After 20 years quietly reinventing his style and honing his skills, artist Mark Kaiser is set to put himself to the ultimate test.
In November, his favourite painting will be put up for auction at Christie’s in London.
A striking winter scene of St Paul’s Cathedral, with the River Thames deliberately moved closer to the landmark, the 18in x 22in picture currently hangs on a wall at home.
Every time Mark sits down to paint, St Paul’s is his background inspiration, but probably not for much longer.
The image has already been used as a Christmas card, but the twin son of a Polish builder who died when Mark was six is now hoping it will cement his increasing reputation.
The Worcestershire-born artist has a five-year-old daughter by his Polish wife, Ania, and watching Lara growing out of her toddler years has given him similar feelings towards his painting.
“I can see that letting a picture go will be like when a child leaves the nest – there’s a kind of inevitability about it,” he says. “But a friend has advised me that putting it into what’s known as an ‘interior sale’ at Christie’s is a good way of making an inroad towards having people look at your work.
“It’s a scary thing, because your reputation will be on the line. But St Paul’s has been well received by everyone who’s seen it. I painted it after seeing the cathedral for the first time in winter.
“Because it’s behind my easel I’ve become really attached to it.”
If the painting attracts a lot of interest, it could even help Mark to achieve his ultimate ambition.
“One day I’d like to be rich enough to buy back all of my own paintings,” he admits. “Hopefully, I can win the Lottery and do that.”
To date, the Warwick-based artist has completed some 200 works and sold 98 per cent of them. He’s just finished a summer stint selling prints at a Sunday stall in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Bancroft Gardens.
Tourists, in particular, have loved the fact that he can paint someone’s holiday adventures or family home and put the people who live there in the picture, too.
Using photographs to add older relatives, some of whom may be deceased, is another way that Mark adds real personal value to commissions.
Although he has been painting since he graduated from Suffolk University in 1992 with a degree in illustration and graphic design, it’s only recently that he has started to make waves.
His success can be partly attributed to the rise of Leeds’ rock band The Kaiser Chiefs – five years after their debut album Employment – because people now remember his name.
In the past two years, the commissioning value of Mark’s smallest 12-inch square paintings has risen from £150 to £550. A 24-inch by 30-inch painting now starts at £3,500 and his prices are rising all the time.
“Every time people see my stall they look at my surname and call me ‘The Kaiser Chief’,” he laughs. “It’s how people now remember me and it’s become my nickname. I really like it.”
Mark is a fan of Scottish artist Peter Doig, whose works can sell for £2 million, and the artist he’d most love to meet is Rolf Harris.
Like LS Lowry before him, he thinks his style is best described as “naive”. While Lowry had a day job as a cashier with the Pall Mall Property Company, Mark works closer to ‘home’ as a graphic designer for Coventry-based Dialhouse.
“I do enjoy graphic design but it’s nice to switch to painting most nights and at weekends,” he adds.
Mark’s favourite artist is Pablo Picasso who once said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”.
It’s the exact problem he has faced.
“Children should spend half their time learning about art history and not being taught how to paint an apple that looks like an apple,” Mark argues.
“I had to unlearn what I was taught at school about vanishing points and so on because I could never get it right. I always wanted to do my own interpretations of things, so I re-taught myself by learning how to flatten perspective.
“You have to develop your own style. The most important thing I’ve learned is to paint from the heart. Learn from the Masters, but paint as yourself. Nobody should get marked down if they are trying to put heart and soul into a work.”
With leading Warwickshire art gallery Compton Verney set to start selling a range of his cards and calendars, Mark is also relaunching his own website thanks to a technically-savvy friend.
Not only will it display his work larger and better using a light-box table facility, he’ll be able to update the pictures, words and prices himself without having to keep paying an expensive design company to do it for him.
“My internet site will soon have its own shop,” Mark says proudly, wishing his labourer father Jan could see him now.
“Thanks to my stall in Stratford I’ve now got customers as far afield as California, so the site can even be working for me even when I’m asleep.”
l To see more of Mark Kaiser’s work, log on to www.markkaiserart.com