5 Questions with Illustrator Mark Anderson

I came across Mark when I was scouting a location for a shoot in downtown Hammond. I stepped into a building that appeared to have some empty office space, I thought I could use for my shoot. I looked over the building directory and came across Mark Anderson Studio. I fired up my google and was pleasantly surprised to see that Mark is an amazing illustrator. 

He was chosen by Leo Burnett to illustrate what became the longest running Fortune 500 print ad campaign (Allstate) in the history of advertising.  His illustrations have been in Time, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Newsweek, Outside Magazine, Chicago Tribune and many other periodicals. Mark has also illustrated and designed more than twenty books for Triumph Publishing. 

I quickly shot him an email saying "I'd like to meet for lunch and talk shop" and 15 minutes later I heard back from him. And that was that. Mark is a super cool dude, aside from being a great illustrator and designer, he's also a musician and singer for his band, Bunkertown. Father, husband and book cover lover, I spent an hour with him talking and watching him create in his very cool studio. I asked Mark to create his version of my 5 Questions logo and it was cool to watch the artistic choices he made and the tools he used. From a small glass cup to a pack of matches and the back end of a pencil, it was a really neat experience. 

The following is the five questions I asked Mark one night, enjoy.

Joe: What are you afraid of?

Mark: I think everyone is afraid of mediocrity. You know putting all your efforts into something you worked on and cultivating your own skills for thirty or forty years and then realizing that so many people are doing great work. I see a lot of the young talent, that's hungry and really chewing up this new world - that is very different than the world I started in. I'm seeing people pass by and I go, WOW! They're just better, smarter, and faster. And so it's easy for me to say, well I'm organic, I do things by hand. It's easy, you know, that's just what I do.

But am I falling behind the times? That's what I'm afraid of... am I? Probably? You know? And how much of the technology do I have to incorporate in my growth in order to stay alive? Because if you can't even scan something and put it into Photoshop and email it to somebody your done. 

Joe: What goals do you have for 2016?

Mark: It would be self-promotion. Yeah, because I've got two kids to put in college.  I have to start self-promoting even though I don't like to.  I don't like the very aspect of self-promotion. It's just the egotistical side of what we do, and you have to go, “Look at me! I'm great.” And I found that I don't like doing that.

“Look at what I'm doing.”  “Hey look what I did yesterday, look at what I’m doing tomorrow.” But if you don't do that and then people look on social media for you or when someone googles your name… no one is going to know you exist, so it's got to be done. I'm not doing it yet. I’m in the process of it... (and I’ve been making a living so far).   

I also need to grow my business and maybe get a couple people in here. Even if we're just doing some posters, images and single logos, I have to grow. 

Joe: How do you stay relevant?

Mark: I'm really big on looking at what's out there. I really love to just go to record stores or book shops and just look at all the designs. I love book design covers. It's (book covers) really kind of like a poster art.

I'm always looking online at other people out there - I like to stay in touch with that. Within my editorial illustration style there's like three guys that are pretty well known. Barry Blitt is the big guy who gets all of the New Yorker covers. His ideas are totally brilliant! How do you get more brilliant? I don't know, I think you keep trying? 

I like to see what article was written and how it was approached. And I think to me as an illustrator you stay relevant by continuing to grow and be able to isolate the main points of an article and figure out a really creative way to get it on paper. 

Joe: So you mentioned Barry Blitt. Who do you admire? 

Mark: Ed Sorel is another guy that I admire, he's done a ton of New Yorker stuff, he's an old timer. But I've been in touch with all those guys and they know my work. It's kind of cool that I can say, hey, it's Mark Anderson, loved your piece in The New Yorker and then get a response. Or if I have a technical question about how they did something… like, how did you do that mural when you do watercolors? How did you blow that up so big in that restaurant? Then they write back with a three paragraph e-mail and give me contacts and suppliers in New York and then tell me how they did it - that's just great. 

I reached out to Barry Blitt because he did a portrait illustration of my brother-in-law for an article in North Shore Magazine. I told him I dug the illustration and wanted to see if he wanted to swap art; he liked a Hitler illustration I did; so it worked out and we traded art. Its great when guys get back to you. I admire the guys that help. You email most of these guys and they act like they don’t give a damn and never get back to you. I get it - people are busy. It’s hard.

Joe: What advice do you have for someone entering this field? 

Mark: I would have them first make sure they know what marketing (advertising) actually is. In many cases the advertisements are not true - it's an embellishment of a product - you're trying to make something look cool or you're just trying to get people to buy stuff.

This is why I like to do illustrations, because I don't want to help businesses sell stuff all of the time. BUT, It has to be done, it’s part of the economy. 

Develop the wherewithal to say: “I can't take this project on because I don't think this (thing) is a good product”. "I don't think you guys have your shit together and if someone orders a bed frame from you guys online but your process doesn’t make sense, then how can you sell it as a great service.” Try to be socially conscious about what you're doing, because so much of it...is just baloney.

To learn more about Mark and keep up with his on-goings then check out his website www.markandersonillustration.com

Joseph GonzalezComment