An introduction to the art of Mark Salwowski

Mark Salwowski

 

Mark was born in 1953 in Finchley, London, and lived in Enfield until 1964 when his family moved to Australia.  He went through a number of jobs before landing himself a place as an office junior at John Sands Pty Ltd, the southern hemisphere's largest commercial printers.  Here he learned about printing, publishing and the commercial art industry from the ground up.

 

Around that time he was painting in a very abstract and expressionistic style, throwing paint onto large canvases, allowing it to marble and then isolating or emphasizing areas with a brush.  He had moderate success with the pieces he exhibited and once even outsold Pro Hart, one of Australia's top names at the time, at a charity exhibition at the Moses of Montefiore Institute.

    

By 1978 Mark was starting to gain an interest in fantasy and science-fiction art. After making the acquaintance of a fellow enthusiast, Dennis Collins, they decided to put on a one-day exhibition and asked a few other similarly inspired artists to join them. It was a modest success.

     

 

 

This cover is the illustration to Icehouse (Flowers), We Can Get Together. 

 

So in 1979, throwing caution to the winds, Mark and Dennis quit their jobs and opened TimeWinds Gallery and Studio in Bondi Junction. TimeWinds was arguably the world's first gallery and studio exclusive to the genre - and it soon became apparent why. The gallery was a great success and quickly gained a large troop of loyal viewers, but the trouble was they didn't buy the paintings. And there was another problem.  At this time there just wasn't enough fantasy and sci-fi work in Australia to support the studio so they ended up having to take on any work they could find. They developed an association with the music industry and in particular the band Icehouse, meanwhile producing posters and artwork for other bands such as The Angels, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Metal As Anything, and anything else that helped them to survive.

     

In 1981 the gallery closed.  They changed their name to TimeWarp Studios and moved the business to North Sydney, carrying Frantz Kantor, one of the gallery's regular contributors, along with them.  Soon they were illustrating magazines, with their major clients being Australian Playboy, Australian Penthouse, Cleo, Cosmopolitan, Sydney Magazine and Omega, an Australian science and science-fiction glossy.

     

In 1984 Mark packed his bags and headed back to England. Along the way he stopped by the Philippines and met up with Robynne, a girlfriend from Australia, and her two daughters, Lisa and Sharyn. Together they set up home in the village of Stanford-in-the-Vale in Oxfordshire and Mark was taken under the wing of the London-based Sarah Brown Agency.  These specialized in fantasy and science-fiction art for the publishing industry and soon Mark was painting book covers in the genre almost exclusively.

     

 

Cover for Iain M. Banks's The State of the Art.

 

In 1985 Mark married Robynne and in 1989 his son Nathan was born. The same year he took part in the "Other Worlds" exhibition held at Bearne's Rainbow Gallery in Torquay. There his book cover illustrations hung beside the works of such modern day legends as Patrick Woodroffe, Brian Froud, Alan Lee, Chris Foss and John Howe, as well as such past giants as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Sir John Tenniel. Throughout the nineties Mark was kept busy with book cover and private commissions and found little time to paint for himself. Although he did manage to enter a piece in the "Alice" touring exhibition that opened at Bearne's Rainbow Gallery in Torquay. Amongst other places the exhibition also visited the Christchurch Galleries in Oxford University and the Parko Gallery in Tokyo. The same decade he began selling his original book cover art to collectors through Sotheby's and Bonham's of London.

     

Mark and Robynne separated in 1994 and were divorced in 1997. They remained on good terms and in 1998 Robynne organized a small exhibition locally for Mark and fellow illustrator Danny Flynn who happened to live in Wantage, a nearby town.

     

Then in 2000 Mark packed his bags once again and with his son Nathan headed back to Australia. He continues to paint covers and whatever else comes along but now he has also started writing. His first effort is reputedly a children's story but he is somewhat tight-lipped about the content. His latest illustrations include the cover for Frank Ryan's The Doomsday Genie and a children's book on fantastic creatures for Koala Books in Australia to be released later this year.

 

 

Visit Mark's own website and see how he created the cover for Frank Ryan's The Doomsday Genie