Hand-Painted Leather with Artist Mark MacDonald

BY Taylor Rebhan

“I enjoy working with leather because it’s a challenge,” says London-based artist Mark MacDonald. “I enjoy enhancing the unusualness and uniqueness of it.” It is nothing short of mesmerizing to watch leather painter Mark work up-close in action, and once you see it firsthand, you realize it takes way more than a steady hand to execute monogrammed works of art. Learn more about the London-based artist in the interview below. 


How did you get into leather painting?

I have always been painting, sketching, drawing and creating throughout my life as far back as I can remember, but I started to focus on painting different fabrics and mediums like leather, denim and glass about 10 years ago. I was fresh faced out of university and began as an intern for the brand ‘Evisu’.

Evisu was the only place you could get an artist to hand paint directly onto your denim — a cool place as a young creative to get inspired. There was an incredible creative flare within the team, we were all genuinely encouraged in the art of expression and making, painting, scribing on anything — especially fabric, providing us with a real positive hands-on ethos. We painted on jeans, jackets, wallets, belts, leather patches, the floor, the walls, everywhere.

This was the time when I learned the most and was free to experiment with all fabrics and mediums.


What are the most difficult aspects of hand painting leather?

I take painting on leather for granted. I almost think of it as just another fabric now because it’s featured so heavily in my work, but the leather itself does have a uniqueness to it because it is a skin. This is what makes it different to most fabrics and this is what makes it more interesting.

Painting leather is quite particular and you do need to adapt on every piece, every hide/skin/grain will be different. The inconsistency or differences in leather make working on this medium beautiful and lively. Selecting the right paint, brush, tool and using a particular technique to compliment the leather for the desired finish is the challenge. 

What are the differences between painting leather compared to other surfaces?

The main difference from normal painting is you have to push the paint to fill the skin — over time you learn a real control, and gain a real acute feel for the leather and the paint.

I enjoy working with leather because it’s a challenge. I enjoy enhancing the ‘unusualness’ and uniqueness of leather. I’m able to provide someone with a real personal touch, something someone will treasure, talk about and enjoy more than the product without the artwork on it. I love painting in general, I find it satisfying and rewarding especially when the client is blown away by the quality of the work. 


What does it take to be so precise in your work?

Most artists have a steady hand and a good eye to deliver quality brushwork. To do the real intricate detailing, monograming and signwriting, a real steady hand is essential. However, as with most skills, I feel it comes down to a combination of having a love of what you’re doing, the right selection of tools, experience, ability, patience, and dedication.

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