A SHORT BIOGRAPHY
Born in Windsor in 1952, Mark Wilkinson has been working as a freelance illustrator for the past thirty years. Most of his current work is in the realm of fantasy, and he has seen his illustrations used in a wide variety of formats, from book jackets, magazines, record sleeves and posters to stamp designs, advertising and film merchandise. Growing up in the late sixties, it seemed that the only poetry Wilkinson needed came from the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart or John Lennon—they were the subtext of his youth. Similarly, album sleeve and poster design, which flourished during that time, was the contemporary art that influenced him. It was seeing the work of Alan Aldridge and Harry Willock in 'The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics' that finally inspired him to try his hand at using an airbrush. After a stint at art college Mark designed a few record sleeves for Polydor Records, a 'James Brown Greatest Hits' package, a series of classical covers for the Deutsche Grammaphon label and a few rock biography book covers for Queen and The Police, but was desperate to move into the world of record sleeves. Indeed, Mark was that vinyl junkie staring at the album covers in his bedsit and wondering just how you get to be a Hipgnosis, or a Neon Park and find a successful band to work with, which seemed to be the key. He had approached most of the major labels with little luck and so started to see some of the design groups that he knew specialised in sleeve designs. It was a case of right time, right place in the summer of 1982. One day, taking some advice from a flatmate who knew a man who knew a man, he walked into Torchlight, a small outfit, who had just happened to get the brief from EMI that week to find an artist to paint the sleeves for a new band...Marillion. After working for them and subsequently Fish in his solo years, a career somehow developed and Mark has now worked for bands and performers as diverse as Judas Priest, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, The Darkness and Justin Hawkins. His pictures were chosen for the 'Best Of British Illustration' exhibition at the Royal College Of Art a few years ago and he has exhibited in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, Italy, Scotland and the USA. Two books of his work have been published, 'Masque' in 2000 and more recently 'Shadowplay' in 2010.
"My epiphany came one day while I was in London to see The Who at The Marquee Club. It was one of their first gigs in Britain after their infamous Woodstock appearance in the USA and the tickets were like gold dust. I had travelled there early by hitching a lift with a bunch of friends. When we arrived, we went to see the famous mural painted by Dutch artists 'The Fool' on The Beatle's Apple Boutique building in Baker Street. After that we wandered into two independent record shops that we knew specialized in American import albums - 'Musicland' in Soho and 'One- Stop Records' in South Molten Street. I picked up a copy of 'Savage Resurrection' in Musicland - purely because I loved the cover art, but it was toss-up between that and 'Beacon From Mars' by Kaleidoscope! Everywhere you went, the place was buzzing, my home town in contrast seemed to be in black and white and grey - London was bright Technicolor! By mid afternoon the queue at The Marquee Club was stretching all the way up Wardour Street. We started chatting to a guy in front of us who told us he had produced some drawings to show The Who for their next album cover. We didn't believe him! Thought he was delusional! Keith Moon emerged from the pub up the road, half an hour later, and walked casually down the queue chatting (very) merrily to the crowd. He stopped to talk to our mysterious friend in front - and sure enough - he looked at the drawings and told him to get in touch the following week. We were astonished! However - I never saw his work used by The Who - or on future releases! I wonder where he is now. I never forgot that afternoon though, seeing that young guy showing one of my all time favourite bands his drawings. What a fantastic thing to do - to maybe earn your living from producing artwork for bands! We saw three very early performances from support acts that afternoon and evening: 'Yes', 'Jethro Tull' and 'Gun'. The Who though were incredible - and are still my favorite band to this day; along with Pink Floyd. My friend standing next to me caught a piece of Pete Townshend's broken guitar as he flung it into the audience after the usual carnage at the end of the show! I went home with something else - an idea, a dream, a plan of action to pursue art. I had left school with no real idea about a 'career'...I ended up in a drawing office for a few years producing technical drawings for the heating and ventilation industry, but I knew this wasn't really my destiny, so I chucked in the day job and went to art school...to see what might happen!"