Classic Cars, Nostalgia and Tropical Places – Mark Watts
Mark Watts has been creating art for the past 30 years. He has two studios, one in the rolling hills of Bucks County Pennsylvania and one in Sunny South Florida.
Mark has worked for clients such as Walt Disney, Budweiser, Warner Brothers Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Hasbro Toys, Tyco Toys, Crayola, William Morrow Publishing, and Avon Books – QVC Home Shopping Channel to name a few!
We reached out to Mark to find out a little more about him and how he got his start.
AA: What is your preferred medium?
MW: I like them all I paint in mostly with acrylics, and occasionally oils. In the beginning of my illustration career I used airbrush almost exclusivity with dyes, watercolor and gouache then I switched to acrylic. I also like digital now, it is faster and easy to change and correct color. Of course when I started out in the late 70’s everything was done by hand, no computers. The software I use is Photoshop, Painter, Illustrator, Lightwave and Vue. I also use a combination of 3D rendered software with a Wacom tablet.
AA: How do you get your inspirations?
MW: I love classic cars, nostalgia, tropical places and I like to illustrate reflective surfaces so a lot of my inspirations come from that.
AA: Do you have a set schedule of working creatively everyday or is the process more fluid?
MW: Never had a set schedule but I work almost every day except when I am on vacation.
AA: What are you working on at the moment?
MW: I designed a unique table for artwork that I came up. The idea is – Mark Watts Table Art – framed art work that turns into an art faced coffee table. The artwork can be changed out at any time. I have been working on this for about a year, I just received a patent for the idea, and am working on mass production for stores.
I am also working on a new line of fine clothing featuring classic cars silk shirts.
AA: You have done work for it seems all the top companies, what would you say was your first foot-in-the-door to working with them?
MW: Well when I was first out of college it took me six months to get my first job and I was really trying hard. I would get up early every morning and make call to New York publishing companies, book companies, magazines, ad agencies and try to get appointments to go in and show my portfolio. In between calls I was working on new pieces for my portfolio. I would go to New York once a week and have anywhere from four to seven appointments set up for that day.
It took six months until I got my first job. How I got my first job is that I was hired by my future wife’s Uncle Frank to paint a portrait of Pope John Paul who was the Pope at the time. I had the original airbrushed painting in my portfolio when I went in to see William Morrow Publishing. The art director’s name was Cheryl and she looked at the Pope John Paul’s Painting and loved it. They were working on a new book, Man From A Far Country about Pope John Paul. She said wait here, I would like to show this painting to the editor and some other people that would make a final decision. She came back about ten minutes later and said they would like to use it for the book cover. Of course I was very excited, my first published piece! She said they would pay, I think it was $750.00. I said I would need more and as I can recall, it was about $1,300 and she said OK just like that. That was the start of my illustration career.
One final note on this story, on this day I was getting a little discussed and could not believe I did not get one job after maybe 70 or more showings of my portfolio but I knew I had some good Illustrations. That day it was raining so hard I was soaked and the wind was blowing my 40″ X 30″ portfolio all over the place. I remember opening the large door to William Morrow Publishing on my way in and saying now this is a mission I will never quit. That is the day I got my first illustration job. After that a lot of the New York publishing companies, book companies, magazines, ad agencies I had seen over the past six months started calling me. After a while, I now had some printed work to show to agents. I was able to get an agent, Mendola and he got me a lot of high profile jobs.
AA: What is one of the highlights in the client work you’ve done?
MW: I was given the opportunity to work on the Transformers toy packs back in 1985, when they first came to America.
Many, many illustrations ago, I was called into my agent’s office in New York. I was shown the Transformers toys fresh from China, some being prototypes. Some of the Transformers toys being sold in China had done very well. At that point I was given a top secret Transformers Bible to be kept under lock & key. It contained technical drawings of each Transformer including the placement of colors, logos, etc…
Originally I was given six to start with that were to be used on blister packs for the Autobots. I completed the drawings with forced perceptive to make the toys more exciting and menacing.
The illustrations were painted using an airbrush with Dr. Martian Dyes and Luma Dyes. I cut frisket to protect certain areas and cut tracing paper to move around when spraying to create a softer edge. Later paintings were done with airbrushed acrylic paints.
My objective on these illustrations was to make them as reflective as possible, like car paint, exciting with a lot of reflections.
I completed the set of six and the client was very happy with the results. That lead to years of work on around 45 boxes and blister packs.
You never know when a toy will take off like the Transformers and become such a sensation. It was my pleasure working on all of the illustrations for the Transformers packaging, the toys were enjoyable and I am sure they were a part of many fond childhood memories.
The art seams like Pop Culture art to me now. People can see some of the Transformer artwork I did on my website. I offer them as signed prints on canvas, aluminum and paper.
There is also a new Transformers book, Legacy The Art of Transformer Packaging. My artwork is on pages 7, 14, 15, 30, 34, 35, 82, 83, Ram Jet on page 242, Reflector on page 264, Eagle Eye on page 283, 295.
AA: Recently you had a show at the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) in Hershey Pa. How was it? How did you do?
MW: The shows are great for exposure and to acquire sales and new commissions.
AA: How many shows do you do in a year?
MW: Right now I only do about four shows a year. I am trying to mass market my Illustrations through different products.
AA: We noticed on your site you offer giclee canvas prints and aluminum art. What would you say to a potential customer who wanted to know what is the difference between the two?
MW: Well one is printed on high gloss aluminum and the other is on canvas.
AA: What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?
MW: Well as stated above for work, to mass market my Illustrations on prints and products, I have some more Ideas for products, and products that I want to patent. I also have many more Illustration Ideas floating around in my head and on sketch pads that I will be doing. Right now I kind of have my business hat on for a little while longer. As for life, I just had my first grandchild, Crew Winsor Watts. I am enjoying him and my three children, Justin, Britney and Amber. They are all doing great and are very artistic as well. My Wife Terry is a Nurse and is going to start working on a children’s book. I think she is going to let me illustrate it.
AA: What are you doing when you’re not creating?
MW: I spend time with my Wife, Children and Grandchild, I play golf, tennis and fish on our boat in Florida. We have a house there on a golf course and the boat is about five miles away. I Have a Studio is at my house in Florida and live there as well.
We would like the thank Mark for taking the time to do the interview. He has been on AutomotiveArtists.com since 2009.
Find out more about Mark and his artwork at his website http://www.markwattsstudios.com