Creating The Syd Barrett Portrait By Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson is a talented artist responsible for great paintings in the sphere of music artwork. He did some striking images for Marillion/Fish! He was commissioned to do the DVD Cover for The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story DVD (American version) and will be auctioning off the original this month! There are also limited edition Giclée prints available from his site.

Mark guides us through his thoughts concerning the production of the DVD artwork below.


Imagine hearing ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ for the first time. Back in ‘67 there were fewer frames of reference than there are today for any new band. In fact there were no antecedents really for this album back then. How often does something come along that is so unique that it takes your breath away? This record existed in a vacuum…or so it seemed to me as a kid of 15.

Carol Oliver’s fanclub Newsletter. Click to enlarge. image above.

I saw the Floyd many times after hearing Piper. I even joined the very first fanclub for them run by Carol Oliver from Ilford. That was something I’d never done before and never felt strongly enough to do since. The whole scene that existed back then…with multi-media clubs such as Middle Earth at The Roundhouse, the arts labs, posters from Hapshash And The Coloured Coat and reading the underground mags IT and OZ at break times at school…there was an explosion of ideas during that year…the opening salvo of Psychedelia in London…though some I know refer it back to ‘66 and would suggest the whole thing was getting commercialised by ‘67, it was ever thus! For me though, it was year one.

I knew then what I wanted to do with my life: become an artist; a graphic artist maybe; a poster artist. If only! Hell, any kind of artist dammit!

The Barrett Portrait

When I was asked to paint a portrait of Syd Barrett for the DVD packaging of ‘The Pink Floyd And Syd Barrett Story’ a few years ago I thought I’d trace a line back to those glorious days of the British Underground and try my hand at painting a sixties style of poster. I didn’t want to do a pastiche, but to imagine if I had been painting back then, what would I have done?

An initial sketch concentrating on Syd’s piercing eyes! Click image above to enlarge.

Syd’s story is usually told in a pretty mournful way nowadays especially by the press since his death, but I wanted to go back a year or so from the Madcap period and do a painting that was more celebratory of his time with the early Pink Floyd. That after all was what was so fascinating about his story as told in this documentary. His early life as a truly gifted artist – an innovator who still influences to this day. The first sketch I did was where I concentrated on getting those piercing eyes right.

Kaleidoscope Of Colour

I watched the footage of the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream at Alexandra Palace and decided to use that cavernous interior as a backdrop ‘arch’ to the design and show the lights and people blurring and swirling around like a kaleidoscope. I had to have some of the oily psychedelic bubble lights of the period in the background too. With Jupiter and Saturn (from Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Dominé) and some stars at the top and a kind of framing device so resonant of the posters of the day.

The final acrylic painted and sprayed on canvas used on DVD cover. This original painting is up for auction. See below and click image above to enlarge.

I painted the portrait with acrylic paint and airbrushed acrylic ink on to canvas and used vibrant day-glo fluorescent ink in certain areas too, again a nod back to the silkscreen posters of Michael English and Nigel Weymouth of Hapshash fame.

I submitted the final image (pictured right) to John Edginton (the producer of the programme who had the final say) and he told me It was almost there, maybe just add a bit more ‘vulnerability’ behind those eyes. So I reworked them again and again, perhaps a whole evening was spent just on those blazing eyes…believe me when you really study those dark globes…what is it they say…’the window of the soul’…a cliché maybe…however it’s more true in this portrait than any other I have ever done. They had to be right! It was finished, and next day when John saw the final painting, he felt the extra effort was worth it. I do too.

The final image I created for the project was a collage (below). It was my homage to those poster artists that had influenced me so much in my youth and had created such a desire in me to go to art college and launch a career working mainly for the music industry. This was used on the inside of the DVD packaging.

Click to enlarge


Mark is auctioning the original painting through his website during the month of October 2006 and has some high quality limited edition Giclée prints of the portrait of Syd for sale. More info here.

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