Mark Tweedie: Artist in Residence

Each year, Santa Maria College art students are given the exciting opportunity to work alongside professional Western Australian artists in our Artist in Residence Program.

Some of the artists we’ve hosted previously are Craig Soulsby, Wade Taylor and Fenella Peacock. The program brings our girls a wealth of knowledge through hands-on experiences with professional artists.

This year’s artist in residence is Mark Tweedie. Mark’s paintings are based on memories, photographs, and experiences. “Mostly, they are snapshots of my inner thoughts and feelings, much like a diary,” Mark explains.

Mark has been a professional artist for almost 10 years. He first exhibited in the Black Swan Prize (now the Lester Prize) in 2012.

We put some questions to Mark this week to find out more about him and his art.

Did you always want to be an artist? 

I would say that growing up, I never understood that you could work as an artist or in a creative profession, so that blurred my ambitions. I was always artistic from a young age, and some of my earliest childhood memories relate to art. I can remember being about 5 years old and standing with my mum in our backyard in Carnarvon, preparing masonite boards for painting.

Do you remember your very first painting? What was it?

The first significant painting I remember is my Year 12 final project. It was an acrylic on strawboard painting of my dad, sitting in an armchair, looking exhausted. The painting was exhibited in the Year 12 Perspectives (now Pulse Perspectives) at the Art Gallery of WA in 1999. It still hangs in the lounge room at my dad’s house. I’ve now been painting my dad intermittently for the past 22 years.

 What is your style of art? 

I’m a painter with an atmospheric approach to representational figurative and landscape painting. There’s a strong photographic element to my work, but I’m not trying to recreate photographs but rather interpret them and incorporate my own memories.

If you could sit down with just one artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why? 

There was a brilliant Queensland-based figurative painter, Hélène Grove, who passed away in 2020, whom I never had the opportunity to meet but had corresponded with. Hélène won the Portia Geach Memorial Award in 2013, Australia’s most esteemed art prize for women artists (established in 1965). Hélène’s work was often moving, sometimes heart-wrenching, and always honest. I’d love to own one of her paintings and am always on the lookout for the right piece.

What advice do you have for our students wanting to pursue a career in art? 

I’ve tried to mention this to all the students I’ve encountered during my residency, above all things, I want the girls to know it’s completely possible to have a career as an artist. Being an artist may not follow a linear career path, and there will be challenges. However, I feel so incredibly fortunate to do this for a living, and it can be very rewarding. Also, follow your instincts both creatively and professionally. You will encounter many different opinions, but essentially remember that only you know yourself best, and not all opinions are equal. When necessary, seek out advice from artists, educators, and/or people with experience working in creative fields, but always follow your own instinct.

What’s your favourite colour? 

I use a lot of Payne’s Grey, a dark and emotive shade of blue. Mars Black is also a colour I’ve used in every single painting I’ve made; it’s a warm, earthy brown-black, reminiscent of old sepia photographs. 

What medium do you enjoy?

 I work in both oils and acrylics. I’ve realised that both serve different purposes for me, so I often work in both to achieve a variety of surface textures.

What have you learnt from our students? 

Sometimes I forget how vulnerable marking art can be. It can be nerve-wracking to show your peers and teachers your work. The students have reminded me that it takes courage and perseverance to try new approaches and experiment with technique. I’ve loved observing students’ progress, from sometimes shyly hiding their paintings, to asking for help when it’s needed, taking creative risks, and working confidently whilst taking on board critiques and suggestions.

Here’s what some of our Year 11 students had to say about their time with Mark.

“Jumping into painting without drawing first encouraged me to expand my technical skills and take creative risks.” Sophia Marra

“I enjoyed working quickly without the pressure of everything needing to be realistic.” Sophie Shepard

“It was great to try new techniques and gain experience through being pushed out of my comfort zone.” Harriet Dash

Thank you, Mark. It has been fabulous to have you share your experience with the girls. 

If you’d like to see some of Mark’s work or learn more about him, you can check out his website here.

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