I’ve known Marcus Oakley for over ten years – he studied with my friend Marcus Walters from New Future Graphic – but I first got to know him properly when I commissioned him for Good For Nothing magazine. He did a drawing of office workers for an article on smoking at work. He really did his research for that actually, looking into what people wear to the office before drawing it !
Over the years I would bump into him at show openings and see his work around and really admired him. There is something about his style, it's not fake naivety, that is just how he draws, there's a wonderful quality to his line and colour choices.
He gave me a portrait he painted of me when we were in the lake district together two years ago. Nic Burrows from Nous Vous organised this residency called Natives. Myself, Marcus, Nic & Will from Nous Vous, and George Mellor (Sister Arrow) went up to the Lake District together to hang out and create work. The work we produced was then made into a journal.
It was interesting to see Marcus working there. He produced these amazing watercolours which he said he had never done before. I think I presumed he sat in his studio listening to The Beach Boys on repeat – he is completely obsessed with them – and drinking tea. He draws the Beach Boys a lot! And female body builders, they occasionally pop up in his work. So I have always imagined him in his room drinking tea and listening to the beach boys and drawing these things over and over again. But then to see him actually drawing in situ in the Lake District, creating these amazing landscapes from life was brilliant, he is the real deal, he really is. We called him The Master.
He is very focused on what he does, he has a very specific way of approaching things, he often draws the same things over and over again, you’ll see the same motifs in his work quite a lot, like owls, or plants, or the Beach Boys or abstract blocks. I have got a piece of his work which says ‘The nearest far away place’ which is apparently a Beach Boys lyric. It’s great. He is really into line and the quality of line.
We performed at Heavy Pencil together at Pick Me Up last year in the Comms Bureau room. He did a live performance called the 'Sound of Drawing' which can still be heard on the Comms Bureau mixcloud page. We also got to draw together on the same day, live drawing whilst William Edmonds performed.
Speaking of Will Edmonds he has a project called Colossal Space which is tiny little glass box which is about an inch and a half square that is the actual exhibition space. He asks different people to create an art piece installation with it and Marcus was one of them. We went on a bike ride from London Bridge to Greenwich and he made a sculpture to put the box on and placed it on the meridian line, he is clearly very interested in lines! So he will now be in loads of tourist photos of the meridian line. Him and his line shrine!
The best place to see his work is on his blog. His website has tiny images for some reason and has been the same for years! There is a lot of lovely pure abstract work on his blog which he has been doing for a long time and his Instagram account is a really good place to see his work too now that he is finally on there, a lot of people were really quite excited when he finally joined, and he has nearly 10,000 followers already and he has only been on there for a short while!
He also teaches quite a bit. He used to teach Illustration in Bournemouth. When he moved to Edinburgh last year he suggested me to take over from him, which I did for the past year.
I'm recommending him because sometimes it's good to be reminded of people who have been working away for years and that are easy to take for granted. I can see his influence in so many people’s work. And now people like Nous Vous and Matthew the Horse for example, who have been influenced by him, are influencing other people’s work. It’s nice to be old enough to see the whole process grow and see these people become friends. Marcus is one of those people where there is no gap between his work and his life. As I said before, he is the real deal!