Sharpen your pencils!
October 26, 2008 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Mark Kistler has spent over two decades inspiring kids to pick up their pencils and draw. If you're a child of the 80s, you'll remember him as Commander Mark, host of The Secret City Adventures on PBS—some episodes of which are conveniently archived on YouTube for your nostalgic viewing pleasure.

The Secret City left the airwaves in the early 90s, but Kistler has certainly kept himself busy. He's created a series of classroom instructional videos, another PBS series, and a whole slew of instructional books and DVDs. He leads summer art camps, presents over a hundred school assemblies a year, and offers scores of online instructional videos (which he also posts to the 'Tube).

(Incidentally, I once emailed him to tell him how much I loved The Secret City as a kid. He wrote me back, and he seems like a genuinely gracious guy.)
posted by greenie2600 (15 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
What a great guy. Every once in a while I draw the little sketch of his brother lying in a 3D tube with his feet sticking out.

On Imagination Station he always had nice things to say about the crappy drawings kids sent to his show.
posted by erpava at 8:03 PM on October 26, 2008

See also.
posted by troy at 8:31 PM on October 26, 2008

Dude, I loved me some unibears. Also this was produced for Maryland Public Television, my home state!

Does anyone remember there were 6 things you had to draw to become a member of the secret city? I think one was the box/tower thing, one was a pig, but I can't remember the rest.
posted by sarahnade at 8:41 PM on October 26, 2008

I'm originally from Maryland, too. I had a shitty black-and-white TV that got three stations: NBC, MPT, and some weird UHF station that played low-budget soap operas, infomercials, and nutty religious programming.

I suspect that my early exposure to MPT is partly responsible for my current NPR addiction.
posted by greenie2600 at 8:50 PM on October 26, 2008

I love Mark Kistler! I remember the joy I felt when I discovered Mark Kister's Imagination Station on PBS one summer when I was young. He always seemed like he was having a genuinely great time drawing rockets and twinkies.
posted by Nedroid at 9:04 PM on October 26, 2008

Thank you! I remember trying to draw parts of the secret city mural as a kid. I vividly remember the trees with the stream and the floating island with stalactites. I completely didn't remember all the creatures like the little fuzzy things or the dragon. This was great! Thought I'd never see it again.
posted by jewzilla at 9:28 PM on October 26, 2008

Commander Mark taught me all I know about drawing. Granted, it's not a lot, but I can draw rings of smoke around jet trails.
posted by drezdn at 9:43 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

God, I loved Mark Kistler.

I can draw rings of smoke around jet trails.

LOL! Hell, yes! I still draw this myself!
posted by brundlefly at 10:11 PM on October 26, 2008

For those of you who didn't see this show (and I only caught it a couple of times):

Every day on the show, they'd go to the huge section of wall that had the Secret City Mural on it and add another bit to it. It was just an amazing amalgam of miscellaneous awesomeness that they filled in over the course of the season, with monsters, tunnels, spaceships, robots, waterfalls and more.

Like Ghostwriter which came up last week, it's one of those kinds of shows that seems to have vanished from the airwaves. What on earth awesome thing could kids TV have now to replace ol' Commander Mark?
posted by JHarris at 2:47 AM on October 27, 2008

...they'd go to the huge section of wall that had the Secret City Mural on it and add another bit to it...

I saw this section of the show a single time when I was in around 6th grade. I've remembered it ever since. It taught me to draw UFOs and caves-on-cliffs.
posted by DU at 4:28 AM on October 27, 2008

I still have drawing pads filled with sketches I made while watching this show. I swear, after years of art classes, this show was the only thing that actually helped my drawing ability.
posted by threeturtles at 5:40 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

There's a great account on Penny Aracde of how Gabe met Commander Mark, was served up a harsh dose of reality but also the skills that helped maked Penny Arcade what it is.
posted by furtive at 6:42 AM on October 27, 2008

Ayup I spent years drawing UFOs and aliens due to this guy. I had ten feet of Christmas wrapping paper taped blank-side-out on the wall of my bedroom so I could have my own mural. I even joined the fan club and got the book and colored markers.
posted by rlk at 7:02 AM on October 27, 2008

I even joined the fan club and got the book and colored markers.

Yeah I did too but I never got the stuff!

Now I'm grown up and I can get as many free coloring books as I want, and guess who won't be getting any from me? Yeah that's right, Mark Kistler, that's who.

I seem to remember my little sister's Picture Pages workbook arriving safe and sound, though. But it did NOT come with a Mortimer Ichabod marker. So, no free coloring book for you either, Bill Cosby. Sorry.
posted by lampoil at 12:16 PM on October 27, 2008

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