Saturday, November 08, 2014

I can do that!

So I applied for a graphic design job the other day (still waiting to hear back) but it was interesting for one very big reason.

I know how to do everything they wanted!

They actually want a graphic artist. Not a coder who might do some design on the side. Not a social media expert who knows how to edit photos. An ACTUAL graphic artist. Ads, Flyers, Catalogs, etc. 

I can do that!

Either way, it's nice to know those jobs still exist.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Channeling my inner Fox Mulder.

We've all seen things we can't explain.

For me, it was several years ago. I was driving home from a late movie on a dark, overcast night and a lonely road. I don't know if you've ever been to Vermont but there aren't a lot of city lights. At night it's dark, very, very dark.

I came to a slow stop at a four way intersection and before I could hit the gas again a huge dark figure swooped across the hood of my car. I craned my neck to see if I could get a clearer look at whatever it was. What I saw was a large black shadow against the darkened sky. To me it looked like the shadow of a giant sting-ray.

It lumbered in the air. Floating more than flying, turned back towards me and I lost sight of it as it again went over the car roof. It was gone. The whole encounter was less than 30 seconds. I still have no idea what it was. It looked larger and moved slower than any bird I'd ever seen. I told myself it must have been a flock of something that appeared in the night to be a single creature? Yeah, that sounds reasonable, let's go with that.

We've all seen things in the corners of our sight. Turning only to see nothing there. Most likely an active imagination making creative leaps of faith. Or maybe it's not. Maybe there are things we see only when we're not looking.

I've taken my interest in the unknown and used my design skills to create a series of posters. The Mythical Alphabet and Cryptozoology. Please take a moment to check out this personal poster project.

Thanks very much!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You know what you should do.

I hear this at least a dozen times at every convention.

I even say it myself to others all the time. I hate that I say it but before I can even think it pops out.

"You know what you should do."

I think it's basic human instinct when confronted with an image (or anything for that matter) we immediately imagine how we would've done it differently. Better at least in our own minds. It's a reflex that's probably served us well in the past.

"You know what you should do."

It's never meant to be mean. People just genuinely want to offer their help but what it's basically saying is "I don't like this because..." Which, I've also been told at conventions. Trust me, if something I've done isn't as good as other things I've done, I know. I spent hours on hours staring at it. Working on it. Maybe give everyone the benefit of doubt that this is how they wanted it.

So I'm going to try and stop saying it. 

I'll fail. 

Sorry about that. 

PS- Side note: There's something about standing behind a table that makes people think I can't hear them. Like maybe there's an invisible "cone of silence" force field that prevents me from understanding what they're saying. I've heard conversations about how awful my work is and why they'd never buy it to how much of a hurry they're in to get to that place with the guy who's so much better than me. Why did you stop at my table then?

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Quarter Box Comic Collection

About 3 months ago I sold my comic collection. 2500 comics. All of it.

Why? I've been collecting since I was a teenager. Making sure all my comics were bagged, boarded, sorted and alphabetized into boxes. Making sure they were safe. Secure. 

I think I was tired of caring about it. Caring about the value. The preciousness of it all. 

So I sold it. Gone.

But I do still like comics. A lot. I like the artists, the writers and the characters. I like going into comic shops and talking to the people I meet there about them. 

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start over. Start over with a catch. 

This time I'll only be buying .25 comics! Almost every shop has a quarter box tucked away somewhere in the back. Past the new books with the holographic covers. Past the hardcover graphic novels and collectable action figures. Maybe the shop over ordered. Maybe the pages are a bit ragged, the spines a little bent or the pages are yellow and it smells like old newspapers. For whatever reason there's no "value". But it's the same art and stories, the same characters on the page. 

This past weekend I exhibited at the first ever Vermont Comic-Con. For the first year of a new show I think it was pretty great. Tons of people in costume and everyone seemed to be excited about the show. Behind my table was a comic vender with just boxes and boxes of comics. The good ones were up top on the table of course but under the table, .25 comics! At least 10 long boxes of .25 comics! During the slow times at the show I'd head over and see what I could find. 

There were many, many more I could have bought but I'm trying to pace myself and pick only the books I really want to read again. Here's what I came away with for the beginning of my Quarter Box Collection

New Mutants #3. Written by Chris Claremont and Penciled by Bob McLeod. The New Mutants is one of my favorite comic title runs. Growing up reading this book, It felt like this was my generations's "All-New X-Men". 

Spider-Man  #2 and #7. There was so much buzz about this book when it premiered in 1990. Todd McFarlane's art wasn't perfect, but it didn't matter. It was energetic and leapt off the page. I really enjoyed these early McFarlane books. 

X-Factor #11, 41, and 42. X-Factor #11, written by Louise Simonson and illustrated by Walt Simonson. Absolutely one of my favorite writer/artist teams. Louise is great at making characters feel and act like a real person (or as real as someone someone with superpowers can act). Walt Simonson is truly one of my favorite artists. He can make anything seem dramatic and exciting on the page. I've met him a couple times at cons and he's always been very gracious to fans. X-Factor #'s 41 and 42 is a two part story also written by Louise Simonson but this time illustrated by Art Adams. Adams has illustrated many of my all time favorite comics (Quick confession. His New Mutants Special Edition #1 was the ONLY comic I hung on to because it was autographed). His work is cartoony, but incredibly detailed and I think he influenced a generation of new artists, including me. I'd love to see Marvel do some "Essential" graphic novels with his original black and white artwork. I also kept most of my graphic novels. ; )

So this is the start of it. These are comics I can throw in a pile. They don't need bags or boards or boxes. There's no resale value here. 

This collection will be just what I find in quarter bins and I'll post whatever I find. 

Maybe it won't work. Maybe they're aren't as many quarter boxes out there as I think? 

But it'll be fun trying!


Friday, October 24, 2014

The New Herd Immunity.

I think I want my smart phone to be dumb again.

There are many legitimate reasons to have a smart phone but I don't think most of them apply to me anymore.

I work from home so there's no reason for it there. I don't go out all that often and when I do, all my friends have their own smart phones. Other than to solve trivia questions (granted, not a minor benefit!) I can't remember the last time I really "needed" it when I was out.

It's a new herd immunity. Now that everyone's got one, I can safely go back to blissful ignorance. I'm the vaccine denier of mobile tech! As long as we don't ALL decide to ditch the smart phones I can walk among you. Confident in my dumbness and assured that I'm never more than an arms reach away from IMDB or the latest trending tweet.

Too bad I just upgraded. Maybe next time!

- Mark

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

5 Things a first time author should know.

I've been doing a lot of reflection lately.

Next year is the 10th anniversary of the release of my first book, A Book About Design; Complicated Doesn't Make it Good. Getting a book published through a major publisher is one of the things, if not THE thing, I'm most proud of accomplishing in my life so far. It's amazing to think it's already been that long.

In 2005, my eyes were the size of dinner plates. My first book had been released, positive reviews were coming in from all sides and I was even favorably reviewed by The New York Times!

Almost 10 years and 7 books later I'm now a little closer to reality. My feet are planted firmly on the ground and there are a few things I wish I had known then as a first time author.

In no particular order.

1. You've got about 6 months to make sales.
So many books come out every year, there's always the next new thing. With the advance of self publishing, the white noise is only that much louder. Your book is just one more struggling to be noticed. After about 6 months, if it hasn't caught lightning in a bottle, it's probably old news.

2. So You're probably not going to make more than your advance.
Traditional publishers typically give advances. Money provided to the author against the sales of the book. Unless you're the next Polar Express or Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (and I'm certainly not either of those) that's likely all the income you'll see from your books. Publishers have it pretty much down to a science, they know what to expect in sales and they know what to offer. Everything else is a surprise.

3. If it's not ready, don't do it.
I really like the idea behind my 4th book, A Wish For Elves, but it wasn't ready. I was trying to do too many different things all at the same time with it. I wanted the art to be simple but I wanted multiple panels per page. I wanted it to be colorful but monochromatic. I wanted it to be funny but sentimental. Mostly, I wanted it to be better. It needed more time and I wasn't brave enough to tell the publisher that. The graphic artist in me didn't want to blow the deadline. I regret that and always will.

(Side note: The Spooky Box is much more like what I was hoping A Wish for Elves had been.)

4. It's up to you to promote yourself.
Don't wait for the publisher. Don't wait for anyone else. Put yourself out there and make connections with people. If they don't like what you're doing, screw 'em. That's something I didn't do nearly enough in the beginning. When I started, Facebook was barely a thing. Twitter didn't exist and you had to dial up the web over your home phone. It's a hard thing to ask for support. It feels too much like begging or bragging or both for me. I'm still trying.

5. It's the best job/not a job in the world.
I wanted to end on a high note. I love this. This is the life I've wanted since I can remember wanting anything at all. I literally can't see myself doing anything else. I hope I get to continue doing it. There are amazing highs and miserable downs but every day is a new opportunity, a new idea, and a new page.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The first book I ever remember reading.

The first book I can remember sitting down and reading of my own free will was a hardcover collection of Aesop's Fables. It was probably the illustrations that drew (no pun intended) me to the book to begin with.

I doubt I understood a lot of the stories but there was one that I got. The Crow and the Pitcher. That's the one where a thirsty crow keeps dropping pebbles into a pitcher in order to raise the water enough so it can get a drink. For some reason that one stuck in my brain.

Take on your problems one pebble at a time. It's helped a lot over the years to keep a concept like that in my mind. It's also been on my mind a lot lately that it's a lesson I need to learn again every so often.

This time around, I decided to put my own interpretation down on paper (or on screen would be more accurate these days).

To date, I've done eight different Aesop Fables minimalist posters. I'm sure do more eventually, but for now, it's eight. Each poster is a different fable in a nine panel narrative (as well as the text from the fable).

You can see all 8 here. I'm doing another kickstarter in the hopes that I be able to print a run of all 8 fable posters.

If you like them, you can help make that happen. I'd really appreciate it!


PS. Or you could help by sharing the link! : )

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Happy Halloween!

It's that time of the year again! The time of year where my thoughts turn to Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches (more-so than usual I mean).

Continuing the coloring book theme from the last post I decided to do a series of Halloween coloring pages. Enjoy!

If you like these pages, check out my Halloween kids book, The Spooky Box! (This is an Amazon link but it's most likely available from your preferred book source or possibly even your local book seller!).

Check out for more art and Halloween stuff too, thanks!


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Hidden Letter Coloring Alphabet

My most recent book, Counting on Letters, got me thinking more about, well... letters. That combined with a long time fondness of coloring inspired me to make Line by Line: A Hidden Alphabet Coloring Book.

I started out thinking it was going to be a stained glass kind of look but it was really more freeform than that. I let the letter dictate the shapes around it. Very linear letters are surrounded by more straight lines and rounded letters would get more circles and arcs. It was a fun, quick little project that I'm happy to share.

Here's a link to a free PDF of the complete book.

If you like this you should check out for more.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Last One to One Hundred!

Hi everyone! This is the last 48 hours for the final One to One Hundred project. We're at 80%! Help support this project and future design projects. 1000 designs!
FREE international shipping on top rewards! : )

One to One Hundred started out as an experiment in graphic design. The concept was simple, to combine numbers with graphic design elements to create something unique. The result, which was far from simple, was a unique series of posters representing the numbers 1-100. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Fast Company has a new article about my Letters by the Number project.

If you can click through and share the link, that'd be very cool of you. Thanks!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Letters by the Number is LIVE!

Launched! The Letters by the Number project is now live and running on Kickstarter. I'm really happy with how the card and poster designs have come out. 

It's an alphabet card set where each design is based on that letters placement in the alphabet so 1A, 2Bs, 3Cs and so on to 26Zs.

Take a look, hope you like it and share.


Starting Scratchboard.

I played around with scratchboard a bit in art school but it wasn't until after I had graduated that I really took an interest in it. Among the first things I did in scratchboard were the Mr.Oblivious comic strips. There are certainly artists out there that use scratchboard as an elegant medium of great detail but I prefer to use it more like a chisel against stone. If things don't turn out exactly how intended all the better. 

When I would draw with pencil and paper it's was hard to not see all the flaws and compare myself with every other comic artist out there. With scratchboard, it's ALL flaws. It's never what I think I want and I'm forced to let all that other stuff go. 

I've taken a bit of a break from Mr.O lately but someday I'll get back to it. In the meantime, ALL 3 of my scratchboard Mr.Oblivious comic books for the Kindle on Amazon are now FREE through this FRIDAY. Behind the scenes sketches and comments for each cartoon. Check it out. Thanks!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Running the Numbers.

As of this morning I've dropped off the last poster tubes to my local post office. Except for a few stragglers (waiting for a few addresses) and any potential clean-up, my first successful Kickstarter, One to One Hundred, is basically complete. Just over 200 tubes shipped in about a week.

And I have to say I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

Starting with a goal of $3000, I grew at a steady pace (about 3-7% a day), with a healthy spike on the last day (the day this Fast Company article was released). I ended the 30 day campaign at over 250% of my goal.

I relied quite a bit on my personal social network to get the word out. Although essential for getting attention early on and as grateful as I am to everyone who shared the links and put up with my constant reminding them to don't forget to share the links, have you shared the links today? Why aren't you sharing the links?, that was small compared to a single article on a large, popular blog. 

A few facts.

- For rewards, I had given everyone the option to receive 1, 2 or all 3 posters. To my surprise, just over half went with all 3. 

- Most were either 1 or all posters. Very few went with just the 2 out of 3. So few in fact, I doubt I'll include that again in my next campaign. 

- I averaged about 7 new backers a day. Again, with a big spike at the end.

- I had 3 stretch goals. For each goal reached I would print and ship an additional poster to everyone. I reached the first stretch goal so everyone who pledged for at least 1 poster got the free extra one. Again, I think if the Fast Company article had come out a few days earlier or if I had a couple more days at the end I would definitely have reached at least 2 stretch goals.

- About 20% of the orders were outside the U.S. with Australia, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands being most popular of international orders. 

- I got tubes from Uline. I went with 3" tubes (thinking I wanted to cut down on the posters "curl factor") but I think longer 2" tubes might have been a better choice. 

- I used for buying and printing shipping labels. No particular reason, there are several sites that can do the same thing but they advertise on a podcast I like so... there you go. 

- The difference between 13 ounces and 14 ounces on domestic package shipping can be about $2. Out of sheer dumb luck, 4 posters, a tube and packing material came in at just under 13 ounces. 

- I'm super glad I had my Etsy shop set up to take post-campaign orders. 

- I had about a 2% drop rate. Meaning, people that pledged, came back before the campaign ended and un-pledged. Not sure why but that doesn't sound like a terribly bad % to me. 

So what does all this mean?

I think it means I chose correctly for my first poster campaign. People seemed to like the concept and it garnered a bit of attention within and outside the Kickstarter site. There is no way I could have printed 18x24 posters without crowdfunding and for that I'm thankful to everyone who supported this project. 

I'll have wait and see how this translates to my next Kickstarter.

Stay Tuned!


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Check out my new Kickstarter project!

One to One Hundred started out as an experiment in graphic design, it became something much more to me. The idea was simple, to combine graphic design and numbers to create something unique. It was a LOT of counting (so much counting!), but a lot of fun too! Many of these designs are not anything I would have come up with if not for this project and it has really expanded my understanding of graphic design. 

Please check it out and if you like it I'd love your support. Thank you!