It is hard to save this post under Old Pastel Masters category since Mark’s abstract landscapes are so very contemporary, but a category master would be very appropriate.
Mark Leach was a professional artist from Sussex, England. He passed away suddenly in the summer of 2008. He was a leading figure in the world of contemporary pastel painting with many prizes and publications to his name. A self-taught artist, Mark quit a successful career in computers and management consultancy in his early 30s to become a full-time painter.
As a young artists, he wanted to do something that had never been done before. He worked in impressionistic style in acrylics, incorporating some of the actual soil or sand from the landscapes into the paint. After some time he began looking for the essence and spiritual elements in his subjects. This led him into the abstract realm where he began using pastel to get down his thoughts quickly. He used pastels in a colorist way even though his palette was many times made of pale colors.
He painted neither an plain air nor from the references but rather from memory which holds the essence and not the details of the scene. That essence is what he wanted to communicate. Most of his paintings are in soft pastels as he saw pastels as the most efficient and most rewarding medium for satisfying his color needs. Mark’s favorite pastels were Unison, partly because he found the color range more subtle than many others and partly because of their size. He also used Sennelier quite a lot because some of the colors are really strong— blues, in particular. He used to prepare mountboard with a mixture of acrylic gesso and pumice dust, then paint it with acrylic mixed with yet more pumice to ensure a good tooth. These underpaintings were generally very dark blue, red or orange. Leach preferred to work from dark to light because of the vibrancy it can lend the pastels. His rule of thumb was that the underpainting should be at least as dark as the darkest tone in the final painting. In his book, Raw Colors With Pastels, the artist explains that he regularly exploits color psychology to communicate mood. As a result, many of his paintings are close to monochromes—shades of blue that convey peace and coolness, or reds that speak of heat and excitement.
Mark was elected to The Pastel Society (UK) in 1994 and was an active member and regular exhibitor. He was elected to the Council in 1997 and was already elected to be the president in 2009, but did not live long enough to claim that honor.
“I therefore tend towards the abstract. If the work is too figurative, this well may detract from what I am trying to say. If the painting is being viewed primarily as a picture of something then the qualities of that object will get in the way of the painting itself. If the tree looks too much like a tree then it is just a tree: the painting will have little purpose. I want my painting to be a lot more than this, more than just a representation, more than just a clever representation, it must have its own unique beauty. A balance of the emotional and the physical.” …for more, read the manifesto on his website.
“I do not use color to reflect what I see, but to express how I feel, or want to feel,” Leach writes in his book, Raw Colour with Pastels. “Although artists should avoid the formulaic, it’s broadly accepted that red conveys a sense of energy, passion and excitement; yellow optimism and joy; while blue speaks of hope, peace and calm. Of the secondaries, orange denotes warmth and honesty; green is the color of youth, energy and nature; and purple or violet can be both feminine and erotic, religious or spiritual.”