Mark Summers

  1. portrait
  2. narrative
  3. caricature
  4. branding & icons
  5. bio
  6. work process

Mark Summers has been a full-time freelance illustrator since graduating from the Ontario College of Art in 1978. He has devoted the past 35 years of his career to the technique of scratchboard, a onetime popular medium which had become all but obsolete by the mid 70’s. Author and illustration historian Steven Heller credits Summers giving the medium a second life.

Mark’s career started off primarily in the newspaper industry, with clients like the New York Times, the Chicago Times, the Wall Street Journal and many others, but quickly moved into all forms of publication. He has worked for every major magazine, and has contributed work for Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated and numerous covers for Time.

He has also written and illustrate short articles for Vanity Fair. Mark has contributed covers for most of the major publishers in the world and has collaborated with James Michener and Issac Asimov amongst others. He has also done lavishly illustrated volumes of Poe, Dickens, “Moby Dick”, “Gulliver’s Travels” as well as writing and illustrating two book of his own. Mr. Summers has also designed and published 16 stamps for the United States Postal Service, as well as The Royal Mail and Canada Post. His work is best remembered for his decade long collaboration with Barnes and Noble, where he created the visual persona of their stores, doing portraits of famous authors that decorated their walls.

For his work Mark has received 6 medals from the Society of Illustators in New York and was given The Hamilton King Awards for best illustration in 2000. At last count he had received just over 350 awards at home and globally. Mark’s list of clients is large and far reaching. He has done work for Ford Motor Company, Pacific Bell, Seagrams and for clients as far away as Dubai and China.

He lives in Waterdown, Ontario Canada with his wife and daughter.

Client List

Kraken Rum
The Atlantic Monthly
Barnes & Noble
The Chicago Times
Eddie Bauer
New York Times
The National Law Journal
The New Yorker
Major League Baseball
Vanity Fair
Parker Brothers
Rolling Stone
Sports Illustrated
St. Martin’s Press
The Wall Street Journal
Trammel Crow
Wells Fargo
Winslow Press
Pacific Bells
Ford motor Company

Step 1: A quick sketch to block out the final composition.

Step 2: The preliminary sketch. I don’t always go to this extreme for a rough sketch- only if the piece is fairly complex or if the client needs to see some indication of where the exact light and darks will fall. I’m not sure how I wound up doing sketches in such a Byzantine fashion, but it is a quick way to determine the overall tone.

This is a simple line drawing, done with a felt tip pen. On tracing paper- I then spray mount it onto a light toned paper. The highlights are acrylic paint. Even after this step I will still tend to “fiddle.” If I feel a hand is too small, or a figure too large I photocopy it to the proper size and just paste it in.

Step 3: The finished black and white. Each drawing begins as a black square. After this, using a knife, I scratch white lines into the surface. I try to discourage clients from asking to see “the work in progress,” as at any time there will be an entirely finished head here, a hand there, all floating in a sea of black.

I tend to work size-as (this drawing is 12” high- each face being approximately 2” high.) In a drawing such as this, I find it takes a full day to finish each figure. I then have the finished work scanned and printed onto photographic paper.

Step 4: Finished color. A fast process, as the black and white drawing already defines the modeling. Simple flat tones of color are all that are really needed. I paint details with watercolor and then everything else with oil glazes. Sometimes I go in and smooth things out with airbrush. The final step is to paint in highlights with acrylic.

back to top