I’m surrounded by figure drawings, paintings, and vintage cameras. “Some of the paintings are still wet,” Mark says to me as I stand too close to one.
”Ohh, sorry!” I say back to him.
can't help it, I love looking at the brush strokes and color choices used. I’m visiting Mark Kirland and his wife Letty’s beautiful home, being spoiled with amazing artwork in books filled with daily sketches, doodles, paintings, and studies. “These are my workouts.” Mark says, holding a pile of sketchbooks filled with daily doodles, sketches of co-workers at the Simpsons, and some of Letty. All this artwork in books, in frames and in literature is all building up to a great body of knowledge and skill in rendering forms on a flat plain with appealing lines. Although he has multiple awards, has directed 85 episodes of the Simpsons, and two live action films, he is still working every single day to grow as an artist. I think this is what makes him such a great teacher.
Mark Kirkland is a multi-Emmy award winning director with the Simpsons, where he started in 1990 and has gone on to direct 85 episodes. He studied drawing, animation, and filmmaking and received a BFA at CalArts under the tutelage Jules Enlge, Kendall O'Connor, Mo Gollub, and Ollie Johnston. He and Richard Jefferies would go on to win the student Academy Award for their animated film made to David Bowie's “Fame”.
How did you get into Animation?
I was Interested in illustration, fantasy illustration, comedy films, and photography. At 17, I heard about CalArts and their animation department and the old-time Disney guys teaching there and thought “that sounds good to me!” I applied and Jules Ingle looked at my work and said, “Yeah you can come here.”
It was the only school I applied to and I got in, it was so lucky for me.
I got to meet and befriend many teachers like Moris “Mo” Gollub who worked on classics Like Bambi. Mo recommended me for a position at Hanna-Barbera; I was 20 years old. I went back to school after that, and in my final year I served as Jules Ingles Teacher’s Assistant.
While I was preparing to graduate I really thought I would pursue some sort of creative advertising firm, working on creative animation. Then, I got a phone call from Hanna-Barbera and one of the producers said, “if you come back and join us, we’ll make you a full journeyman layout artist.”
I said, “you know, I'm just getting out of school, I'm going to need an apartment, that sounds pretty good to me.” I accepted that job and I was right in the thick of the hardcore Saturday morning (animation) business.
He encouraged me and got me into collecting antique hand crank cameras and I started making movies. These were core interests of mine, I didn't want to come home and work on animation, I came home and worked on live action, it's still filmmaking and storytelling. It was a breath of fresh air to work with actors, cinematographers, and be able to tell my stories.
I did a few of my own films and My wife Letty encouraged me and helped me produce them. We were in about 40 film festivals and won 10 different awards. I'm now working on a documentary of my father, Douglas Kirkland. I have collected a lot of material and am in editing. It is going to be about my life with my dad, and his love of photography and how it inspired me.