Houston Matters

‘Commander Mark’ Still Teaching Kids To Draw

Mark Kistler of Tomball taught kids how to draw in 3D on his public television series The Secret City, and he’s still at it today.

Commander Mark
Mark Kistler as “Commander Mark” from his public television series The Secret City.

Plenty of Houstonians who grew up in the 80s and 90s probably remember turning on their local PBS station and seeing a man in a red jumpsuit wearing a headset. He had pens and markers clipped to his sleeves, and he was standing at an easel drawing.

He was Commander Mark, host of The Secret City, a show that not only taught kids how to draw — but to draw in three dimensions. They learned how to draw cubes and spheres and how to create perspective. He taught lessons on how to add shading and shadows to create texture and how to taper lines and overlap elements to create depth.

Snake Drawing
A print of one of Mark Kistler’s drawings.

Well, in real life, Commander Mark is Mark Kistler, who now resides in Tomball, northwest of Houston. In the years since The Secret City, he’s led countless drawing seminars and summer camps. He even hosted a new drawing show in 2009 called Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station, for which he won an Emmy in 2010.

Mark Kistler With Drawings
Mark Kistler poses with two of his books and numerous drawings in his home studio. Kistler has hosted two public television series teaching kids how to draw, in addition to many drawing camps and workshops.

Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty is an avid drawer and has worked as a graphic designer. He credits Commander Mark with teaching him much of what he knows about three-dimensional drawing. In the audio above, Michael meets up with Kistler to learn how he fell in love with drawing, how that love turned into a television show, and — of course — to do some drawing.

  • Mark Kistler as "Commander Mark" from The Secret City, his public television program that taught kids the art of drawing. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
    Mark Kistler as "Commander Mark" from The Secret City, his public television program that taught kids the art of drawing. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
  • Mark Kistler at work in his public television series The Secret City. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
    Mark Kistler at work in his public television series The Secret City. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
  • Mark Kistler as "Commander Mark" from his public television program The Secret City. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
    Mark Kistler as "Commander Mark" from his public television program The Secret City. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
  • Mark Kistler as "Commander Mark" from The Secret City, his public television program that taught kids the art of drawing. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
    Mark Kistler as "Commander Mark" from The Secret City, his public television program that taught kids the art of drawing. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
  • A closeup of Mark Kistler drawing from his public television series The Secret City. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
    A closeup of Mark Kistler drawing from his public television series The Secret City. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/YouTube)
  • Mark Kistler at home with the Emmy he won in 2010 for his series Mark Kistler's Imagination Station. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Mark Kistler at home with the Emmy he won in 2010 for his series Mark Kistler's Imagination Station. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Mark Kistler poses with two of his books and numerous drawings in his home studio. Kistler has hosted two public television series teaching kids how to draw, in addition to many drawing camps and workshops. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Mark Kistler poses with two of his books and numerous drawings in his home studio. Kistler has hosted two public television series teaching kids how to draw, in addition to many drawing camps and workshops. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Drawings adorn the walls of Mark Kistler's home studio near Tomball. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Drawings adorn the walls of Mark Kistler's home studio near Tomball. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Drawings adorn the walls of Mark Kistler's home studio near Tomball. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Drawings adorn the walls of Mark Kistler's home studio near Tomball. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • A closeup of one of Mark Kistler's sketches. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    A closeup of one of Mark Kistler's sketches. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Mark Kistler's drawing studio in his home near Tomball. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Mark Kistler's drawing studio in his home near Tomball. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Mark Kistler's framed artwork adorns the stairway of his Tomball home. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Mark Kistler's framed artwork adorns the stairway of his Tomball home. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • A scene from Mark Kistler's Imagination Station, which teaches kids how to draw. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/Amazon Prime Video)
    A scene from Mark Kistler's Imagination Station, which teaches kids how to draw. (Photo Credit: Screen Capture/Amazon Prime Video)
  • Fellow artists are often asked to draw on the wall of Mark Kistler's home after a visit. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Fellow artists are often asked to draw on the wall of Mark Kistler's home after a visit. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Mark Kistler at a comic book convention, where he sells prints of his artwork. (Photo Credit: Mark Kistler/Facebook)
    Mark Kistler at a comic book convention, where he sells prints of his artwork. (Photo Credit: Mark Kistler/Facebook)
  • A sketch by Mark Kistler made during his interview for Houston Matters. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    A sketch by Mark Kistler made during his interview for Houston Matters. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)