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Beautiful Petty Things: Artist Mark Petty

by Cass Art Student Ambassador
Beautiful Petty Things: Artist Mark Petty

Lobsters, Chanel bottles, intricate patterns and flower-laced skulls - they all feature in the work of Mark Petty. The London-based artist and screen-printer gave a talk at Cass Art Kingston this November, and now his exhibition is open for one weekend in December.

His show, Beautiful Petty Things, is sponsored by Urban Spaces and is open to the public at 5th Base Gallery in London, from 11am until 8pm on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th December. 

Our Student Ambassador Sian Dowell met with Mark to learn more about his work, and get down to the nitty gritty details of how he creates his flamboyant and unique images.

Mark Petty at Cass Art Kingston

Beautiful Petty Things

Mark Petty has only spent the last year making screen prints and illustrations to get his creative juices flowing again, and boy is the ink flowing from his fingertips and squeegee bits.

His inspiration comes from every eclectic angle, and his portfolio shows an array of interests: Victorian deco, American history, and a menagerie of fantastical hybrid animals, like bees and hummingbirds, lobsters and octopuses. His prints are a literal interpretation so that the visuals of the print are clear and eye-catching instantly. His print of a shark Galeophobia is made up of doddles of sharks from his childhood, as he admits openly that he was obsessed with sharks as a child. 

Petty also works closely with the idea of positivity, using type and image to create an uplifting piece to inspire his own positive thinking onto others. His piece Yes demonstrates that positivity is associated with the word, and it's not simply an answer to a question.

Screen prints by Mark Petty 

He hand renders each illustration using black pen, and then scans and converts it to vectors on Photoshop to experiment with the colours; he wants to really think about his colour palette, since experimenting with actual inks in the studio takes up a lot of time. Although it can sometimes work for the better in the creation of a new colour, it is a lot easier to know exactly what colours to mix, as his printing time is limited to the weekends. 

Every print is registered using acetate and masking tape to line up the paper and positioning. It can take hours of preparation to create a single print, by the time he has designed it, printed it and exposed it onto the screen, and all the stages in between. It’s a matter of practice makes perfect; some days go really right and some go really wrong.  

The charm that surrounds screen-printing is created by the mistakes. No two are the same; there could be overprinting, misregistration or patches of missing ink where it didn’t quite make it through the screen.  Mark Petty doesn’t deliberately make mistakes, but he knows that one mistake can give a piece even more personality alongside his already colourful characters of animals and lettering. Yet this is the attraction, because people know with his work that they own a truly unique piece.

Mark says that he finds it surreal knowing that people are hanging his prints in their homes, and that it will never be printed again. He keeps the ones with mistakes, but the perfect ones are all limited numbers. So you're lucky if you get your hands on one!

By Sian Dowell, Cass Art Student Ambassador

Feeling inspired?

Want to give screen printing a go yourself? Then try our Speedball Value Screenprinting Kit or the Speedball Deluxe Screenprinting Kit to create your own unique prints.

Mark Petty's exhibition is showing at 5th Base Gallery, 23 Heneage Street, London, E1 5LJ, on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th December.