Mark has been involved in education for over twenty years. Having worked with art groups, schools, colleges, universities, residency programs and individual tuition at all levels. He has delivered talks on art history and his own practice in museums and galleries. His passion and obsession with the creative process, painting, drawing, art history, poetry and the human experience are all hugely important in his own practice, this combined with his need to be in the Landscape feed directly into his teaching. The workshops focus on a visual, emotional and physical response to the natural environment with the aim of engaging with and capturing the human experience of landscape. The intention is to meet who he is working with where they find themselves and help them to discover or develop their own voice, then allowing for a very personal response to the rawness and elemental nature of both the landscape and themselves.
Art groups, colleges, schools, universities that wish to discuss working with Mark in some way please get in touch. He does travel extensively and will endeavour to make something possible.
The long silences need to be loved, perhaps more than the words which arrive to describe them in time.
Three and Five day workshops available, exploring the full range of environments Penwith in far West Cornwall has to offer, from cliff tops to hidden valleys, beaches and the beautiful moors. Alongside experiencing some of the most rapidly changing weather the country has to offer.
12th, 13th, 14th June
24th, 25th, 26th July
11th, 12th, 13th September
16th, 17th, 18th October
Are a stage for the performance of heaven.
Two days exploring the wild expanse of Dartmoor, Including the oaks of Wistmans woods, Haytor, granite tramways and the almost subterranean quarries having over time been reclaimed by nature.
4th, 5th July
10th, 11th October
I did not know it was the earth I loved Until I tried to live there in the clouds.
Three days in the heart of the South Downs, exploring the landscape which inspired the writing of Edward Thomas and Gilbert White. Locations will include exploring the intimacy between the beech hangers, field patterns and chalk Down lands and the expansive sky's and distant views found at Winchester old Hill.
26th, 27th, 28th June
23rd, 24th, 25th October
Terms and conditions available upon request.
Extracts from a Telegraph article written by Max Davidson.
Easel? What easel? Mark Spray, artist of the Cornish landscape, wackiest course tutor west of Exeter, doesn't do easels. He is happiest in the great outdoors, easel-less, striding into the distance with a rucksack on his back, great clumps of mud on his boots and drizzle in the air.
Forget Rembrandt. Forget Damien Hirst. This is art as rambling: a gloriously unstructured conversation with Mother Nature, featuring wind, waves, prawn sandwiches and a few jokes.
There are four of us on the three-day Cornish Landscape course: me, the out-and-out novice; Sue, the ruddy-faced farmer's wife with hidden depths; Jerry, a picture framer who has a sideline in painting fishing boats; and Paul, a professional local artist. Each of us has a very different agenda, but with Mark as our leader, setting off from the car park at a cracking pace like a burly Fifties scoutmaster, we sense adventure in the air. We could be the Famous Five on a sketching holiday, bounding through the heather with the sea beckoning in the distance.
We pass a stream, a couple of muddy fields, a whitewashed cottage with a crab-apple tree in the garden, then start zigzagging down a steep valley towards the beach. A horse watches us from the side of the hill with a bored expression. He has seen it all before. Amateur painters are two a penny in this part of Cornwall.
"Stop!" says Mark, as we come to a clearing in the heather. "I want you to spend a couple of minutes sketching that group of rocks. It will free you up. Just draw what is in front of you."
As we get out our sketch pads, I can feel a couple of spots of rain. "Just mizzle," says Mark cheerfully. He doesn't like sun, he tells me: his paintings, some of which sell for thousands, are symphonies in grey, poetic in their bleakness.
I look at the rocks, do a few squiggles on the pad, think better of them, do a few more squiggles and end up with something that looks like a plate of spaghetti. "That's brave," says Mark, looking over my shoulder. I puff out my chest and feel as if I have won the VC. Sue, whose squiggles look like the back end of a cow, is also commended on her bravery, and blushes prettily. Paul and Jerry, though not given gallantry medals, are praised, encouraged, soothed with honeyed words. As we relax into our task, the spirit of comradeship is tangible. Whether or not we are producing Art with a capital A, we certainly are having Fun with a capital F.
A few more sketches, done on the hoof, as if we were grazing sheep, and we have reached our destination, a little rocky plateau overlooking the beach. We stretch out big squares of paper, held down by rocks, and set to work with a bewildering selection of tools: pencils, brushes, charcoal sticks, oil sticks, spray guns, paints of various colours. For a novice, it is a daunting assignment, and I keep casting hopeful glances at Mark, expecting Handy Tips for the Beginner. But, as I am fast learning, this is not a neatly structured course, painting-by-numbers: it is a more challenging, more exhilarating process.
"I'm not normally a confident person," says Sue, beaming all over her face. "But I'm starting to get the hang of it."
"This is taking me right out of my comfort zone," says Jerry, rolling up his sleeves. "But that's what I wanted."
"It's the real thing," says Paul, with a note of fervour. "I spent five years at art school, but learnt next to nothing. Getting outside, testing yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, is far more satisfying."
The rain is holding off, just, but the wind howls, the waves crash against the rocks and the seagulls caw, as if in protest. I will be glad of my picnic lunch – prawn sandwiches and a can of cider – when the time comes. It is not a day for fair-weather painters.
To our left, the coastline snakes away towards Land's End, shrouded in mist, and we can just make out the ghostly silhouette of the Longships lighthouse. To our right, a couple of ramblers, rugged up against the elements, inch their way around the headland.
"Not bad," says one of them, looking at my apology for a Cornish landscape, and I feel a little tic of disappointment. From brave to not bad in the space of half an hour! Who would be a painter in Cornwall?
"Art is the one thing that lets you be as selfish as you like and nobody will mind," says Mark Spray, whose aphorisms are as vivid as his paintings. He exhorts us to "push it", find our own "visual vocabulary" and "meditate on our experience"; and, if there is a part of me wishing he would just tell me which way up to hold a paintbrush, there is no mistaking the enthusiasm that is starting to ripple through the group.
Sue, so shy to begin with, hurls handfuls of earth at her painting to give it texture. ("I love your bravery, Sue," says the ever-encouraging Mark.) Jerry sets to work with a hairdryer, a standard accessory in painting circles. Paul clambers up on a table and starts waving a broom about like a policeman directing traffic. (No, he hasn't lost the plot: he is just trying to shoo away a starling that has flown in through the window).
What chaos! What camaraderie! What a wonderfully quirky introduction to bohemian Cornwall! My spaghetti-like squiggles may now look like a blurred cartoon of the Crucifixion, but Paul and Jerry have produced solid, craftsmanlike work, while Sue has played a blinder: a well-textured landscape that would grace any farmhouse.
"One minute you're being reticent, the next you're jumping off cliffs," says Mark, with fatherly approval. As we head off to the pub, there are smiles on every face.