Mark McFadden watches paint dry. Literally.
A self-taught artist from Falcarragh, Co Donegal, Mr McFadden spent the first part of his career working in bars and nightclubs on the Champs d’Élysées in Paris, and Monaco, but his childhood dream of becoming a painter was never far from his daytime thoughts.
In his late thirties, at the end of a shift at a bar, somewhere near the hour of 4 am, Mr McFadden knew it was time to hand in his notice. He did so the next morning.
His foray into art started in 2009 with a visit to an art supply shop in Italy, where he bought for the first time oils and canvases, and palette knives even though he had no idea how to use them.
His first attempt was trying to negotiate a 1.5 metre canvas. He picked up the palette knife to correct a stroke, and never put it down. He can have seven paintings on the go, and spends hours watching the layers dry.
“Within a year, I had my first exhibition with a dozen or so works at the Metropole Shopping Centre,” the long-time Monaco resident told Monaco Life. “I was finally going to answer the question: Could I be an artist?”
Ten years on, the answer is clear from Mr McFadden’s current month-long exhibition at the Gildo Pastor Centre, on 7 rue du Gabian, which runs until the last Friday in May.
The fifteen portraits and abstracts are a “cross-section of my earlier work”, with many familiar faces on the wall, including a large piece on Nelson Mandela.
“I work from photos, and spend a lot of time reading autobiographies and painting their images,” Mr McFadden explained, adding, “I love bringing a blank canvas to life with a face.”
Perhaps this “life” is what caught the eye of Prince Albert, who purchased a portrait of James Joyce at the Hôtel des Ventes during another event. “I was very flattered,” Mr McFadden said.
The Joyce painting was part of Mr McFadden’s Literary Greats Series that debuted in Dublin. The collection now has 16 works, including Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John and Colm Tóibín.
“As time goes on, I see my technique developing and I gain confidence in my ability as an artist,” Mr McFadden explained. “I am pleasantly surprised when I look at my work and think ‘I did that’.”
Mark McFadden’s exhibition is open from 9 am to 7 pm at the Gildo Pastor Centre until May 26.