Mark Fisher Profile
posted: October 29, 2007
As night watchman at the mill where he's also on the maintenance crew during the day, Mark Fisher, age 57, creates a maniacal world of monsters and aliens in the sketchbooks that he shares with us here on Drawger. In between sketching and his day and night jobs, he also creates poster and magazine illustrations that feature his singular point of view.
"I never really thought about what I wanted to do for a living. All I wanted to do was draw. My parents were always telling me to go outside and play with my friends, but I’d rather just stay in my room and draw pictures and make plastic models. I didn’t really start going beyond just pencil drawings until my senior year of high school, when I was finally able to take some art classes and get involved in painting and designing letter forms and doing a whole lot of different kinds of exploring of art.
"I went to Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, New York, and the only reason I went there was because a friend of mine said they had art there. I had gotten applications for Pratt and Parsons and RISD but I was just so lazy I wouldn’t fill them out. After that I went to Buffalo State College, and finished up there with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.
"When I graduated, I found a job in an ad agency that had a little design division within the agency. I worked there for six months. There were all these guys doing layouts and they’d all tell me, 'Get out of Buffalo, go to New York,' it was like: Warning! Warning!
"I had a roommate that had a friend, James E. Taylor, who was starting a comic book company in Boston, in Providence, called Warm Neck Funnies. You know: if you had long hair, your neck was warm. I had always been into comics, and he saw my work and said, 'Move to Boston. We’ll really get the comic book company going.'
"When I told my parents I was going to work in a comic book company, they thought I was nuts: I had left a job in advertising! But I moved here and very shortly found that you don’t make money in comics. So we developed into a Photostat business and I had my studio out of there and was starting to do some illustration for an ad agency and then I got involved with The Real Paper, which was an alternative weekly.
"I was doing editorial stuff and I hooked up with the art director Ron Campisi. He’s become very famous and he was great. He really focused me on what illustration could be, that it wasn’t just drawing an object, it was having some thought behind what the object was doing, some conceptual thinking behind it. Maybe what you drew wasn’t what the article talked about, but something similar that could expand on the article. I worked for him for a number of years, and he went on to Boston Magazine. I did a lot of work for him there and also for the Boston Globe.
"In the ‘80s and early ‘90s I had a New York rep and they were getting me a lot of work: Simon and Shuster book covers and Gourmet Magazine, and I was doing a lot of editorial stuff for high tech magazines, and there was just an endless amount of work in that genre. So my commercial style developed, airbrush with a very colorful, stylized sort of hard-edged kind of feel. But all of the time that I’ve done the commercial work I’ve also done the comic work. I was doing comic stuff for Heavy Metal and for Boston Stuff Magazine so the whole time I was sort of – I always looked at the commercial art as feeding my ability to do my own personal work. I never really looked at trying to make too much money off of the personal work; I let the commercial work do that.
"I didn't really do anything more with computer until ’95. Everybody kept saying, 'Your work will be perfect on a computer,' so I went out and bought an Apple but it just sat in my studio staring at me for a number of years until it was obsolete. I played a little on it, but I just couldn’t see the use for it.
"In ’98 I moved my studio to a design firm and they all had computers and part of the plan was that’s how I would learn the computer. So I'd be trying to use Photoshop and I'd ask the guy sitting across from me, 'How do you do this?' And he’d say, 'Control, delete, etc.,' and that's how I got into Photoshop and Illustrator. And I loved it. It was like – all of a sudden I saw the potential in what I could do with it. And that was it: no more airbrush.
"I've sort of backed away from illustration for a bit. The market changed and there was less work, and that’s why for a while I worked at a newspaper and a graphic department part time. I’ve never given up doing illustration, it’s just that my focus is lessened. I used to work on anywhere from six to 10 projects all at once, but I don't want to do that anymore. It was too much. Now I’ve got the night watchman job, and I’m a maintenance person during the week at the same mill where I’m the night watchman. And I enjoy that to a certain degree, because it’s a steady paycheck. There's not the ups and downs, waiting for a check from an illustration assignment. So I can be more selective now on taking illustration work, I don’t have to take every job that comes along. And I have a few clients that enjoy working with me and I like working with them, so I’d like to keep it at that pace for a while.
"I’d love to do a children’s book, and I've had plans for comic stories, and graphic novels, and a lot of stuff that I just never had the time to finish. But it’s hard working on my own personal stuff, if I don’t have commercial stuff coming in. I just need the one to feed the other, because I'm not getting paid for the personal stuff. My concern is always that I should be working to earn money first and my personal work comes second. Plus, because no one is art directing my personal projects, they tend to go on and on and change and hit tangents and they never see fruition. What I’d like to do some day with my art is have the time to finish some of those stories."