Marcus Oakley’s latest work focuses on a black and white view of the outside

From urban scenes to the more rural, the illustrator portrays environments that he has experienced throughout his life.

11 February 2020

The environment, whether built or natural, is the focus of Marcus Oakley’s recent work that draws on direct experience as opposed to imagined worlds. “These drawings are a way of recording my time and memories of things and places outside,” he says. “Much of my work is created from my imagination, so it’s fun to draw something from reality.”

Marcus depicts everything from mid-century housing to lakes and mountains, combining the wonderful landscapes that surround him in Fife with a long-held interest in architecture. “I’m interested in the built environment as much as the countryside. Living in Scotland, I’m fortunate to have easy access to hills, mountains and coastline,” he explains. “These landscapes are so inspiring, especially the mountains. I grew up in the flatlands of Norfolk, so I find mountains something rather magical and powerful.”

The other side of his recent work looks at the angular straight lines of the built environments that he has experienced: “I’m really drawn towards modernist, brutalist and post-modern architecture, including residential, shopping, office and municipal. Drawing is a way to connect, understand and appreciate these buildings.”

Marcus’ current style is focused around minimalism, using one colour and one pen. It is an approach that provides different challenges to him, and ensures that he focuses on the fundamentals.

“I often drift from colour to black and white depending on my mood, so it doesn’t specifically feel like I’m making a decision, more a melodic meteorological shift in melody. I like the simplicity and minimalism of using a pen and a piece of paper, and the challenge of just drawing lines to hopefully make a successful drawing I’m happy with.”


Marcus Oakley: Morlich Woods

That isn’t to say that the outcome is the be all and end all, in fact, the process is something that Marcus values just as much. “Whilst drawing, the concept of success isn’t really that important, I’m happy for mistakes to happen and drawings to end up in the bin,” he says. “In a meditative daydream of drawing, moving around at a zen-like pace. Simply enjoying the physicality of drawing and connecting one line with another.”

Marcus has experienced both urban and rural living, which feeds into his current work: “Many things inspire and influence my work, my surroundings and interests filter down sometimes directly or indirectly.” He grew up in Norwich which houses the famously modernist UEA campus, before moving to London for 21 years, where he worked as a designer for Paul Smith and then as a graphic artist. “It was so awesome to be in a place full of so many buildings!” he says of this time. His move to Fife in Scotland in 2014 explains the natural subject matter present in these newer drawings, and brings it full circle in portraying the environments that have inspired him over the years.

The switches in periods between utilising colour or focusing on black and white is something that clearly keeps Marcus on his toes and ensures he is continuously evaluating his work and how he goes about producing it. “Space and structure interest me, and all my drawings feature specific drawing systems and rules – weight and balance are always considered,” he says. “In a positive way, you don’t really have anywhere to hide when drawing in black and white. I can’t really explain it but it’s a different way of thinking.”

What is clear though is that Marcus’ love for drawing and his fascination with creating is extremely strong: “Through curiosity I draw and see what comes out, attempting to investigate the concept of creativity through drawing,” he says. “Drawing is something I need to do, and I’m fascinated to try and understand why I want to and why I have to draw.”

GalleryMarcus Oakley




Wharfedale Waterfall




Pentland View


Fife Desire Line


Fife Desire Line


Ulswater View


Sundays Walk


Oasis Tower




Kinross Triangle

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Marcus Oakley: Studio

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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