Born in Windsor in 1952, Mark Wilkinson has been working as a freelance illustrator for the past twenty eight 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.
While 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, the art of the album sleeve and poster design, which flourished during that time, was the contemporary art that influenced him. "Everything up until that time had seemed very grey. You just had the feeling that being a designer or illustrator was the most fascinating job in the world".
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 airbrushing. 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 developed and Mark has now worked for bands and performers as diverse as Judas Priest, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams. Recently The Darkness and Justin Hawkins have also commissioned work from him.
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 Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, Italy, Scotland and the USA.
Mark's web site is The Masque. There are examples of his work and a list of merchandise.
Photo by Dennis Geenevasen
Mark Wilkinson - Artwork