Behind the Project: The Man Behind Barnes & Noble’s Signature Portraits

In this series, we’ll look deeper into some of the projects on that were especially admired in our community. This time, we spoke with Mark Summers, a prominent scratchboard artist whose impressive client list includes Time, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, and even the US Government’s Federal Reserve Bank. You’ll recognize his portraits from these clients, and of course, from Barnes & Noble branding around the world. Learn more about his craft and his project, “Author, Author:”

What was the inspiration behind this project?
The inspiration for this project stems from the fact that I have been doing these portraits for Barnes & Noble for many years. I’ve noticed that there are sometimes questions in chat rooms asking “Does anyone know who does those portraits for Barnes and Noble?”, so I thought I’d give them an answer. It also coincided with the fact that the Art Director on the project, Peter Farago, had assembled all of the portraits onto a website.  The ones I’ve included on Behance are just some of them.  There are dozens more of these. Peter would just call me up and say “Hey, we need a Walt Whitman portrait this week” and I’d just produce it.

Can you describe your process in creating this project?
I work in scratchboard so, all of these portraits started off as a square of black.  I use an X-acto knife to scratch the white lines into the black, giving it an engraved look.  There have been questions sent to me about if I have used “plug ins” and “filters” etc. and I have no idea what they are talking about.  These are all hand drawn with zero use of computer. The original drawings are surprisingly small.  If you look at the head of the Marcel Proust, that’s about 2 and a half inches high.  The same goes for most of them.

Did anything interesting happen as a result of the success of this project?
I have had some wonderful feedback because of this project.  Other illustrators asking questions and a few requests from art directors around the world looking to use some of the images for book covers.

Do you feel that this project is “done” or is there anything you’d like to improve or change int he future?
I do feel this project is done.  It represents a certain stage in my career and this project is one way of putting a period at the end of it.