Artist Mark A. Pearce has now found happiness back in his native Lakeland


After making us smile with his postage stamps, Mark A. Pearce has now found happiness back in his native Lakeland. Sue Riley reports.

Back in the 1980s, Mark A. Pearce put a smile on everyone’s face when he devised a set of Royal Mail greetings stamps featuring some very happy people - including the Mona Lisa, Dennis the Menace and the Laughing Policeman.

The ‘smile stamps’ were some of the most memorable of the decade and they won him a top design award. It was quite a time for Mark who went on to run his own business in London and was the creative director for many major clients 17including the BBC, Unilever. Martell, Vodaphone and Bird’s Eye. But then the smile faded.

After what he describes as a ‘colourful lifestyle with the London set’ his business went belly-up. He lost all his money and decided to quit the bright lights and head for home - West Cumbria where he was born and brought up.Now, he has bounced back. For the past three years he has been painting and making linocut prints of the charming coastal village of Ravenglass; many of the scenes are of the view from his studio which is spectacularly situated on the shores of the estuary where the rivers Esk, Mite and Irt meet and the Lakeland fells frame the scene.

‘When the tide comes in the house feels like a boat,’ he said. ‘What I see is the sky and the light reflecting off the water. I can only respond to what I see and try to put it across. The catchment area of these three rivers is what I paint.’

He has exhibited in London and at an show in Ravenglass last year he sold more than 50 oil and mixed media paintings and limited edition linocuts. ‘That exhibition has given me confidence in my work,’ he said.

Most of his pictures are of local landscapes, seabirds, shells and trees and he likes the idea that one day he might be known as the professional artist who put Ravenglass on the map. Its current claims to fame are that it marks the start of Hadrian’s Wall, is the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park and is the home of La’al Ratty, a miniature train which wends its way for seven miles along the base of the spectacular Eskdale Valley carrying thousands of tourists every year.

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Eskdale is one Mark’s favourite places to paint, although he also enjoys the scenery at Wasdale and the land bordering the River Irt which he describes as ‘a lovely winding river through water meadows.’ He tends to use a limited palette of colours and enjoys experimenting. ‘Serendipity is quite a useful ally,’ he says.

Brought up in nearby Seascale, he studied at Carlisle College of Art and Design before moving to London where he worked as a graphic designer. Although he’s painted all his life, it’s only since moving to Ravenglass that he has done it full time. ‘Three years is not very long to be doing it, so I am still learning. But with painting you never stop learning,’ he said.

‘I am trying to make pictures that people want to buy, I am not trying to re-organise the art world with a new vision. People like uplifting pictures. I am celebrating what is around me and hoping that people agree with me.‘I was oil painting from about the age of six. I was a bit of a precocious child when it came to art. I remember the feeling of joy of painting with oil, it’s beautiful to work with.’

The price tag on his pictures range from £200-£900 with prints starting at £100 and there’s also a range of greetings cards and postcards which are sold in many of the shops and cafes in Ravenglass.

He accepts visitors to his studio but by appointment only as it is also his home. His parents live in the house, originally a chapel, and Mark, 55, has created a large working space with easels and worktables on the first floor, with a standalone bathtub in the corner.

Despite being prompted by a stroke of bad luck, his move back north has had many benefits. Not only has he rediscovered his love of painting but it has also brought his family even closer together as his parents relocated from nearby Waberthwaite and his sister Sarah – who helps with the administrative side of the painting business – and her husband moved to the village from Cheshire. Mark’s new life as a full-time artist has become a real family affair. You could say it has put the smile back on his face.

In the last two weeks of August Mark will be holding another exhibition of his work in the Pennington Hotel in the village. He also undertakes commissions. For more details see