Mark Parisi has described himself as having two marketable skills, cartooning and grocery bagging. And having taken the path of the cartoonist, he’s been making people laugh for almost 25 years with his comics. Mark is the man behind the extremely humorous comic called “Off the Mark”. But that’s not all his Clients have included: Del Monte, the US Military (anti-binge drinking campaign), Billboard Magazine, Glamour Magazine, The National Enquirer, Recycled Paper Greetings, Dixie Chicks and Chicken Soup for the Soul. I was privileged to have Mark answer some questions about his life as a cartoonist and I’m thrilled to share them with you here.
David: What’s it like in the day in the life of Mark Parisi? Do you have a routine to get you started for the day?
Mark: I work from home but manage not to do so in pajamas. I shower, shave and dress even though my commute is only walking down the stairs. Most days I skim the newspaper, get distracted by my computer and then roll over to the drawing table. What I do on any given day depends on how the previous day went. I hopefully already have my ideas. I might have some ideas penciled that need to be inked or maybe the ideas are taunting me from the sketchbook and have yet to be fully developed. Sometimes I prefer quiet and other times I’ll listen to music or podcasts. After dinner and family time, I’ll continue work at night. The TV goes on and I generally work on things that don’t require as much thinking. Maybe I’ll color a greeting card, scan some drawings, ink, things like that. While “off the mark” is my main focus, I also have side projects. For instance, I do concepts and sketches for Topps’ Wacky Packages and have done anti-binge drinking cartoons for the military. One of my favorite side jobs was making a Christmas Card for The Dixie Chicks.
David: When you are writing a gag for “Off the Mark”, are these ideas that have been rolling around in your head, maybe scribbled on pieces of paper or do you sit down and say “ok, the work day begins”?
Mark: I hate sitting down without an idea. Monday is my day for writing. I spend all day in a coffee shop with a sketchbook and an iPod and try to come up with ideas. If I have a decent day, I’m all set with ideas for at least the week. I appreciate those spontaneous ideas that pop into my head due to various circumstances during life, but I can’t count on those.
David: You’ve been syndicating your work since 1987, do you consider it easier to create comics now or do you have a few days where you want to bang your head against the drawing tables?
Mark: Yes to both parts of the question. I’ve had many stressful days when coming up with ideas seems incredibly difficult. Sometimes I feel like I’ve already tread so much ground that I have to keep digging deeper and deeper. The difference now is I don’t stress about it like I used to. I know I will eventually come out of it no matter how dire it seems. I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years and I always come out of the funk. It’s comforting to realize that so my stress level is a lot less these days. Generally, things come a little easier now, including the drawing, but another case of writer’s block is always looming.
David: What do you consider the most challenging thing about creating comics?
Mark: The ideas, either coming up with them or figuring out how to best present them.
David: We all have different tastes in humor and each cartoonist has their own style. But what do you think makes a great cartoon or comic?
Mark: What I like to see in a panel cartoons is the writing and the drawing both being essential to the gag. The reader could just read the text and not get the joke. The reader could just look at the drawing and not understand it. But, once the reader combines the text with the drawing, the gag is revealed. What is said (or shown) and what isn’t said (or shown) can make so much difference. As far as strip cartooning is concerned, just look at Richard Thompson’s “Cul De Sac” for what makes a great comic. It has strong characters, timing, a unique voice, great writing, great art, unexpected turns, imagination, everything. He pisses me off.
David: HaHa…I’ll agree with you on that, he is one of the greats! And you my friend, I’m going to put up there with him…but you don’t piss me off! Thank you for being featured, Mark. You are truly a great cartoonist!
So head on over to Mark’s website “Off the Mark” and be prepared for a laugh! www.offthemark.com