Photo credit: Erik Johnson
Mark Brewer is an award-winning illustrator who was born in Illinois in 1971. At the age of 15 while still in junior high school, his drawings were being published in his local Connecticut newspaper, Shore Line Times. Before becoming a full-time illustrator he was a highly regarded inker, using his brush on Archie, Disney and Warner Brother’s comics books. He also assisted on many of the most well known comic strips such as 'Beetle Bailey', 'Nancy' and 'Slylock Fox'. Mark’s list of some of the people who have influenced his work includes, Bob Weber, Jerry Marcus, Orlando Busino, Guy and Brad Gilchrist, Gill Fox, Jim Borgman, George Booth, Jim Henson, and Shel Silverstein.
His humorous ink illustrations are in high demand by art directors and advertising agencies and have been published in and on the cover of numerous magazines around the world. A partial list of his clients includes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Barron’s, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Weekly Reader, Playboy, Wine & Spirits Magazine, The American Conservative and Major League Baseball. A long-time baseball fan, Mark was lucky enough to be hired to create six illustrations for the 2009 Major League Baseball World Series Program.
In 2002 he was honored by the National Cartoonists Society with the Best Magazine Illustration Award at the Reuben Awards in Cancun, Mexico. He even had the privilege of being presented with the award from none other than MAD magazine's own award-winning cartoonist, Sergio Aragones. Mark is the current President of the Pittsburgh Society Of Illustrators. He lives in Bridgeville, PA with his two children. Visit his website to see more of his work and to sign up for his mailing list.
Want to collect some art and help children in need at the same time? Read on…
When Mark’s grandmother was a child she contracted scarlet fever and as result of this disease became permanently blind. She didn’t let her blindness stop her from living and learned to see with her hands and ears. The illustration "A Walk in the Woods" is Mark’s tribute to his grandmother's determination to overcome obstacles. He remembers “the long rope she fingered from the front door to her mailbox to avoid getting lost along the way.” Mark is selling Giclee prints of "A Walk in the Woods" and all of the proceeds benefit the Western Pennsylvania School For Blind Children.
Click here to see how you can make a difference in a child’s life by purchasing a print.
What is your favorite pen to use?
I like to use dip pens so rather than my favorite pen, I have favorite pen nibs. Right now I'm using a Telephone Pen nib #0278 F. No, you can't make calls with it but it's got some flexibility which I need when I'm drawing. I'll typically change to a different nib just to mix things up every now and then. Before the Telephone nib I was using a Hunt EF Bowl Point which you can buy here in the US.
Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I draw first with a mechanical pencil size 7mm with HB lead. I've been using a Papermate Pro-Touch II for about five years now. They seem to hold up well after all that clicking I do to get more lead out of the pencil. Some days I'm more heavy handed than others. On those days it seems like all I do is break lead, click, break lead, clickity click!, break, click click click!
Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I hand color my drawings with watercolors.
If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I use a mixture of Holbein and Winsor & Newton watercolor paint. I use a lot of opaque white and some color pencils too.
What type of paper do you use?
I draw on an acid free Crescent Illustration Board #310. I usually buy it in bulk because it's less expensive.
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I don't like to draw cars. They always look like Tupperware containers with wheels. I have to work hard at getting the fenders and wheels to look just right. But not contrived and still with a little bounce in my line so it doesn't look like I struggled. When my cars stop looking like the container I put yesterdays dinner in I know I'm good to go.
Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I purchase most of my supplies online although I still enjoy going to the local art store to purchase a few supplies. When I'm looking at all the supplies I still feel like a kid in a toy store. "I'll take one of everything please!" I cannot believe how many things I have purchased over the years that I do not need but convinced myself in the name of "creating" that it was OK to drop the cash.
Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Not sure about rituals before I start drawing but I usually have a cup of coffee on hand in the morning and an adult beverage in each hand after I put the kids to bed in the evening.
Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I listen to all kinds of music all the time. I can't really pin it down to one genre. Right now I'm listening to Adele and before that it was Dylan's old recordings. Sometimes when it looks like it wants to rain outside I'll help Mother Nature by turning on my cd's of rain storms really loud. I swear it's just like the real thing!
Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
My favorite comic books were Sad Sack, Batman, Spider-Man, Casper and Richie Rich. I felt guilty later in life when I worked for Archie Comics because I never read even one Archie Comic when I was a kid. It was a secret I took into that office each time I came to pick up and drop off. They were wonderful to work for and I so appreciated them for keeping me busy for years. I always did the best job I could for them.
What is or was your favorite comic strip?
I'm not sure I ever had an absolute favorite comic strip because I liked so many. Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Moose, Trudy, Gus (from Boys Life), Beetle Bailey, the Muppets. I was 18 or 19 when I got my first day job working for Guy Gilchrist Studios. Guy and his brother Brad wrote and drew the Muppet strip! They lived about 45 min from me in Connecticut.
What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
My favorite book is “Where The Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein. It changed my life actually. I always wrote funny poems as a teenager and here was a man who drew and wrote his own stuff. Seemed like a powerful thing to be both artistic with drawing and writing.
Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
No school. It wasn't for me however I was extremely ambitious. I still am! I think you have to be if you want to keep working. Since I was a teenager I was fortunate to learn most everything from other professionals in the business who were willing to give me pointers week after week, month after month and year after year. There were different groups of cartoonists who would meet for lunch a few times each week. All I had to do was make sure I made it on time to lunch to get a lesson. Unbelievable how fortunate I was when I think about it now.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
It's a blessing of course! For most of us I would think. I used to run to the library after receiving a magazine assignment to look for reference material on what I was drawing.
Did either of your parents draw?
No although my dad remembers going to Grandma Gould's house when he was a boy. Her husband Chester created and drew the comic strip, Dick Tracy. So maybe it is in the blood.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My mom supported me first when I was in high school. If it weren't for her support I would probably be doing something else.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
95% of the sketches I email to Art Directors for approval are done in my sketch book. the other 5% are on the backs of envelopes and napkins. Once I drew on a map and when I went back to use it another day because I was lost, well... I had to buy a new map.
Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I've taught drawing classes many times in the past. The best part of teaching for me is getting out of my studio and being able to socialize. When you work alone from a studio at home it's amazing how many days can go by without ever leaving the house.
Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Do you collect anything and if so what?
I'm not a collector although I value the art I have from friends that I know collectors would like to have.
Are you a righty or lefty?
Righty for everything except when I eat. I hold the fork in my left hand.
If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Not sure but I do know that I would work for myself. I've been in this business of drawing for so long now that at this point I better stick it out cause I'm not sure what else I would really be qualified to do. Yikes!
Do you play any musical instruments?
I've played guitar since I was a teenager. I get so addicted to playing sometimes that I have to make myself put it down and get back to the other creative thing that pays my bills.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
If you understand that the odds are against you from the beginning, that there are a ton of people who can outdraw you and are more creative than you'll ever be and you really don't care what I'm saying right now because you're really stubborn and have a burning desire to do it anyway... go for it! You'll probably do just fine. In my humble opinion, the difference in cartoonists/illustrators who receive work regularly and those who don't isn't talent. It's that burning desire and ambitious attitude they've always had. You can't get a credit for that in college. You're either born with it or...
Who is your favorite artist?