Artist Mark Lyken made me cry... and I liked it!

A renowned trailblazer of early Scottish graffiti ('writing' LYKEN since the 80s), artist Mark Lyken has made the move to canvas with jaw droppingly beautiful results.

"Glimmer" by Mark Lyken 2010.

I first met Mark when I collected my Alphanauts paintings after the Lyken/Rekor Recoat live paint and was delighted to discover he's a 'talker', so many graffiti artists are notoriously reluctant to open up and while I completely understand, do still think that's a great shame.

Alphanauts live paint, Lyken/Rekor 2010.
Mark also openly embraces social media, I really enjoy his self deprecating writing style and there's plenty of great places to hang-out with him online, will pop the links at the end.

Having recently relocated from Dundee to Glasgow, he works mainly from his Great Western Road studio. Got really excited when I found this out so cheekily asked if I could come for a nosey...

I'm made very welcome but hang on, this studio is warm, didn't think that was allowed, he confesses it's actually warmer than his flat!

Still get a kick seeing my name up on a wall.

Mark surprises me by saying this is basically all graffiti is, an egotistical desire to see your name written on a wall.
Erm, OK, so running with that idea, I'm pretty confident I have both the ego and the desire but in a thousand years couldn't get close to anything like this...

How his two sketches above turned out... KERPOW!

Find more Lyken walls this way.

Other creative's workspaces intrigue me and this highly colourful one left me feeling that my own is rather anodyne by comparison.

Just look at how ordered his table is. I'm shamed, my sewing room always looks like I've been sat tossing fabric scraps and handfuls of pins over my shoulder all day. My friends have all suffered a pin in the foot at least once - the smart ones now bring slippers when they stay over. 

Being a struggling patron, I brought the artist a meagre offering of some 'Krink and ink' from my art supplies box - astonishingly, this went down even better than the biscuits. Noted.

Demonstrating how to use a squeezer without getting most of the ink on your shoes...

Mark was almost continuously painting as we chatted away. As one of Central Station's featured artists, this particular painting was started during a 'live paint' with Syrkus at the recent Central Station party. He's written an amusing piece about the process of painting 'live' here.

Regularly switching from one board to the other, he manipulates the paint with, amongst other things, his fingers and the edge of a wallpaper scraper.  Loathing the easel, Mark reveals he routinely works on multiple paintings simultaneously across one wall.

Central Burst by Mark Lyken 2010.
Coincidentally, a week later I got to see this completed Central Station painting at Recoat and it's stunning.

With cardboard ELPH, the real one is a friend and longtime collaborator. Nice rack!

The science bit: "Lyken paints impressions of microscopic universes influenced by meteorological phenomena, cellular division and decay".

Music is also a big influence in Mark's visual work and forthcoming exhibitions include a collaboration with musician TalkingmakesnosenseAll makes complete sense to me, I don't see why different disciplines can't overlap more often. 

London record label Gamma Proforma have just signed his band, Voigt Kampff (a collective comprising Lyken, Sink and Mr Vera). The first single "All You Need is The Sun" is released in April and the album "The Happiness Machines" is scheduled for a summer release. He's also working on solo material best described as 'Cut & Paste Synthetic Funk'. 

But I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't find out what the current trends are: Transparent is the new opaque.

Mark laughs as he explains the irony of years spent struggling with piss poor car paint - only to now pay through the nose for a 'translucent' finish. He demonstrates its hazy effect by spraying it directly onto one of the paintings for me to see and I'm once again in awe of the bold way graffiti artists make marks.

The hazy effect is not unlike the wash of colour in this painting by Elph....

"Angular Jaeket" by Elph. For Marina (me!)

Turns out we both like to talk so before I know it three hours have passed and my head's spinning with superb art chat as I race off to the ballet to catch 'Cinderella'.

Mark emails the next day, he'd continued working into the early hours after having a "breakthrough" with the purple painting (below) and thought I might like to see how it turned out.
As the large image of the finished piece gradually reveals itself, something unexpected happens. I'm completely taken aback at how dramatically it has evolved overnight and spontaneously start to well up a little.

Subunit Purple 002 by Mark Lyken, private commission. 

Can't explain it, perhaps seeing it taking shape the day before may have, unjustly, made me feel a teensy bit invested in its development. (Hey, some of my pens were used...)

I find it incredibly emotive, explosive and joyfully expressive with outstanding depth and luminosity. My nose is tingling and my eyes smarting again as I write this looking at it once more. Weird. Could properly weep on realising I can never own it as it was for a private commission. 

So no, of course the artist himself didn't make me cry, as ever, he was lovely company.

Only one thing for it, will have to commission my own Mark Lyken painting. Going to keep the brief very simple: "C'mon Mark... make me cry again!"

Artist Mark Lyken on Facebook
On Flickr
Mark Lyken's Website. 


  1. Ha! So true about Mark being a talker. I completely get what you mean about seeing Mark's work transform and how it's an emotional or even spiritual experience. We've been very lucky in getting to watch his works in progress :)

  2. Shhh you...lucky my rear end.
    We pay that heating bill you know! :p

    I do find myself wanting to *borrow* some of Mark's work for my own ends though. Need to change that to commission though :)

  3. a talker? The boy is a super blether supreme, cant be matched.

    I cant believe that you didnt comment on his hair - its a work of art in its own right.

    All seriousness though, the boy's paintings are coming along nicely. VK all the way!

  4. What amazing art!
    Great Blog!
    x x x

  5. Vonnie, so glad I'm not alone in finding them 'emotional' paintings!
    What fascinates me to watch is the low-key/casual way he 'makes marks' that suddenly transform into something really beautiful.

    Bobzilla, yes funny that, could have sworn I'd heard on Facebook how cold the studio was… Do you think he sneakily banged up the heating just before my visit? Mnnn, I might be getting a bill for that.

    And MisterVera, I think between us we've given his follicular accomplishments enough airtime. 'The Hair' did come up in conversation but as you can see, in the end I chose simply to photograph it from 4 different angles.
    Exciting developments though, got the name of his hairdresser so we can make a start on those Lyken wigs for the rest of VK…

    Yasminbawa, agreed, the paintings are amazing.

    Thanks y'all for stopping by x