Artist’s Spotlight Interview by Frank Forte
Mark Covell is a fine artist who works as an assistant director/storyboard artist on the Family Guy TV Show. Mark has recently worked as a concept designer on the feature film TED, directed by Seth MacFarlane. Somehow Mark still finds time to realize his mechanically decayed visions on canvas using oil painting techniques of the old masters. Mark’s comic book work can be seen in issue #271 of Heavy Metal Magazine.
Mark was born in 1972 in Hartford, CT and began drawing fanatically at the age of five. The young artist, fed on a healthy diet of comics, Star Wars and Frank Frazetta, immersed himself in the drawing and painting of these favorite subject matters. After graduating from Paier College of Art, Mark began illustrating children’s books. Since then, he has moved on to a successful career of concept art and storyboarding. Mark’s work has been featured in Playboy magazine, DC comics, and can be seen regularly in Spectrum, the Best of Contemporary Fantastic Art.
Mark is currently focusing on his personal work, bringing his bizarre robotic visions to life. Mark has the attitude that shiny new mechanics have no story to tell until they’ve tarnished over time. He has been creating a haunted world where the abandoned factory and empty shell of machines becomes an eerie thing of beauty. His paintings can be seen in several southern California galleries including Copro Nason, La Luz de Jesus, and M Modern.
Some of Mark’s gallery shows include :
2014: La Luz Coaster Show, Van Eaton Galleries’ “Villains of Animation Group” Show, Hyena Gallery’s “All Out of Bubblegum/ Tribute to John Carpenter” Group Show,
2013: Dark Dreams Pop-Up Art Show, NoHo District
2012: Ltd. Art Gallery’s “Rayguns and Robots: A Tribute to Classic Science Fiction”
2008: An exhibit entitled “IN RUIN” that ran along with the Hi-Fructose annual show.
HM: What’s on the drawing table today?
Mark Covell: I’m working on a few commissions and will be starting a quadriptych painting of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
HM: Your day job is a storyboard artist/assistant Director on the family Guy TV show – can you explain your duties?
MC: The Director/Assistant Director team usually gets two to three storyboard artists to work with. Each storyboard artist gets a section of script to thumbnail, layout, and do acting passes. The Family Guy production gives us a little more time than a lot of animated shows, but they also like most elements to be hand drawn, so there’s a lot to work out. Especially if there’s a big section. i.e. a Chicken Fight!
HM: Who is you favorite Family Guy character to draw?
MC: Peter Griffin. He tends to be the most animated of the bunch.
HM: You recently had a short story in Heavy Metal #271, can you tell us the inspiration for that tale?
MC: Most of my personal work revolves around robotic themes. Our obsession with technology and how it can turn against us is always something that I love to illustrate.
HM: Do you plan on doing more original comics?
MC: After working on “MOTHER ” for issue #271, I have a lot of fuel to work on some new stories!
HM: How long have you been doing art?
MC: My earliest memory of drawing was when I was five, so a REALLY long time!
HM: What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media. What inspires you to create your artworks?
MC: The usual list of suspects. Anything science fiction. Comics. Horror Movies. My Dad saw me drawing all the time, so he brought home great books like the Frank Frazetta art volumes and FAIRIES by Alan Lee and Brian Froud. My family was very musical, so there was a mixed bag of classical music, Frank Zappa, and Opera in the air when I was young. I started listening to old radio shows like The Shadow and Inner Sanctum when I was eight and I think that was a huge motivator because I loved imagining what everything looked like while listening. Especially the horror shows! As far as what inspires me now, Los Angeles provides me with a lot of textures, ruins, and atmosphere for my paintings. My favorite artist list is vast and growing but Stanislav Szukalski, Alex Toth, Ian McQue, and Enki Bilal are a few that come to mind!
HM: What does “a normal day of being an artist” look like in your life?
MC: Currently the days have been very busy with little time to myself! The Family Guy episode we’re working on right now is very unconventional with some sequences that require a lot of EXTRA drawing. I’m a dad, so after the kids are asleep I eat and try to get painting done at night. It’s truly the life of a working artist!
HM: What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art?
MC: I went to Norwich Free Academy for my last two years of high school and they had a great art program integrated with the academics, so I was exposed to painting and drawing with some great instructors. After that I went Paier College of Art and studied Illustration.
HM: Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
MC: I have sketchbooks, but I’m surrounded by post-it notes, so many of my initial ideas end up being worked out on them. When I create a thumbnail for a painting I want to keep as much of the line quality and composition as possible so I will scan it and enlarge it with Photoshop so I can draw over it in more detail. I’ll often do a quick color sketch in Photoshop as well. After printing out a more finalized drawing, I’ll cover the back of the printout with graphite and transfer it to a toned gessoed masonite board. I’ve been working in oil for years because of its flexibility and the slow drying time. I start with a sepia wash and add tonal elements to the drawing. After that it’s a lot of glazes and building up of colors until it starts to take shape. It’s a long process but I like the results. I’ve always been envious of artists that just dive in start working on the board without much prep work!
HM: Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
MC: I’d love to sculpt and weld! I never did much of that because of the space involved.
HM: Tell us more about your workspace/studio.
MC: It ain’t pretty! It basically has a workshop feel to it. Luckily it’s separate from the house. After every painting, I clean up and reorganize – but MAN it gets cluttered during production!
HM: What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career?
MC: Deadlines. Especially in animation. Trying to gauge how long it’s going to take to work something out in the time you are given is pretty tough for me sometimes.
HM: What music do you listen to when painting?
MC: Heavy Metal. What else?!
HM: What is the hardest thing on being an artist?
MC: There will never be enough time in my lifetime to paint every idea that comes to my head!
HM: Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?
MC: Let’s face it, trying to develop a career as an artist can be a long and difficult journey, so surround yourself with other artists and creative folk. It’s good to have a support group! Draw inspiration from your friends and colleagues.
HM: Your favorite art or life quote is …
MC: I’m paraphrasing William Martin, “Make the ordinary come alive. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
Mark Covell can be found on the web here:
Frank Forte Bio:
Frank Forte is an accomplished designer, storyboard artist and comic book artist. He has worked in animation for feature films, TV and gaming. Some of the shows Frank has worked on include: Bob’s Burgers, Despicable Me 2, Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out, The Super Hero Squad Show, Marvel Heroes 4D, Lego Hero Factory, Lego Bionicle: The Legend Reborn, Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, Re-Animated Pilot (Out of Jimmy’s Head), The Mr. Men Show, Bionicle: The Legend Reborn (DVD-2009), Lego Clutch Powers 4D ride at Legoland and Lego Atlantis. He co-created The Cletus and Floyd Show with Gene McGuckin, a tribute to animation directors Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. Robert S. Rhine and Frank Forte created the pilot episode of Sickcom the Animated Series, which was sold to Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival Of Animation in 2003.
In Frank’s spare time he paints. Recent shows include Laluzapalooza 2015 and Laluzapalooza Jury Winners Group Show 2015 at La Luz De Jesus Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), Villains of Animation at Van Eaton Galleries (Sherman Oaks, CA). Past shows include the CATZ Group Show at LTD. Gallery in Seattle, WA and the 6×6 group Show at The Phone Booth Gallery in Long Beach, CA. His art has been exhibited at Cannibal Flower (Los Angeles) and the Animation Guild Gallery 839 (North Hollywood).
Frank is also the publisher at Asylum Press, a publishing company that produces premium comic books and graphic novels within the horror, science fiction, and action genres.