Mark English, 1933-2019

Famed illustrator Mark English (born 1933) died on August 8. He was one of the star illustrators when I was in art school. 

He helped define the world of contemporary illustration with paintings that combined abstraction with realism in a way that was expressive, elegant, and always surprising.

I met him at a gathering of artists hanging out at a convention hotel eating tacos and sipping beer. Even though he was well into his 80s when I met him, in his leather jacket, he looked like he was always in style.

Mark English in the lounge of the Kansas City Marriott, gouache.
As I squeezed out my paint to sketch him, he told me he still had the gouache paints that he used in his illustration years, but he switched to painting larger canvases with house paint.

Mark English "Pink Patchy Face"
In his later canvases, which he made for galleries, his images edged further into abstraction. He delighted in juxtapositions of colors, textures, and shapes that hinted at portraits but dissolved into an intriguing primordial stew.