Mark Reid - Biography


I was born in Lima, Peru on March 12, 1954. My father was of Irish Scottish descent, and he too was born in Peru. My mother is Scottish, and had gone to Lima after the war to teach at a girl's school, and to escape the climate in Western Scotland. My father's family had been in Peru since the 1860's. My great great grandfather had been a ship's doctor and had settled in Peru as a coffee planter. Some of his children married Peruvians and others married British. I come from the British side. I had a comfortable upbringing with servants at home, and a mother who took me swimming and horse riding, and I suspect I was pretty spoilt. I went to the English school in Lima; spoke English with my family and Spanish the rest of the time. I loved being in Lima. I have vivid memories of when my Mother took me shopping at the market; it had a real grittiness. With all the varied produce and livestock, there were intensely rich colours all around, Also there were strange smells and usually vultures would hang around, scavenging, looking sinister. One year, when the Humboldt Current moved away, and there were no fish in the sea, the market had the added sights of starving pelicans standing in groups trying to get food, themselves being eyed by the vultures. There was a richness of life in Lima which I greatly appreciated.

When I was thirteen I was sent to boarding school in England. I went to Rugby School, where my father had been. I do not think that my father enjoyed school one bit, but I did not have a bad time there. I was at that age when I wanted something different, and after the first wrench of being separated from my family, I settled in quite well. I was there from 1967 till 1972. I spent my holidays from school with a guardian. She was an extremely eccentric artist friend of my father's who lived in an ancient house in the Kentish countryside. I loved being there. We would hunt rabbits with her Jack Russell terriers, and went on sketching expeditions together. It was at this time that I began to become really interested in painting. I was 17 when I decided to go to art school.

I spent one year at Kingston Polytechnic doing a Foundation Course in Art, and then moved on to Bristol to do a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art, Painting. Bristol was a particularly bad Art College while I was there. It was glumly uninspiring, and full of tired, bored and bitter tutors. I spent most of my last year painting alone in my bed sitting room. To be fair the one thing I did learn at Bristol was drawing, and that was really good. It was at this time that I began to come out of the closet as a gay man. On leaving the college with a mediocre degree, I went to London. Unable to earn a living as an artist, I took a course to become a London Blue Badge Tour Guide. I began a pattern of painting in the winter and guiding in the summer. I travelled a lot. I started doing tours in Britain, and then moved on to Spain, then Scandinavia, and finally all over Europe.

On leaving Art School my painting was pretty rootless. I explored abstraction, and I tried to follow the prevalent fashions of the day. I eventually returned to figurative work in the early 1980's, and have been there, quite happy, ever since. In 1984 there began a four-year painting hiatus, while I worked in a rather high-powered job for a tour company, contracting hotels all over Europe. This involved my travelling for about six months of the year. In 1988 I burnt out and moved to Canada, giving up the travel work altogether. I had visited Canada in January 1987, and found it no more than very cold, and could not understand living in this country at all. On a second visit, it improved a great deal, and I moved here in June 1988. In 1989 I began to paint with some more success, doing, since my studio was at home, mostly watercolours. Since then I have painted and exhibited on a regular basis. I now have a spouse (thanks to Ontario's progressive laws); a studio and I feel very comfortable. As a child in Peru I was always a "gringo", and felt like a visitor. In England the feeling was similar since my Peruvian upbringing made me feel foreign. However, here in Toronto, where so many of us are immigrants, or closely descended from one, I feel totally at home.

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