Oil painting by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'Venetian Red', oil on canvas

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"I work closely with my model and try to capture the figure in variety of poses that suggest contemplation, the human condition or simply domestic, daily life," says Mark Hancock.

Mark Hancock in his studio in Leicester

Mark Hancock is a figurative painter working in oils and pastels. An art foundation course at Oxford Polytechnic was followed by a BA in Fine Art at Canterbury College of Art, where he developed his love of figure painting. Two years as Artist in Residence at Stowe School then Sandroyd School led on to a PGCE at Reading University. Mark worked in several schools, becoming Head of Art at Aldenham, then King Edward's, Witley. In 2008 he decided to give up teaching to develop his own work, taking an MA in painting at Middlesex University and since then he has worked as an artist full time.


What does a typical day as an artist look like for you?

My day usually starts with me walking my nine year old son to school. On the way back I will plan out roughly what I hope to achieve that day. I am usually in my studio by 9:30/10:00am.  I'll put on some music depending on my mood, anything from opera to Kraftwerk, Mozart to prog rock, and work through to lunchtime. At some stage in the afternoon I will take myself out for a run. I love getting out into the fields or along a canal towpath. It helps to clear the mind. So many artists, writers, composers and thinkers walked miles every day.

How did you choose your current theme, if you have one?

I am often inspired by chance glances or things seen in the corner of my eye and I also like to reference works from the past when relevant.

Mark Hancock, Venus Rising (After Pearle), oil

A chance glimpse of a bed sheet at the same time as seeing a work by Pearle led me to explore the figure draped or in some way covered.

How often do you use a live model?

Painting by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps', oil on canvas

I have a model to pose in my studio once a week. I will work out ideas and themes for my paintings, and sometimes the model suggests poses. When the model isn't there I work from my drawings. I don't mind using photographs too, to jog my memory, but you have to allow the colour and form to come from the painting.

What skills are essential to you?

Michelangelo said:  ‘Draw Antonio, draw Antonio, draw and don’t waste time.’ - Antonio Mini was a pupil.  I work in sketchbooks all the time and try to always have one with me.

Mark Hancock's sketchbooks

Mark Hancock, working sketchbooks

I make drawings wherever I go and in galleries, and have larger sketchbooks for drawing details from the model working out ideas.

I'm looking for colour, shape and forms.  You can find this everywhere.  Sometimes my ideas come from abstract paintings - for instance, when we were in Majorca recently there is a beautiful Joan Miro gallery which sparked all sorts of ideas for painting.

Pastel Drawing by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'Dancing with Lautrec', pastel on paper

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

Being able to work for myself.

What is the most challenging part of your work?

Being able to work for myself.



How did you get to where you are now?

I took a foundation course where we were encouraged to try everything, we spent three or four days a week life drawing.  At Canterbury College of Art, on the BA course the emphasis on drawing continued. I had some great tutors over the years – Alec Vickerman, Dennis Creffield and Humphrey Ocean.  After 20 years of teaching the opportunity arose to become a full time artist...I didn't need to be asked twice. 

oil painting by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'Charlotte', oil on canvas

What did you do after you completed your MA?

I studied for my MA at Middlesex University, updating my practice as a mature student, which was a chance to work on a very different scale and produce some large paintings.

I was living in London at this time, so then I rented a studio at Euroart Studios, a converted factory warehouse in Tottenham, which kept me in a community of creative, like-minded people.  When I moved to Leicester it was important to find a place where I could work. Anthony Green once told me he kept 'civil service hours, 10 to 4' and I often remember this as I climb the stairs to the studio at the top of the house.

What were your best subjects at school?

Art and Music.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

Maintaining a practice while working six, sometimes seven days a week was a challenge. You can't be a slave to two masters!

What’s the proudest moment of your artistic career so far?

Portrait by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'Portrait of Professor Donald Russell', oil on canvas

Seeing my commissioned portrait of Professor Donald Russell unveiled in the Oxford University Classics Department was pretty special.

What advice would give your 22-year-old-self?

Don't be afraid to experiment. Oh, and if ever asked . . . always say 'yes'!


Coffee or tea?

Only ever tea . . .too many memories of school common rooms with the acrid smell of stale coffee grounds and a bitter liquid drunk because of routine rather than any sense of taste.


oil painting by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'White Linen', oil on canvas

Michelangelo or Picasso?

Michelangelo said: 'The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.'

While Picasso said: 'Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.'

I love them both and wouldn't have one without the other. Sistine Ceiling or Guernica? Both show the power of the human condition.

Mac or PC?

I've always considered the Scots very polite.

Morning or night

I'm probably more of a night owl. I used to paint until very late and was the night watchman's best friend- someone to talk to in the early hours. These days with a family I have to be more sensible. That said, the delight of an early morning run on a crisp winter's day is always an attractive possibility.


Pastel by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'At Rest', pastel on paper


Peter Gabriel. I love his lyrics and music making.


Only one? Even 'Desert Island Discs' let you choose eight! If I must... 'Wallflower' by Peter Gabriel.


'The Forger' by Paul Watkins. Wonderfully descriptive of Paris at the start of the second world war.

Three favourite artists . . . .

Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Stanley Spencer, though ask me tomorrow and you'll get three others.

Painting by Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, 'A Departing', oil on canvas

Things to do on a Friday night?

Good food, good company and a relaxed drink.

Favourite holiday spot

Venice. I find something new each time I visit. But equally I love exploring new destinations.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

My lovely friends the artist Ken Draper RA and his partner the photographer Jean Macalpine were very encouraging about giving up work and painting full time in my 40's, 'there's still plenty of time, Mark!'

An exhibition of works by Mark Hancock can be seen at The Cank Street Gallery