Mark Dear is a freelance illustrator, artist and designer from South London who runs with the moniker Oh! Dear!
Hip hop, cartoons, skate graphics and London youth culture are just some of the things that influenced him while growing up in Lewisham and continue to inspire him today.
Mark’s work often brings humour to issues around class and race, and you can check out his work as part of the somewhereto_ pop-up creative showcase at 91 Peckham High Street, until Friday, July 31.
Things That Inspire Me
Those naughty and controversial Comix from the mid ’70s come from somewhere really random and psychedelic, but have a deeper level of political commentary to them.
One of the early pioneers of Comix was Robert Crumb. He wasn’t held back by censorship and his X-rated illustrations allowed his infatuation with larger women to run free. The way he captured the issues around drugs in the ’70s made him a real zeitgeist figure for his day.
Growing up in South London, not having much to do culturally, I related to characters like the cool looking cat in an American ghetto, seeking adventure, sexual escapades and generally getting up to no good.
London Youth Culture
I have a love ‘n’ hate relationship with London. I love getting away for a bit, but I always tend to miss London. Everything about the city inspires my work. I try to eat healthy and usually only drink water and eat a salad for lunch, but when I’m feeling reckless I love a good chicken shop; my usual is 6 wings and chips (with a bottled water).
I’m trying to capture these little things that are typical to London and going on right in front of our eyes, but that we usually miss because we’re unaccustomed to really seeing them. Things like the way kids talk; the slang words and phrases that are different among young people from different areas in London. Even the local high street shops and the fact that in poorer areas of London there’s always a chicken shop, betting shop, estate agents, Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s and a corner shop – without a doubt these day to day features of London life for young people are very pivotal to my style of artwork.
My dad put me on a lot of the earlier Nas & Jay-Z albums in the ’90s and from then on I started exploring hip hop as a whole genre for myself. I enjoy trying to source the original samples used in hip hop beats. I used to hunt for records in charity shops and pick records based on the cover art.
Some iconic hip hop albums are so strong visually and those images have stayed with me ever since I first saw them. MF Doom’s Mm.. Food which was painted by Jason Jagel and designed by Jeff Jank, and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle cover by Joe Cool (not be confused with the Charles Schulz Peanuts character) really impressed me with their cartoon appearance but adult themes.
I still look for those records I’ve always wanted and some that just draw my attention visually. Luckily, I have a lot of musician friends who can sample the records if the cover art’s great but I’m not really feeling the music.
The violence, humour and sexual images on skate deck graphics were amazing and are why I first attempted to be a skateboarder when I was 10. No one I knew was really skating at the time so I gave up and settled for the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games on Playstation 2, as I couldn’t really see myself breaking any bones to pull off any wild aerial tricks.
I did however embrace the rest of skate culture. The illustrations from T&C Skate Designs and Jim Philips’ work with Santa Cruz are some of my favourites. At the time I was really young and pretty much a sponge for anything which was strong visually.
I used to watch a lot of cartoons, my favourites were X-Men, Spiderman, Hey Arnold, Samurai Jack and The Simpsons. I’ve always found the ones made before I was born the most interesting. Like all the cool Japanese cartoons from the late ’70s and the American action cartoons like Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers which really sparked my imagination.
There are a few cool cartoons now that are aimed at kids but have subtle adult humour smuggled in, like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Bob’s Burgers, Sponge Bob and a few others. Much like these more modern cartoons I try to appeal to a wide audience; both young and old. I don’t want to be just visually attractive, I want to engage with my audience on a deeper level so that they take away something emotional from my artwork, rather than “Oh, this looks great”.