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.