On the Mark
Image provided by Mark Parisi
By Joyce Bowen CONTRIBUTING WRITER
A soft-spoken family man, 36-year-old Mark Parisi is low key about his successes. The walls of his studio sport framed cartoons autographed by their famous creators including Charles Schulz of “Peanuts” fame. Dick Clark, “the world’s oldest teenager,” smiles down on Parisi from an autographed photo that Clark sent to him after collecting one of Parisi’s cartoons featuring Clark.
Parisi, a Salem State College alumnus, harbors the drive, talent, and humor necessary to be a successful cartoonist. His “Off the Mark” cartoons can be found in over 100 newspapers; including the Boston Herald and The Log and have enjoyed success as a greeting card and T-shirt line.
Parisi said his fondest memories of SSC were those spent working at WMWM, SSC’s radio station. His most difficult days were days of indecision, wrestling with the direction that he wanted his life to take. Parisi changed his major several times (including an unfortunate exploration as a Biology Major) before finding his passion as an Art Major with a concentration in Graphic Art.
“I was trying to avoid thinking that there was no future in it,” he said. He remembers the art curriculum at SSC was “just starting to expand at that point and Salem State had very few computers available.”
Parisi fulfilled his love of art as a child by copying the comic strips out of newspapers. It was a natural progression for him to move on to creating his own. He said that he has been drawing “ever since (he) can remember.”
Parisi teaches cartoon art at The Cambridge Center of Adult Learning. “It is not really a how-to class,” he said, “It’s for someone who already doodles somewhat and just needs a little guidance as far as tightening their style—or how to get published.”
“There are successful people out there that are not as artistically talented, but work a lot harder in the marketing area,” he said. Parisi credits his wife Lynn with his marketing success. “My wife does much of the marketing. There are a lot of talented people out there who just don’t get published because they don’t have the energy or desire to really push,” he said.
Parisi said he is getting to the point where he can attain a comfortable living with his art. He signed a deal earlier this year with Recycled Paper Greetings, the fourth largest greeting card company in the country.
Parisi’s favorite cartoon and best-selling T-shirt was his first: published in 1987 for a Building 19 sales circular, it depicts three nails; of which one has met an early demise by a hammer.
Parisi said if he could send a message to SSC students it would be, “Go in the direction that feels the most natural. Put your best energy towards that instead of trying to force yourself into something that others think is right,” he said, “Do what’s best for you.”
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