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Life in the Spotlight

A Portage Life In the Spotlight: Mark Coleman


If you’ve bought a can of 7UP, or attended a concert at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso and seen ads for upcoming events there, you may already be familiar with the work of local artist Mark Coleman.

A native of Calumet City, Illinois, Mark received his BSA in illustration from Northern Illinois University and worked in Chicago, where he created storyboards for marketing campaigns. Some of his work has been used by corporate powerhouses such as SC Johnson, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, and others.

“I would get scripts from art directors,” said Coleman. “They would come to me with ideas and I would flesh them out, turn them into something we could use, then show to the client and try to sell that idea.”

Perhaps his most notable work was the logo for Cherry 7UP.

“When 7UP first came out with Cherry 7UP, I illustrated the cherry on their logo. I was working with a lettering artist at the time, he did the lettering and asked me to do the cherry. It was more of a graphic piece, but it was very cool to go into stores and see my work on the shelves.”

Coleman moved to Indiana in the mid 90’s, at first living in Ogden Dunes before settling in his current home in Beverly Shores.

A career artist, Mark appreciates the freedom of working as a freelance illustrator, but he also enjoys teaching at Valparaiso High School, where he works part time.

“Working freelance requires a certain amount of discipline,” said Coleman. “When times are great, they’re great. When things slow down, it’s nice to have a steady income to rely on.”

Coleman says that his Bachelor’s Degree helped him land the teaching job, where he especially welcomes the experience of meeting new people and seeing just what’s going on in society.

“You get to meet a lot of young people, talk with them, and see what’s going on in their heads,” said Coleman. “When you have a Bachelor’s Degree, you can work as a substitute or part-time teacher, so I started out working with Duneland and Portage school districts. Eventually, I saw an opportunity available for teacher’s aids and got the call.”

“I sort of just fell into it,” said Coleman. “It just really worked out for me. At this point in my life, I’m just sort of going with the flow to see what works best for me.”

Coleman works in the special education area at VHS, and sees a lot of anxiety in his students.

“It’s intense. It requires a lot of attention and sacrifice. I feel like I’m really alive, like I’m a value there, like I’m benefitting from it, and the students are benefitting. Little things like this help to make this community a better place for everyone,” said Coleman.

“The students have all these worries on their minds, and I try to reassure them that things will be ok. They may not believe it, they may not want to hear that, but someone needs to tell them that. They need to hear that, to believe that, or they will grow into neurotic adults. The world is scary enough.”

Mark even uses a form of Buddhist philosophy in his life, as well as in teaching. He believes strongly in living in the moment.

“Buddhism sort of rang true with me,” said Coleman. “Not getting caught up in the whirlwind of emotions and things going on in the world. Focusing on the steadiness, the calm within the moment... within the now. It’s all about being in the moment, regardless of where you’re at.”

When asked how he got his start in the art world, Mark admits to a somewhat surprising encouragement.

“My mother sort of guided me in that direction,” said Mark. “‘It’s what you do best, so you might as well go for that,’ she told me.”

Recently, Coleman worked on a pair of children’s books written by a friend with Friedreich's Ataxia.

“Her name is Kati Hook. She was trying to come up with something that she could write, even with her disability, and this was what she came up with. She wrote the books and, as an illustrator, I helped her make those books come to life. The books are called A Day In Mabel’s Paws and A Weekend In Mabel’s Paws.”

He also has created the artwork for the promotional materials for upcoming 2018 shows at Valparaiso’s Memorial Opera House.

“I think the Sweeney Todd one came out best. I’m looking forward to seeing it used,” said Mark.

In between teaching and freelance assignments, Coleman admits to being short on free time, but likes to run when he gets the chance.

“Running is another way that I find to meditate,” Mark explained. “Getting into the rhythm of the breathing.”

Married since 1984 to his wife, Margaret, they share three children: daughters Sophie, 28, Grace, 27, and son, Louis, 22. They also have a couple of chihuahuas, a cat, a bird, and a turtle.

“We love Pierogi Fest and the Michigan City Art Fair,” said Mark. “We also used to enjoy taking the kids out to the state park when they were younger. They even participated in the junior ranger programs there.”

“The lake and the dunes have always been a big draw for me. We’ve never lived more than a mile or two from the lakeshore. There’s something very important for us about staying here, close to the lake. It just feels good here.”

Be sure to stop by Memorial Opera House and check out Mark’s artwork, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Copyright © 2017 Ideas in Motion Media