Mark McDonald was born in rural Taranaki where his family owned a dairy farm.
From an early age Mark was drawn to art, " I can still remember the first pad I ever used...in fact I think I have it hidden away in the bottom draw....it was full of cartoon sketches that I did back at primary school." The influence of the Taranaki landscape was to be evident in much of his earlier work which was predominately silkscreen prints. In the late 1980's Mark became well known for his vibrant, moody prints of Mt. Taranaki. When Mark was in his early 30's he and his wife, Jenny, decided on a change of career and took up a Share-milking position in Ashburton on the Canterbury plains.
In 1994, with one year old son Jack, they headed south and threw their time and energy into establishing themselves as dairy farmers. For several years art took a backseat while they learnt the art of turning grass into milk. "Our aim was always to head south for 3 to 4 years, make a fortune, then return to Taranaki and buy a farm...live happily ever after. It's been 15 years now and I'm afraid we're true mainlanders"When he did find time for art it was no longer the screen-printing process. Mark began using gouache on Fabriano fine art paper, the same medium he still uses today. With the change of location also came a shift in the subject matter. "Because I was tied to the farm for long periods of time I began using the farm scenery and cattle to provide inspiration for my paintings." Hence he began a series of paintings featuring rural subjects which culminated in a request from The Livestock Improvement Co-op to provide the artwork for their annual calender.
The success of the calender led to a number of commission works over the next year or two. With staff helping out on the farm Mark was gradually able to dedicate more time to art and consequently extend the range of paintings to include more landscapes, " I love the variety in the South Island landscape...we are blessed with living so close to the Ashburton and Rakaia Gorges. There is such a great array of scenery that it's very easy to get inspired".
As a member of the Ashburton Art Society, Mark has been a regular contributor to their annual exhibition and on three occasions has been judged the winner of the 'Best Local Artist' award. The most recent win being in 2009 with a painting entitled Hydrangeas. "I saw this little cottage while holidaying in Takaka and there was a beautiful display of hydrangeas out the front. It had a certain timelessness to it...a nostalgic feeling and I thought it was such a great composition."