Written by Anise Stevens
Artist: Mark Todd
Location: Los Angeles
Occupation: Illustrator, Fine Artist, Professor, Curator
Mark Todd’s work is exemplary of the blurring of two worlds that once rarely if ever intermingled: illustration and fine art. More and more, in today’s day and age, we are seeing that illustrators and artists are much more one and the same rather than two disparate entities.
Raised in Las Vegas, Todd’s youth wasn’t necessarily grounded in culture. This, nonetheless, didn’t prevent him from picking up a pencil and developing a style that originated from his only real source of inspiration: comic books.
When asked, “Why choose art?” Todd’s response suggested that his inclination toward art-making wasn’t necessarily a choice:
“I just always drew. Ever since sixth grade, I knew that that was what I wanted to do. As a kid, I drew on people’s skateboards, on whatever. I never felt like I was the best drawer out there. But I was that guy, the guy who drew.”
In addition to his innate drive to draw, Todd credits his parents, both of whom were trusting of Todd’s creative process. Although neither came from artistic backgrounds, they revealed their confidence in their son by granting him the freedom to explore his artistic endeavors. Even when Todd voiced his apprehension about attending Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design due to the school’s high tuition, his parents’ encouragement proved crucial in his final decision to take the plunge, which he describes as such:
“I just jumped in. And it worked out. And the same happened when I moved to NY after graduating. I wasn’t sure it’d work, but it did.”
When Todd completed his degree in 1993, his colleagues urged him to move east. At the time, New York was the place to be. Not only was it home to all the top publishing companies, but it housed most every gallery of note.
When Todd decided to move, he had little knowledge of what life in New York would bring. What he did have was the support of Esther Pearl Watson, who he’d met as an undergraduate and has since remained an integral component in his life.
After cultivating an almost organic working relationship while living together in the Big Apple, Todd and Watson married in 1999, and then, in an effort to merge family life with a feasible working environ, the two relocated back to Los Angeles where they each have since have been able to develop creatively as a team as well as individually.
Undeniably, Todd and Watson share stylistic similarities. Yet despite their ongoing working relationship during which they commonly collaborate on projects together, each has managed to forge an individual career, independent from one another. While Watson has begun to garner attention as a fine artist, Todd continues to contribute most of his efforts into the commercial sector. His list of clients include, but are far from limited to, Houghton Mifflin Books, Getty Publications, Rolling Stone, New York Times, Country Music Television, Entertainment Weekly, Outside Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Coca-Cola, MTV, Fantagraphics Books, Business Week, McSweeney’s, PC World, GQ, and Nickelodeon.
Despite the time that Todd spends working as an illustrator, he has been fortunate to preserve his signature comic book sensibility. Using a variety of tools that range from ink to acrylic to cel-vinyl, he’s successfully sustained a body of work that reflects an old school, comic book aesthetic, which is what was in fact largely responsible for inspiring Todd to venture into art as a career.
The Power of 3, which opened Saturday, May 23rd, marks Todd’s second curatorial collaboration with Flower Pepper Gallery. After curating 40 x 400, a group exhibition that reaped substantiated acclaim, Todd has assembled a roster of fine artists and illustrators whose works, created specifically for this show, suggest the makings for an impressive group exhibition.
In preparation for The Power of 3, all participants were asked to create three distinct pieces on Trekell wooden artist panels measuring 6” x 8”, 9” x 12”, and 12” x 16”. The concept behind this idea was to provide a unifying element to the show while allowing each artist the creative freedom to work without any additional restrictions that might infringe upon their creative processes.
Accompanying works produced by Todd, which are featured in The Power of 3, pieces by the following artists are included in this extraordinary group exhibition: Aaron Smith, Ana Serrano, Angela Clayton, Brooks Salzwedel, Clayton Brothers, Coleman Clayton, Erik Mark Sandberg, Esther Pearl Watson, Frieda Gossett, Henry Clayton, Jason Holley, Maggie Chiang, Owen Smith, Sally Deng, Shark Toof, and Souther Salazar.
The Power of 3 will remain on view through June 23 at Flower Pepper Gallery, located at 121 East Union Street in Old Town Pasadena. The gallery is open seven days a week but gallery hours vary, as noted: 11 am until 6 pm on Mondays; 11 am until 7 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays; 11 am until 6 pm on Sundays.
Photos captured by Baha Danesh during the opening reception of “The Power of 3”