Casual interest bloomed a passionate profession for local artist Mark Weber
By JUDY ROYAL
Some people are lucky enough to find their passion early and stick with it for life. Mark Weber is among those fortunate ones. The Wilmington artist began doodling right around the time he became a teenager and received praise from family members for his talent. But by high school, a casual interest had blossomed into a full-fledged career path, thanks to a mentor with a strong background in commercial and fine arts.
“I was lucky enough to be turned on to all these different mediums, from silk screening to just painting and drawing in general,” Weber said
Next for the Erie, PA native, was an associate’s degree in illustration design from the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, and in the early 1980s he went to work on a freelance basis.
“I was always drawn to illustration,” Weber said. “When I was growing up, I loved comic books. Over the years I’ve been leaning more and more toward fine art, too.”
Weekly drawings for the editorial section of the Erie-Times News became a regular and long-running gig for Weber, who during the early years of his career also did some work for ad agencies. By the mid-1990s, he was ready to devote all of his time to being an artist for hire. Marketing himself mainly through postcards, Weber soon caught the attention of big clients such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and The Atlantic, all of whom came calling for his illustrations.
Weber’s artwork was still going strong in the early 2000s when he got married and moved to New Jersey, but in 2010 he and his wife decided to move to Wilmington after she found a new job here. While they loved living in Southeastern North Carolina, Weber found his work getting a little stagnant until late 2014, when he discovered Acme Art Studios at 711 N. Fifth Ave.
“I just fell in love with their whole layout and the people,” he said. “I took a studio space and have been renting there ever since. It opened up doors. Acme really did a lot for me, and through Acme I was introduced to No Boundaries, the annual artists colony that takes place on Bald Head Island. It pushed me in another direction, exploring more of the fine arts side, and gave me a chance to see how other artists approached working.”
“Interacting with other artists through opportunities, such as Acme and No Boundaries, is a part of being successful in the industry,” Weber said.
“I knew Wilmington had a good art scene, but I wasn’t meeting people,” he said. “Being an artist can be a very secluded lifestyle when you work at home. You really don’t get out and mix it up with other artists that much.”
After wrapping things up with a major and time-consuming project involving 75 children’s books, Weber is now focusing about half of his time on illustration, including work for local publications and occasional custom comics, and the other half on fine art. He creates in a variety of styles, including ink, watercolor, pencil, acrylics and oils. You can see his work at New Elements Gallery in downtown Wilmington. Weber also posts a daily evening sketch to his Instagram account, @markweberart.
“That’s fun and has led to a lot of people being interested in my work,” he said.
Weber has settled nicely into what he considers a “strong” art scene in the Port City and is taking advantage of opportunities to express as much creativity as possible.
“I really enjoy just painting and doing something that’s not dictated,” he said. “I still get the excitement. It hasn’t gone away. I still get excited about new paper and brushes and ink. It’s just such a part of me. If I don’t paint and I don’t draw, I turn into a bear. I just get cranky.”
In addition to creating, Weber also shares his artistic knowledge with others through classes at the Leland Cultural Arts Center and Cameron Art Museum. His advice to new art students falls in line with the practice-makes-perfect approach.
“I would definitely say submerge yourself in it as much as you can,” Weber said. “Draw every day. Create every day. You’re only going to get better. It’s just going to help you.”
“Meet other artists,” he added. “Get out there. Take chances. Just because you feel comfortable working in pastel doesn’t mean you should forget about watercolor or acrylics or oils. Take chances, definitely.”