Inside AFP

An Illustrator's Gallery: Artist Mark Schuler

Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jan 15;67(2):234.

This issue's cover illustration by Mark E. Schuler gives us a glimpse into the life of an adolescent girl with anorexia (see article on page 297). Moments after her shower, the girl clutches her towel with nervous hands as she weighs herself. What do the numbers on the bathroom scale tell her? Has her family been encouraging her to gain weight, while she's secretly terrified that the scale will climb? Artist Mark Schuler draws our attention to the major conflicts affecting this young girl. The clutter of cosmetics and beauty aids on the bathroom counter, while a typical part of a teenage girl's armamentarium, emphasizes the complex interplay of emotion and body image in this patient.

Mr. Schuler, of Prairie Village, Kan., has illustrated many of AFP's covers and has become a favorite choice when an illustration calls for a focus on psychologic or emotional issues. You may remember his illustrations of a man with chronic alcoholism, a boy with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a man with tension headache, and a pregnant woman preparing for air travel (see the photo gallery above). You see right away the emotional tension in these patients and the strong feelings that Mr. Schuler creates through the use of color, light, and composition.

Mr. Schuler, being a local Kansas City artist, has a long affiliation with the American Academy of Family Physicians. He first came to know AFP's art coordinator more than 25 years ago, and he's been contributing covers ever since. In addition to his work for AFP, he has illustrated many covers for the AAFP Home-Study Self-Assessment monograph series.

With nearly 30 years of experience as a freelance illustrator, Mr. Schuler has an impressive list of clients and accolades. He has illustrated for the National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Postal Service, Boy Scouts of America, Hallmark Cards, McGraw Hill Publishing, Scholastic Press, Guideposts Magazine, Bantam Books, and many others. He has won national awards for illustration and has worked on international projects, such as first day covers for European stamps through Euro Space. He also was commissioned to do 25 commemorative paintings celebrating space exploration on the 20th anniversary of the lunar landing. Paintings were unveiled at the World Stamp Expo and used as postal stamps for the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Mr. Schuler originally began his studies in aerospace engineering but quickly learned that his interest and talents were in illustration, and he pursued a degree in advertising and editorial art at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. After receiving his BFA degree, he began work as an art director and at one time worked for Scholastic Magazines in New York, N.Y. He knew his true preference was a freelance career in illustration and soon returned to Kansas City. His work as an illustrator has been successful since then, and he is a member of the New York Society of Illustrators. In addition, he maintains a full-time teaching position at the Kansas City (Mo.) Art Institute.

Mr. Schuler's primary goal as an illustrator is to make people feel happy and like what he does. He starts his day at 4:00 a.m. and often sits in the dark as he gets into his mind set, working out his painting day. As part of his creative approach, he likes to think about people and admire them, trying to find joy in relationships between people. He finds that he constantly observes people, looking at shadows in their faces, their facial structures, and their smiles. When drawing figures, he relies on multiple photos of models, always choosing people he knows and who are comfortable working with him. His greatest concerns are composition, design, rhythm and harmony, as well as color theory and the emotions evoked by color selections.

Mr. Schuler is a bit old-fashioned, he says, in that he prefers fine art to computer art, and works with dyes, acrylics, colored pencils, and oils in a garage studio. Nothing leaves his drawing board until it is his best work, regardless of the pay or the deadline. Maybe it is an old-fashioned way of doing business, but we admire his sense of craftsmanship and hope the paints and oils and other clutter remain permanent fixtures in his garage.


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