A Sneak Peek at Mark the Art Guy

Artwork above ©2006 by Adobe Systems Inc.

He’s the title character of a cartooning project that’s been dominating my life for the last few months, and if all goes as planned he’ll continue to be an ongoing presence well into 2007.

He’s a struggling artist who, in concert with his two diminutive "alter egos" Go-Slow and Gung-Ho, is part pitchman and part cheerleader for All Things Adobe. (For the benefit of you non-digital-graphics-users, I’m referring to Adobe Systems Incorporated, the generator of ingenious software without which most of us present-day designers wouldn’t know how to get up in the morning, Photoshop being its most widely-known crown jewel.)

His name is Mark the Art Guy and his enthusiasm for Adobe’s line of software is to be expected, since he wouldn’t exist had I not received email last March from Karen LeFever of the company’s marketing wing inviting me to create a biweekly webcomic for Adobe’s web site. The strip’s goal would be to use a lighthearted narrative to generate curiosity about (and ultimately, of course, an irresistible inclination to purchase) the latest upgrade for Adobe’s integrated family of digital tools known as Creative Suite 2.

I’ve made only one glancing reference to this endeavor (it’s the "strictly commercial" gig referred to in my April 27 post) — initially because an amazing amount of preparatory paperwork had to be plowed through before I could be absolutely sure the whole thing was really going to happen, and subsequently because it’s the sort of thing one just doesn’t blab about months before it materializes.

But all the groundwork has now been laid, even though an exact launch date or URL hasn’t yet been set (I’ll fill you in on those in future blog posts). So I asked Karen this week if I could stop limiting myself in this weblog to coy remarks being really, really busy all the time and start talking openly to you about what’s been taking up so much of my time.

Hence this unofficial announcement to Cruse insiders of my webcomic-in-the-making.

Of course, those of you with good instincts for detecting Things Being Left Unsaid must surely have suspected from my constant protests about being overworked that something had to be up. After all, the gigs I’ve occasionally described haven’t exactly added up to calendar-killers.

But while I’ve refrained from burdening you with a play-by-play account as events unfolded, the fact is that I’ve been pretty much living and breathing Adobe since the contract was inked. OK, a little time had to be set aside to plan my soon-to-begin cartooning course at MCLA and slightly more time was required to prepare the soon-to-be-published cover art plus a comic strip for UAB Public Health magazine.

But mostly I’ve been living in Adobeland.

First we had to figure out what Mark would look like and which of my stylistic approaches would work best for him. (We decided, as you can see from the teaser panels above, on a largely but not completely black-&-white universe with lots of crosshatching.)

Then we had to roughly chart out the "story arc" I’ll be following during the feature’s 20-installment run.

I’ve drafted individual scripts for the episodes that will get the ball rolling and they’ve been approved by Adobe. Scripting projects like this one is especially hard for me, since my normal comedic reflexes don’t ordinarily allow for an extra requirement that a company’s products be showcased. But that requirement, of course, is Mark the Art Guy‘s raison d’être.

It’s taken time to sketch out rough versions of the inaugural episodes for the Adobe folks to peruse. They seem satisfied at this point that what I’m providing is what they are paying for. So I have moved on to drawing finished artwork.

Along the way I have also had to carve out time to bring myself up to speed on the Creative Suite tricks that I’m drawing comic strips about. Not that I’m any kind of expert yet. It takes take practice before you have all of the "Ah ha!" moments you hope eventually to have when you’re exploring upgrades to familiar software. But Creative Suitre 2’s has cool new attributes that I’m enjoying getting a handle on.

Three episodes are complete as this is written. The date for going online with the series is apparently just around the bend. As I said above, I’ll let you know more when I know more.

Being a pitchman isn’t a role that exactly fits me like a glove. But I can honestly say that I was already a fan of Adobe’s flagship software long before this recent gig entered the picture (as visitors to my site’s longstanding Cartoonists Corner, which came into being years ago with no prompting by Adobe, will attest). That bolsters my comfort level. In other words, there’s been no need to bend my ethics into pretzels for the sake of a paycheck the way I would have to if, say, Satan approached me in the night with word that Fox News was eager to shell out big bucks for a cartoon frontman.

That’s a gig I’ll pass on to Art Guy Mark. With Adobe, by contrast, I’m cool.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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One Response to A Sneak Peek at Mark the Art Guy

  1. Roibinn Ni Phuca says:

    Getting paid to cartoon/comment on a product you really use and believe in — how cool is that? Kudos, Howie!