Mark Stutzman: Being an Artist

My whole life I dreamed of being an artist. My friends or family would say “you’re quite the artist” and it upset me because I didn’t feel like I was anywhere close to where I needed to be. My favorite was Peter Paul Rubens, my dream was to be something like that. I had a teacher in 10th grade, and the kids named him “Toad” because he was missing his index finger, but he was incredibly influential on me. One day he brought in everything around his house that had art on it and said “this is what artists do, it’s called commercial art.”

Before you can call yourself an artist you have to cover a football field with your work. The shortcut I took was to become an illustrator. Many of the book covers he’s done are through Simon and Schuster, they were very open to allowing him to try different styles and approaches. Editorial is another huge place you see illustration work, I had a knack for doing likenesses, so I fell into Entertainment Weekly. Ended up with Mad Magazine.

Advertising was where I began in illustration, worked for ad agencies because it was a job as a staff illustrator, the work becomes very repetitive and is very deadline-driven. I enjoy it a lot more freelance because you get a variety of clients and directions. Size limitation on stamps is 5×7, the first assignment was the Elvis stamp. They do have to be incredibly simple, where my work was often referred to as “fussy” by the art director that hired me.

Posters are probably my favorite because they feel more like you’re doing a piece of artwork, sometimes people collect it, sometimes ends up framed on a wall. Got into doing posters for David Blaine for his very first stunt, a lot of times there’s hidden imagery or things that happen when the poster is rotated or turned, latest one was Dive of Death. When you turn it upside down you see his face. Did a big mural but hated working outdoors, doubt I would do it again. To me superheroes echo that dynanism that comes from the Renaissance period.

I’ve learned so much about illustration along the way, it’s important to enjoy the journey. Did the poster for Annie Get Your Gun, biggest break in New York.

First assignment for Mad Magazine was the Starr Wars on the Starr report.

First assignment from the Postal Service was Count Basie, art director called him up said “send me your best Elvis” they ended up with 60 Elvises and narrowed it down to two, and went up for public vote and sent out ballots across the US and you could vote for young or old Elvis. Mine run 3 to 1 margin, printing over 500 million in the end, equivilent of 289 football fields with just the Elvis stamp alone. In the end I may have earned my title… of “Illustrator.”

One Comment

  1. Posted January 2, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Mark is such a nice artist. He simply rocks.

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