Artist of the Month: Mark A. Hicks

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Aug 26, 2016 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

You may have seen our Artist of the Month, Mark Hicks, before on Wandering Educators - we love his work, and have shared much of his art. Lillie interviewed him in 2009, we shared his beautiful book, The Grand Adventure, loved his illustrations in our friend and editor Winfred Peppinck's children's book, The Dogs Who Were Left Behind, and celebrated Arizona's 98th birthday with him! 

So I was especially happy to hear of Mark being the first official artist-in-residence for Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks this summer. It was a reminder to me that it was time to catch up with Mark!

 Watercolor Sketch from Kings Canyon, NP, from his Artist in Residency there
Watercolor Sketch from Kings Canyon, NP 

Sequoia National Park notes, "The Artist-in-Residence program offers the adventure of living and working in a national park while having the opportunity to create works that generate an understanding and dialogue about the need to preserve Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The artists' willingness to share their inspiration with others is a central tenet of the Artist-in-Residence program." You can search the NPS art collection here - it's incredible!

As a volunteer, Mark said that he "created over a dozen masks, several coloring pages, and some small paintings while I was there for the park to use in their programs. It was a lot of fun! I only wish I had more time there, because I could do a museum's worth of art if I had the time." 

 Artist-in-Residence Snapshot. My wife and I showing off the background and a couple of the 14 masks I created for Sequoia National Park. The masks and all will be used for special ranger programs., etc.
Artist-in-Residence Snapshot. My wife and I showing off the background and a couple of the 14 masks I created for Sequoia National Park. The masks and all will be used for special ranger programs., etc. 

 

How long have you been an artist?  
Over 40 years. Technically since I was 17. Thirty-one of those years as a full-time freelancer.  Of course, I was an artist all through elementary and high school too -- very often to the dismay of my teachers! By the way, I won my first art award in 4th grade.

Artist Mark A. Hicks: A-Mazing Ants Free activity for kids available for download on my website.
A-Mazing Ants Free activity for kids available for download on my website. 

Artist Mark A. Hicks: The Things I will Teach You Children’s book (interior page). Ages baby-5
The Things I will Teach You Children’s book (interior page). Ages baby-5 

Is your art your full-time career? 
Well, it’s my full-time passion. (I “moonlight” at a school district to help out between royalty checks.) 

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Cactus Wren, A coloring page from my Arizona website GilaBen.com
Cactus Wren - A coloring page from my Arizona website GilaBen.com 
Artist Mark A. Hicks: Gila Ben (from GilaBen.com)

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Red Tape.
Red Tape Stock illustration 

Do you have favorite places you like to create? 
When I can, I love getting out of the little studio in my little house and finding a secluded spot in the desert or the forest. 
My life-long dream as an artist has been to establish an artist retreat on a hundred acres (yes, a nod to a famous setting in a children’s book) where I and other creatives would have the chance to create in a quiet, inspiring environment. Not an easy thing to make happen on an artist’s income but I haven’t abandoned the dream yet.

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Horned Lizard watercolor
Horned Lizard watercolor 

What does a typical day look like? Is there a typical day? 
Absolutely not. I'm a freelancer, every day is different. I could work on a magazine or some other illustration assignment or (not often enough) a book project. Rarely, if I happen to be in between assignments, I work on my own projects and ideas. (And I have a boatload of those waiting in my sketchbooks and files!)

Artist Mark A. Hicks - the Picnic Day children's book
The Picnic Day Children’s book Ages 1-5 

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Look Into My Eyes Illustrations for Click Magazine for children ages 3-6
Look Into My Eyes Illustrations for Click Magazine for children ages 3-6 

What materials do you prefer? 
For illustration I prefer working traditionally with pen, ink, and watercolors on illustration board. I can create digital art but I think it lacks the warmth, character, and charm of traditional art.  For painting I prefer working with acrylics on canvas. I also like to sculpt in terra cotta clay. However, that’s on hold right now because of illustration work and space and budget constraints.

Where/How are you inspired? 
I have a pretty strong imagination and I have strong emotions so I’m easily inspired. However, being in nature seems to really inspire me. Especially if I’m away from the crowd.

Artist Mark A. Hicks: The Grand Adventure Nonfiction children’s book about John Wesley Powell’s first journey into the Grand Canyon. Ages 8-12
The Grand Adventure Nonfiction children’s book about John Wesley Powell’s first journey into the Grand Canyon Ages 8-12 

How do you know when your piece is done? 
Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” That pretty much sums it up for me.

Do you work on one or more pieces at a time? 
Yes, because I often juggle deadlines I’m often required to work on several pieces at once. Not ideal, but often necessary.

Artist Mark A. Hicks - party invitations
Party invitations - Mark A. Hicks Art Samples www.artist-dreamer-misfit.com (www.markix.net

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Frogs at the Diner - children's book project in progress
Frogs at the Diner. Children’s book project in progress

If you were not an artist what would you do? 
Because I love science, I could see myself as archeologist or paleontologist or some other type of scientist. Of course that would have required sitting still and not drawing in class. Never would have happened.

Desert holiday celebration greeting card, artist Mark A. Hicks
Desert Holiday Celebration Holiday greeting card. Link to purchase can be found on my website. 

How can our readers find and purchase your art? 
Since I have done so many different things – books, greeting cards, paintings, apparel, etc. -- my work is kind of spread out all over the place. I guess the best place to start is by going to my website, http://www.markix.net/, and clicking on the links.

Artist Mark A. Hicks: the dog ate my lesson plans t-shirt (The original. The idea has been copied many times over at various places online).
the dog ate my lesson plans t-shirt (The original. The idea has been copied many times over at various places online). Link to purchase can be found on my website. 

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Dinosaur Valentine Valentine card for kids
Dinosaur Valentine Valentine card for kids
 

Would you like to share anything else with us? 
I’m also a volunteer artist for the National Park Service. I recently did a short artist-in-residence in Sequoia National Park and I have also created art for Jr. Ranger books and other programs, as well. 

I also have my own personal charity project called Art Mends (www.ArtMends.org) that provides free art materials to a local hospital for children coping with challenging illnesses. I hope to expand it to a lot more facilities… someday. 

You can also find me online: http://www.markix.net/

Artist Mark A. Hicks: Silly reindeer with Santa wrapping paper
Silly Reindeer with Santa Wrapping paper design. (Unfortunately no longer in print.) 

Artist Mark A. Hicks - Dark side abstract
Dark Side Abstract. Something I like to dabble in when time permits. (Private collection.) 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Mark A. Hicks