Lines and Colors art blog

Mark Summers

Mark Summers
Mark Summers is a Canadian illustrator who works in the time-honored, but infrequently used, medium of scratchboard. (See my posts on Virgil Finlay and Elizabeth Traynor.)

There is just something about the balance between black and white and the characteristics of the scratched lines that gives well-done scratchboard drawings a particular appeal. Summers is one of the best modern practitioners of the art.

He has done illustrations for major publications like Time and The Atlantic Monthly and has received three gold medals from the Society of Illustrators and was the recipient of the Hamilton King Award in 2000.

Summers is also the artist for the Barnes and Noble bookstores’ literary figures portraits. You can see them in the Prints and Posters section of the online bookstore. [2010 Update: Link is no longer valid]

Though he doesn’t seem to have his own dedicated site, you can see his work on the Richard Solomon Artists Rep site.

Addendum: 2010 update: Mark Summer’s illustrations are featured in the new book, Vanity Fair’s Presidential Profiles: Defining Portraits, Deeds, and Misdeeds of 43 Notable Americans–And What Each One Really Thought About His Predecessor.


30 responses to “Mark Summers”

  1. Wonderful work. I have always been amazed with the drawings you have done. Even when you were very young you showed an tremendous talent.
    Good for you.

  2. Do you know if Mark Summers has a website or email address where I may contact him?
    Vincent Juchimek

  3. The only way I know to contact Mark Summers is through his artists representative, Richard Solomon.

  4. – I am his sister in law and so astounded at Mark’s talent . BRILLIANT

  5. Thanks for the comment, Shelly. Many of us who are artists and illustrators arequite astounded by Mark’s abilities as well.

  6. Julia Ree Avatar
    Julia Ree

    I’m a cataloger for UCR Library, and the Eaton Collection for science fiction, etc., and among our duties, we give credit where credit is due! One of our recent titles, Beyond Human, has a cover art done by Mark Summers. Trouble is, we cannot make Mark’s name unique to our catalog without a birthdate (month, day, year) and or a middle name. I’d love to be able to give proper credit, can someone out there help me out?

    Many thanks in advance!
    JD Ree

  7. In the mid-70s while Mark was at the Ontario College of Art, I was the news editor at the Ryerson school paper. Mark drew 4 political cartoons for me during that period. Through all the moves I have made over the last 30+ years I have always retained those drawings which I now have beautifully framed – 2 hang in my home office, 2 hang in my rec room. They are my favourite pictures.

  8. Very cool! Thanks for the note.

  9. The weblink does not seem to work for barnes and noble. i cant seem to find the posters he has done on there at all. does anyone know other places that may have those? i’m using mark in a lesson plan for my art class and would love to be able to find those.

  10. mark summers Avatar
    mark summers

    My birthdate is April &, 1955.
    Thanks for the kind comments and interest.

  11. Mark has been one of my longtime favorite artists. His work has been inspirational since I was a student at Center For Creative Studies in Detroit Michigan (about 15 years ago). I actually had the pleasure of interviewing him over the phone for an Illustration class. A year later he flew to Detroit to present his work at our school. Recently I saw his portrait of President Elect Obama in Rolling Stone Magazine. I’m still inspired.

  12. Thanks for the background, Darryl.

    Other readers can see Darryl Swiatkowski’s portfolio of illustration and digital imaging here.

  13. Stephen Hughes Avatar
    Stephen Hughes

    My wife found a drawing signed by Mark Summers. It might be a print, it might be an original, I do not know. I don’t know if it is the same Mark Summers or not. It looks the style. It is black and white and looks like a tree growing in a river. It has a Scripture: Psalm 1:2,3 written out on the bottom. The back is signed “Mark Summers A Knight of the King. We just want to know who the artist is.


  14. Ed Bulgrin Avatar
    Ed Bulgrin

    Great illustration in the new Rolling Stone magazine of Obama. I’m glad to see you’re working. Happy new year!

  15. Mario Rendace Avatar
    Mario Rendace

    First, excuse my English. In the purpose to write a bibliography on Edgar Allan Poe in Canada, I shall like what’s the newspaper or review the Poe’s caricature of the illustrator Mark Summers have been published, for the first time, thus which the date of publication? Is it possible to buy in poster format this caricature?

  16. Mario,

    I’m not certain, but I think the Poe illustration shown here was created for Barnes and Nobel as part of a series illustrations of famous authors done for displays in their stores.

    The article about this that was at one time on the Barnes and Noble website is no longer available.

  17. Lewis Lombardi Avatar
    Lewis Lombardi


    I’m trying to compile a list and a collection of stamps issued by the USPS using the scratchboard technique of Mark Summers.
    My search has yet to identify a complete grouping of those issues.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

  18. mark summers Avatar
    mark summers

    Off the top of my head, the stamps would be;
    General Stilwell
    Hattie Caraway
    Claude Pepper
    Edna Ferber
    Wilma Rudolph
    Jonas Salk
    Albert Sabin
    Harriet Beecher Stowe
    Margaret Chase Smith
    James A. Michener
    Edward Trudeau
    Mary Lasker
    And the recent set of four of Abraham Lincoln.

  19. Kyna Moore Avatar
    Kyna Moore

    I am a design student at The International Academy of Design and Technology in Seattle. I am working on an assignment for an Illustration class and was assigned Mark to research for a presentation. I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed researching his work and have been inspired to keep creating and trying new techniques. I’m really interested in trying out scratchboard!

  20. First, a tip of the hat to Charley for his endless good work.

    I’d like to get in touch with Mark Summers to feature him on Art Thursday on my site. Mark, if you get these comments, please get email me.

  21. I’m currently a student attending Art College, am doing a research project on Mark Summers for my illustration class. I’d really love to know some more things about him and he’s amazing work!

    Things like.. where was he born, what are his influences and inspiration, has he ever experimented with different medias besides scratchboard? What kinds of project’s is he working on now?

    Anything really would be great! He’s an amazing artist!

    Thanks for taking the time to read this!

    1. Try his rep, Richard Solomon for a bio and mentions on their blog.

  22. Great! I will!
    Thanks so much! 🙂

  23. mark summers Avatar
    mark summers

    Thanks for the kind words Alli.
    I was born in Burlington, Ontario, Canada and live about 5 minutes from where I was raised.
    I’ve tried every medium there is, but keep coming back to scratchboard. I’m a rather lazy artist and scratchboard forces me to be a little more painstaking in my work. Once you have commited to doing a certain portion of the drawing to a great degree of detail, there are no shortcuts to finishing the entire piece to the same level.
    I have been doing a monthly series of drawings for “Los Angeles Magazine” for a couple of years, just did the “Person of the Year” cover for Time and did portraits of all the presidents for a book titled “Vanity Fair’s Presidential Profiles”. This started as a long article I wrote for them about what each president had said about their predecessor. It hung around and Graydon Carter thought there was enough for a book. The interesting thing about it is that the portaits included are my preliminary rough sketches. Saved me about 6 months of scratching.

    1. Mark, Thanks for writing in and keeping us up to date. (Please let me know if you ever put up a dedicated web site or blog, or if you have any major projects you’d like to announce.)

      For the benefit of other readers, here is the new book, Vanity Fair’s Presidential Profiles: Defining Portraits, Deeds, and Misdeeds of 43 Notable Americans–And What Each One Really Thought About His Predecessor.

  24. Derek Hansen Avatar
    Derek Hansen

    I am a student at the Art Institute and have followed Mark’s career for many years, putting everything I could get my hands on of his printed material into a binder. I would love to know how to get copies of all the Barnes and Noble illustrations. I have various bags and promotional pieces that they have done over the years. I am surprised that there hasn’t been a compilation book done yet (I would be the first in line to get that). I first came across his work in an article done about his technique in a now defunct magazine called Step By Step, which unfortunately I cannot find a copy of (I lost mine in a move). That article and encouragement by a professor and inspired me to take up scratchboard. I simply love working in scratchboard, as it forces the artist to think in reverse. I had the opportunity to see one of his pieces up close at a show in Seattle and the clarity of line and intricacy of weight is astoundingly! It looks like he never makes a mistake, as the piece just had pristine lines that have great variation in width.

    I am interested to know what materials he uses, such as what type of scratchboard, (is it Essdee, Ampersand, or some other one) and what type of scratch tools does he use? Does he use the pre-inked or does he ink his own? And how does he keep the drawings so sharp and clean?

    I just can’t say enough good things about the quality and artistic integrity of his work. It is always a pleasure to see new illustrations from the Mark, the Scratchboard Master and I bought sheets of his stamps.

    If any new info, like a book or a website or even a blog or other site comes available, I would love to hear about it (I have been to the Solomon site for inspiration more times than I like to admit).

    Also, Charley, thanks for keeping this blog up and for all your work on it. I really like it, keep up the inspiring work!

  25. mark summers Avatar
    mark summers

    Thanks for all the nice comments Derek.
    You can see lots of my newer work at Behance, a site for illustrators, photographers and designers.
    Maybe someday in the near future someone will decide to put all my lines into a book.
    One thing the Behance site has (as does the Richard Solomon site, under “case study”) is a step by step walk through of my process. I worked on Essdee for about 25 years (pre-inked) but, for various reasons the quality disappeared. I had tried Ampersand’s “Clayboard” about 10 years ago but didn’t like it. I picked up a piece 3 years ago and found the quality to be greatly improved and have now switched over completely. I do about half my work on the white and half on the pre-inked.
    I use a number of tools for various effects but my primary tool is a simple #11 Xacto knife. I use the unsharpened side to make my fine lines and the sharpened side to retrace and refine the wider lines.
    Hope this clears up most of your questions. If you want to discuss scratchboard further, contact Solomon and we can hook up via e-mail or phone.
    Thanks for the interest.

  26. Diane Gregg Avatar
    Diane Gregg

    Hi Mark,
    Just picked up a copy of the new book, “Presidential Profiles,” that you illustrated. Very, very impressive. Beautiful work! I work in graphite pencil, drawing presidential portraits and wonder where on earth you found profiles for each president? Amazing! I’ve been wanting to include a light sketch of each of their profiles, but have found so few of them. I noted that your work is copyrighted and I definitely respect that. Just wondered if you ever give permission for someone like me to use your work as a reference photo? Thanks so much for your time and consideration. Best wishes. Diane

  27. mark summers Avatar
    mark summers

    Hi Diane,

    I took almost 9 years for me to track down images of each president in the same profile, with matching lighting. For some, like Washington and Jefferson, I worked from busts and for others I would go frame by frame through videos and photograph from a T.V. screen. There are about 8 that I couldn’t find an image for and so I would photograph people I knew who had a vague physical resemblance and, working from other photos, transform them into a president.
    Feel free to use my images as a reference. They are just drawings, not holy relics.


  28. Edward Mendes Avatar
    Edward Mendes

    Dear Mark,

    Amazing scratchboard/scraperboard work! I am so glad to know that this very tedious and exacting form of art is still alive!

    I am not an artist, but my late father was considered to be one of the finest commercial scraperboard artists in the UK in the late 50’s and 60’s. I have scanned photographs of some of his masterpieces (the original artworks went back to the clients), and shared them via Picasa.

    I’m sharing this with you, because I believe that only a scraperboard artist can REALLY appreciate scraperboard!

    Best regards,