Meet a Local Illustrator: A Chat With Mark Burrier
Mark Burrier is an illustrator, cartoonist, and skateboard painter whose illustration work appears in the Washington Post’s editorial pages. His cartoon works are mostly minicomics, which he often self-publishes, and at least one's been nominated for an award at the Small Press Expo. He also does advertising work using comics. Burrier had a table at the Baltimore Comic Con this year and answered the usual questions.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Mark Burrier: It’s mostly realistic fiction with a few exceptions.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
MB: 1979 in Hagerstown, Maryland. I'm slowing becoming an old, old man.
WCP: Why are you in the Washington area now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
MB: I live in Frederick, Md., not too far away from the District. I visit the city often.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
MB: Practice and osmosis. I’ve been drawing comics and self-publishing for over 10-plus years now.
WCP: Who are your influences?
MB: There are so many wonderful cartoonists, but I would have to say: Jacques Tardi, Guy Davis, Jaime Hernandez, Paul Pope, Blutch, Jack Kirby, Lynda Barry, Frederick Peeters, Christophe Blain, Charles Schulz, Charles Burns, Anders Nilsen, David B., John Romita, Jr., John Buscema, David Mazzucchelli, Al Williamson, and Joann Sfar. I find the writing of Flannery O’Connor, Stephen Dixon, Dave Eggers, and Haruki Murakami inspiring as well. The music of Fugazi and Radiohead mesmerize. I think artists should take inspiration from influences outside of their medium whenever possible.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
MB: While I understand you have to take small steps to get started, I think I would go back to my past self and tell me to stop doing anthology stories that experiment for the sake of experimentation. I had a habit of trying to do something different for different’s sake and not in the story’s best interest.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
MB: I've been in a number of comic anthologies, including Kramers Ergot, but my minicomics “Noose” (which was nominated for an Ignatz Award and won “Best Comic Book” from the Baltimore City Paper) and “The Intruder” seem to stick in people's minds.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
MB: The story I'm working on right now called "Withdraw." I see progress in each new story I do. I recently completed a five-page story for Nashville Review called “People Are Trying To Read” which I thought came out really well.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
MB: I would like to work on a long-form story of my own that I don't plan out completely before beginning leaving the door open for something unexpected. I am also a fan of 1970-1990 Marvel comics. I think I have at least one Daredevil, Captain America, and Silver Surfer story in me. I also love pre-code horror comics and wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to do a horror story.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
MB: I just went through this about a year ago after completing “Noose.” I decided to focus just on drawing and not force the writing. So I started a drawing blog, Rare Words, to do drawings that I didn't have to think of. It worked. The readers submit a word or phrase with their name and I interpret it visually. I have complete visual freedom and the readers get to interact through the blog. A hardcover book collection of many of those drawings just came out.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
MB: Unfortunately digital. I cringe to think about it. I love all of the qualities of a mediocre printed comic book. There are few things in the world that are as pure to me. I already see computer-aided lettering becoming more accepted even in the independent community.
It’s a shame really. I recently had the opportunity of going to the Charles Schulz Museum in California and there was an exhibition of original art from many of the great newspaper cartoonists from 1920 to present day. The artisan precision in their lettering and inking is a fading skillset. That was my first time seeing that work in person and it challenged my draftsmanship to be better. I think all cartoonists could benefit.
WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?
MB: Dischord Records. I learned to love the city through the creative work this label documented. They have a consistent voice and are an inspiration for anyone self-publishing.
WCP: Least favorite?
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?