For April, we are excited to bring you an interview with Mark Hoffmann, Illustrator and Professor. He shares some great insights into living a creative life and finding inspiration in new places. You’ll also get a sneak peek into his studio and find out how he keeps his work flowing.
Can you tells a bit about where you grew up and live now?
I live in southern NH with my wife (Lauren), son (Charlie), a dog and two cats. I need to be near trees, woods, and a yard. I grew up in a variety of places, but most of the time was in Minnesota. I first lived in a house just a short distance from Prince’s Paisley Park studio. But later moved to a town called Plymouth where I spent most of my formative years.
A lot of artist have a place or thing they go to for inspiration, do you?
That’s a tough one. It really depends on the day and what I am feeling. Generally, I don’t look at a lot of art online or in galleries. I find I work better when I try to avoid art influences. As an artist, I feel that I should step outside of my industry to look for inspiration. I am more excited about things I don’t understand, like mechanics, sciences, and history. Since I am in the art industry and know what’s behind the curtain, I am most often in awe of things like how a plumber knows how to solve problems or how electricians understand electrical circuits.
When you can’t muster up new creative ideas, what do you do?
Just keep making. I think I work best when I just make stuff and let the problem solve itself naturally vs. me trying to force a solution. I do have methods that help, like lateral thinking, but for the most part I just grab some paint and a brush, slap some stuff down, and see if it sparks anything. Most of my favorite work comes from spontaneity. My bigger issue is trying to not get too rigid or obsessive in my work. I constantly fight the need to straighten lines or rework things. Part of this is me just trying to let go of the training I received and become much more fluid and easy going in my process.
Did you always know you would pursue a creative life?
I think that I first realized art was an option for me in high school. I had a great art teacher, named Daniel Cragg, that really supported me along the way. He helped me convince the principal to let me take independent art classes beyond what was offered for credit. Most importantly he also helped convince my parents that I could succeed in art and that I should pursue an art degree. I owe him a lot of gratitude.
Is there a feeling or reaction you hope people get from your work?
A giggle, or a smile.
You have been making things for a while, what are some of your career high points?
Like many artists, I’m not always happy with my work. I tend to see the flaws over the successes. This extends into the professional work I have done. My list of clients is great, but I think I take pleasure from things like my style shift that happened after graduate school. I am also really proud to be a Professor at Montserrat College of Art. I never thought I would teach when I was young, but I feel like it is now a part of me that I would never want to give up. Seeing others succeed is just as rewarding, or even more so, than my own success.
Do you have a consistent process or approach when creating and or does it change based on your idea?
Ooof. My old artwork is rough. I used to make work that I thought others would like, which meant I was stuck in a process that I didn’t really enjoy. I got plenty of great advice along the way, much of which I ignored at the time and regret. Some artists need to struggle as they work. I, on the other hand, need to be happy, or make myself giggle inside, to make the process worth it. As far as the proper process, I work primarily in line sketches on an iPad or with paint on scrap illustration board. If I could do every job without sketching, I would, but that is not how the industry works. I think it is the most fun to discover during the final process versus just following what I previously planned out.
You mention you like to find your inspiration outside of the subject of art, so do you have a favorite subject(s) you tend to go to?
For art: animals
For research: science
For life: facts
Do you have any upcoming endeavors — professional or personal you can share?
In June, my first author illustrated picture book (Fruit Bowl) will be out. PRE-ORDER IT! I’m excited about the aspect of writing my own books and this is the first of many to be published. I am currently writing the next book for the publisher that will be released in the near future.
Quotes can be a great source of inspiration, is there one that has stuck with you?
I’m not good at remembering quotes. Therefore, I will give you an author that I think is fabulous with words: Mary Roach. She writes funny non-fiction about all sorts of subjects. And a few musicians/bands I think are fabulous: Superchunk, Ben Kweller, Maritime, Rhett Miller, Jurassic 5, and The Streets
Who are some of your heroes and can you tell us why they stand out to you?
Parents. It’s an amazing, but taxing adventure.
An artist faces many challenges throughout their career, do you have any advice for them?
I should say something like “don’t give up, just keep pushing”, but I think it is better to say: you’re never going to be perfect and learn to let go of your artwork. It isn’t special. When you stop cherishing your work you get to a point where you make without any preconceived notion of what is good or bad.
Where have you shown your work?
In a lot of galleries and publications, but I primarily show at Nahcotta in Portsmouth, NH.
Here’s an easy one, do you have a favorite holiday and is there a reason it’s special to you?
Father’s day. I get to sleep in and get breakfast in bed (generally a Danish or two, my favorite).
So everyone needs to fit in time to play, can you tell us what you like to do for fun?
Play with my son, snuggle with my dog on the couch, watch TV with my wife, and otherwise sleep.
Lastly, we love to find out what an artists’ favorite tool is in the studio. It’s like their secret weapon. Do you have one?
I have a few things I love:
-A draftsman duster (for sweeping away eraser bits)
-The top of an old bulk CD container that I use as water container.
-Porcelain butcher’s tray palette