Marc Todd is a talented British painter who worked as an art director for international agencies in London before settling into the life of a painter in Bath. With a style he defines as Contemporary Impressionism, he works with color and light, textures and marks to create engaging images with a distinctive flair. Todd’s works communicate a sense of constant movement in the environment, with both strength and subtlety. We spoke with Todd to discover more about his artistic practice and daily routine.
Hello Marc! What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I stick to a fairly regular routine. I walk the dog- a miniature Schnauzer called Johnnie- stop off for a coffee en route, and then get back to the studio ready to start work at 9am. An early morning dog walk is a great way to clear the mind before the days work.
I think routine is really important for a professional artist. David Hockney always said to make sure you do work every day. By his own account, he still paints every day at the age of 82, so if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
What inspires you to create every day?
The realization of how lucky I am to have a job that I love and that’s also a vocation is generally all the inspiration I need. Also, I live and work in the beautiful English city of Bath, a world heritage site, which is only minutes away from the countryside, so for a painter of both landscapes and cityscapes this is a very artistically inspiring place to be.
What does your work space look like?
I occasionally work en plein air but as I mainly work with acrylic paints which require a lot of water and on larger sized canvases, this is a little impractical for most of my work. For the majority of my painting, I work across 2 studio spaces, both of which are at my home.
Outside I have a converted summer-house which is mostly where I tend to work in the warmer months. I also have a studio room in the house for the colder darker months, or for when I need to work late into the night. My wife, who is also an artist, shares the inside space with me, which does lead to the occasional argument over what music we’re going to play.
Describe the core of your technique or style.
In essence, I classify my work as contemporary impressionism in that the effects of light form the basis of my compositions and color palettes. I also work quite quickly and intuitively, keeping the colors clean and defined, and the marks direct and confident.
I use a variety of painting tools and techniques that are quite unusual, such as strips of balsa wood, sponges, splatter brushes and even Lego bricks to create surfaces and textures that are geared towards a more modernist aesthetic. It’s quite rare that I use traditional paint brushes in my work- aside from mixing the paints. Whenever I’m in toyshops, DIY shops, or cookery shops, I’m always on the lookout for items or implements that might make for an unusual or unique painting tool.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
My top 3 studio essentials would be:
- Leonard Cohen and David Bowie CDs
- Nespresso coffee machine (covered in paint but still working)
- Lots of lights! (especially during the British winter)
I also have a slightly unusual ritual of reviewing “work in progress” paintings via a series of mobile phone snaps. When you are so closely visually absorbed in a piece having concentrated on it for a number of hours, it can give a really useful external perspective to see it this way. It sort of removes you from being the creator to being a viewer, and you can see the work in a fresh light.
How do you know or decide when an artwork is finished?
It’s very hard to quantify how, but I think I always know. When I start a work, I always have a desired result in mind. Sometimes it’s the communication of a physical feature, sometimes it’s a particular color combination, sometimes it’s an emotion felt in a particular place. Once I feel that I have achieved the objective, I feel that I have finished the piece.
However, having said that, I do sometimes revisit paintings at a later date. I’m always trying to develop and improve my creative thinking and techniques, and often apply new things I have learnt to previous works. One of the great things about being an artist is the knowledge that you can always be better!
What do you like to do to unwind after a day’s work?
I like to do a mixture of things depending on how much energy I’ve got, from eating out with friends to going to the cinema or gigs. Bath is a city of lively nightlife so I try and take advantage of everything I can.
I try and read for an hour each day before the day ends. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of artist biographies. It’s always interesting to understand and discover the motivations and inspirations that drive famous artists. I also try and get to 2 or 3 gallery show openings each month. It’s often inspiring to see what my fellow local artists have been creating.
What’s your overall favorite aspect of the creative process?
I think it’s the beginning. It’s exciting to be faced with a blank canvas with a result in mind but still have the unsurety of exactly how the piece is going to turn out. Every day and every piece is different.
I also love it when I find myself completely absorbed in a painting. It’s time of pure focus and creative flow. At times like this, the studio could be burning down around me and I probably wouldn’t even notice.