Monday, August 26, 2013

Surtex, Comic-Con and Geeks - Artist Mark Gonyea

I suddenly realized in the past few days that I love to pursue art licensing as a profession because it gets me to think outside the box and constantly pushes me to learn, about new art techniques, about topics like marketing or copyrights, about sales and about people. It challenges me to not take what I know for granted because in art licensing anything, and I mean it, anything could work if your timing is right and you have enough of a concept developed to show a potential client.

It's like a puzzle in that you've got to get enough pieces to be able to continue and you've got to explore the many ways to place them before you can tell which direction to go next.

Artist Mark Gonyea
It reminds me of a video about Quantum Computing we just watched, which posed a lot of pretty mind-bending questions about technology, science and the possibilities they open up. It couldn't be a more appropriate way to introduce our next guest, artist Mark Gonyea. We met Mark at Surtex as our neighbor and we had fun together, watching out for each other. I think he has a great attitude and great ideas to make his journey in art licensing a success.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? Probably first and foremost, I'm a geek. I love all things science and fantasy and that very much influences the work I do. I grew up watching movies, cartoons and reading comics, eventually creating my own comics and using what I learned from that in my design aesthetic.

I like hard angles and limited palettes as starting points, adding in details only if they're needed. I'm a big believer in "complicated doesn't make it good," so much so it was actually the sub-title of my first book about design. Even though at times my work can seem very complicated there's always a foundation of simple shapes and solid design.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? I really look at design like it's problem solving. There's this blank page that needs something on it. At first, the work is slow and it's a step back for every step forward. Then something clicks. Then a few more. As the solution becomes clearer it gets easier and things start happening faster. It's a real sense of accomplishment to finish a project that turns out better than you expected. Then it starts all over again.

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? I started drawing very young. I remember copying Peanuts cartoons out of the Sunday paper as soon as the first grade. Charles Shultz was the first cartoonist where I made the connection that this was something people could actually do as a job. Later on, Bill Watterson really showed everyone the heights a comic strip could reach. Graphically, I'm definitely influenced by artists like Saul Bass and Paul Rand.

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? Right now I'm concentrating on my next children's book. My previous book, The Spooky Box, just came out in July so I'm working on the next book in the "box" series. I'm always working on 3 or 4 concepts. I never know which one will step up and be the next fully realized idea (it's usually not the one I think it'll be).

Recently I've also been experimenting with a new medium as well. I've always been a fan and done work in scratchboard so I started working on lino-cut stamps. It's similar to scratchboard in the sense that it's reductive, so you take away material as opposed to adding it with ink, paint, etc. That kind of almost sculptural work is very appealing to me.

TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. In the past I've dipped my toe into licensing with a few t-shirts and posters here and there with mixed results. 2013 was my first year at Surtex so I spent the good part of the year before reading, learning and preparing for the show. I consider myself still a newbie when it comes to licensing but the response to my art so far has been very positive. As a direct result of Surtex I'm licensing a few new posters now and talking with a couple other companies about potentially doing some products. Not unlike publishing, it's a long process and requires a great deal of patience. I'm still finding my way through and perhaps I'll need a licensing agent at some point in the future but for now I'm doing it on my own.

TMFMA: Do you attend other trade shows? I started doing posters in 2000 and since then I've done over 40 conventions from coast to coast. The big difference with these shows compared to Surtex or other licensing shows is I'm acting as my own retailer, selling directly to the public. So far, the only convention I've done every year is the San Diego Comic-Con, by far the largest and most chaotic with 120,000 attendees in 5 days. There's so much going on, it's definitely an experience I think everyone should go at least once!

TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share in the world of commercial art? I like to work with people who are positive and make creating art fun. Pretty sure this goes both ways.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I certainly intend to keep making kids books, improving as an artist and I hope to make progress licensing in the coming years. Other than that, just to be open to new opportunities. Oh, and there's also that board game I've always wanted to design!

LINKS to Mark's online work:

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