A leading Tyneside marine artist and lifeboat hero has seen off competition from artists across the world to earn a place at a major London exhibition.
Mark Taylor, 43, from North Shields, divides his time between painting the North East coastline and answering distress calls from those in peril at sea, with his RNLI crew.
Now, the father of three – whose paintings have won a legion of fans, including Sam Fender, Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor and writer Ian le Frenais OBE – has been recognised by one of the art world’s most prestigious bodies.
The Royal Society of Marine Artists has announced that Mark’s oil on canvas, sepia-toned painting of the North Shields White Fish Market, Circa 1905, has been chosen from around 1000 global submissions to hang in its annual exhibition at London’s Mall Galleries.
And the news comes just a year after Mark, a coxswain with Tynemouth RNLI Lifeboat crew, was awarded a medal for bravery by the charity for his part in saving the lives of a father and son found clinging to the base of a rock on the treacherous South Shields coastline.
Mark – who trained in fine art and was course leader at Tyne Metropolitan College and manager at Newcastle College before becoming a full-time, professional artist 11 years ago – had responded to a call out from the Society inviting submissions not just from members but from ‘wild cards.’
Entries then went through a rigorous selection process before the final 142 were chosen and Mark was “absolutely overjoyed” to learn his painting had made the cut.
“It’s the first time I’ve applied, so to be included in RSMA’s annual exhibition is absolutely a dream come true,” said Mark, whose greatest inspiration was his late father, also an artist and lifeboatman, Dallas Keith Taylor.
“From childhood I watched my father paint and then later, when he was battling motor neurone disease, I would guide his hand as he struggled to fulfil his commissions,” said Mark.
“I also watched him race to join the lifeboat whenever the distress calls came in. He saved 65 lives so he was a genuine hero and everything I have done has been inspired by him.”
Mark’s own artistic skill not only enabled him to complete his father’s outstanding commissions when Dallas was unable to continue, but also to work in a variety of his own styles and mediums, using the palette knife his father left him.
“I like to alternate between a looser, more fluid style, often in watered down acrylic, and the more structured styles of painting that you see in the canvas that’s included in the RSMA exhibition,” said Mark.
“And, because the sea and the North East are in my blood, that’s largely what I paint. The boats, the light over the sea, the people – I will never get tired of painting them.”
Former Duran Duran star Andy Taylor is one of Mark’s growing legion of fans, having commissioned him to paint Cullercoats Bay to mark his 60th birthday celebration.
“It’s where I’m from, where I grew up,” he said, “and my family, for generations, have been Cullercoats Lifeboat men.
“He captured the “salty essence” of my childhood evoking many happy memories and it’s where my love of the guitar – and beer – started.
“Mark, being a Lifeboatman himself and, coincidentally, a Taylor (no relation) captured the timeless spirit of the bay and the ancestry that made me who I am.”
The RSMA Exhibition will be held at Mall Galleries, London, from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 1 October and is open to the public between 10am and 5pm with a preview event and award presentation for invited guests on 21 September.
Mark’s work can be viewed or purchased at The Studio, Low Lights Tavern, North Shields or via marktaylor-thestudio.com . He also works to commission.