20th century art); he draws attention to the artist's marvellous hand-writing, which is all the more striking in the e-mail age. Hearld continues the tradition enjoyed by Bawden, Ravilious and friends, of sending hand-written letters embellished with illustrations (although it was Picasso's example that inspired him). There's no reward in this work, of course, other than the recipient's pleasure, but I get the feeling that the giving of pleasure is high on the list of this artist's inspirations.

You can buy Mark Hearld's 'Work Book' here.


  1. thanks for flagging this book, James! Duly ordered...

  2. Ooh, lovely -- and, yes, Bawden is definitely in those endpapers. Thanks for this.

  3. Thanks guys - yes it's a lovely book!