Mark Allen’s humorous and cynical cartoon series titled “Proper Mental Attitude”, came out of a need to create something positive while his older son succumbed to cancer. During their grieving process, he and his wife Donna found insight in the realization, “We can live until we die or we can die until we die.” His works of art remind us that “nobody gets out of this life untouched” and “despite the depths of grief or despair we might just find the strength to laugh, love and live.” I’m honored to share his story about how his “Proper Mental Attitude” cartoons came to fruition. Mark graduated from the High School of Music and Art, New York, NY and received a BA in Fine Arts from Hobart College, NY. He was a member of the Art Students’ League and has exhibited in galleries nationally. His paintings are part of many private collections throughout the U.S. ~ Renée Phillips
Mark Allen’s Story
Upon being informed our 8 year old son Jared had ALL, the most common form of childhood Leukemia, we were thrust into a maze of doctors, hospitals, protocols and procedures. As long days at the oncologist’s office turned into long nights and weeks in hospitals I realized Jared and I needed to stay focused and bonded.
A gifted artist in his own right, Jared began drawing cartoons which were humorous with plays on words. It was his wisdom and perseverance that inspired me to use my own abilities and insights creatively. When he died just 13 months later I knew I needed to honor him by staying true to my vision while working through my grief, hence the birth of “Proper Mental Attitude”.
At first it seemed like a betrayal to draw without Jared but, my younger son Perry, a gifted artist as well, needed to find his voice and process his own grief and with that we took refuge in our art together and individually.
It was no easy journey but I found comfort and focus in the linear boundaries of my drawings intentionally done without color but; hopefully, just enough humor to remind me to keep living, be present for my wife Donna and Perry and to look for the silver lining in dark clouds even when that silver lining seems too challenging to uncover.
The cartoons featured on here, represent the progress of my journey. After Jared died I shut down and withdrew creating a safe island for myself where I could process my loss and attempt to heal without the interference or distraction, albeit well meaning, of others. No more doctors, no friends, no family except for Donna and Perry; and of course, always my sketch book and pens.
Through grief counseling and support groups I was slowly able to work my way back. I began to realize that Donna was carrying much of the burden of moving forward and re-engaging making sure I did the simplest of chores, ate well and sketched.
As the years progressed I began working more with paints adding color as I started to incorporate my loss into the new normal that was my life now. I reconstructed the despair I felt into vibrant images filled with life and hope.
Life itself doesn’t have to be black and white. Vibrant moments can be experienced if you allow yourself to venture into that world.
I’ve come to accept that life can be messy but my cartoons, my art, provided me with the opportunity and strength to process my grief, shift my focus, keep my sense of humor regardless of how cynical I might be and live in the moment.
Visit Mark Allen’s website www.ProperMentalAttitude.com
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