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Mudville: June 16, 2024 2:43 am PDT

We Want the Funk

BY KEVIN CZERWINSKI

Mark Mosley’s inspiration can come from almost anywhere. He may see a name and it will prompt him to draw or he’ll get a suggestion and produce something creative and interesting.

So, while some of Mosley’s art – he’s one of the funkier card artists in what is one of the collecting world’s hottest genres – may seem like the result of his watching too much Justice League or Fat Albert reruns from the 70s, there’s something undeniably attractive about his work. Mosely’s ability to bring some fun and funk to the hobby – you almost have to have George Clinton playing in the background while enjoying his creations – has been garnering significant attention for the better part of six years.

“It’s interesting,” Mosley, 46, said. “If I name a player, it’s probably going to be because of a card from my childhood. I have all these images living in my brain. I am an Eighties kid but the first cards I did were of players from the Seventies. The players had Afros and the big glasses in the Seventies and you can exaggerate those things [when drawing].

“Then I started experimenting with cards from my youth in the 80s, sometimes changing the look of the card. Once I started doing it and sharing it [on social media] I got more inspiration from people sharing things with me.”

That inspiration can come from a name. Mosley’s card depicting former Oakland and Boston star Tony Armas is a perfect example. His take on the 1978 Armas Topps card is essentially a depiction of that card but the name on the card reads Toe Knee Arm Ass because he’s “the only player with four body parts in his name”.

Then there is one of his more recent creations – the reimagining of the MLB logo. Mosley’s version of the MLB logo features former White Sox slugger Dick Allen as pictured in his iconic Sports Illustrated cover from June 12, 1972, in which he is juggling three baseballs in the dugout with a cigarette hanging from his lips.

“Dick Allen was inspired by the [Donruss] Diamond Kings cards,” Mosley said. “You look at the SI cover of him smoking and juggling and someone commented that should be the MLB logo so I turned it into the MLB logo. It’s been fun to see people react to that. And the Armas gets a lot of love. I’m sure he [Armas] has heard that joke before.”

There is little to joke about, though, when it comes to Mosley’s cards. He’s a middle school math teacher in North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Nancy, and their two children. He made nearly 500 cards the traditional way, by drawing them, before moving on to creating digitally. Mosley estimates he has made another 500 or so cards that way.

He’s been a huge baseball fan for most of his life and says he watches as many games as often as he can, adding that drawing cards has given him another way to be involved with the game.

“It gives me another way to enjoy baseball,” said Mosley, who added that he is working on a side project this summer of reimagining Bob Dylan album covers. “I posted a card on Twitter in late 2017 or early 2018 and a few people liked it so it’s been a journey. I’ve always been a doodler and drawing came later. Another way of liking baseball comes from playing baseball board games and I created one. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to create cards for all of them.

“I drew them and then I saw some other artists on Twitter like Gummy Arts and thought I could do that. Not to the level he does but for fun. I started drawing full cards with colored pencils and did that for three or four years before I discovered the iPad and the wonder of digital art. All of a sudden you could make mistakes and it wasn’t a big deal.”

Mosley said it can take as little as 30 minutes to create a card though he probably spends an average of 90 minutes making one. He gets the occasional request for a commission, but that type of work isn’t his primary focus. Mosley likes to spend an hour or so a day drawing and that’s a bit easier over the summer because he isn’t in school.

While Mosley sells his cards he doesn’t make a big push commercially. He has a “little online store” where people can purchase cards or his latest creations can be found on his X [Twitter] account [@mosley_mark].

“The first time I printed cards for real and sold them, there was a huge response,” said Mosley, who prices range from $3 for one card to $11 for a set. “I had an artist buddy who said print 100 of them and see how they do. That was a 10-card set and I printed 100 sets and put 90 up for sale and sold almost every one that was put up for sale. I thought, wow. The next time I printed 80 sets and put up a few singles and sold out most of them.

“My goal was never to be a business. I just think it’s cool to see someone’s collection and see my cards in there. I get a kick out of the fact that people like what I do, It’s cool to see my cards [out] there.”

Because Mosley appeals to such a wide range of fans, his work can be found in countless collections, whether you’re looking for Kent Tekulve as the Beatles-themed Yellow Submariner, Willie Mays’ final Topps card in 1973, a Mookie Betts Rated Rookie or a card celebrating Aaron Judge’s 62-homer season.

The creation is fun but the interactions Mosley has with fellow collectors, particularly those that seek out his work, is also important.

“I enjoy interacting with people on Twitter,” he said. “There are definitely some bad corners on Twitter but I think I have carved out a positive space. There was one card, at some point after I posted it, I took it down because it wasn’t positive and that’s not what I am about. I am a Mets fan and when Jacob deGrom signed with Texas, I thought it was only a matter of time before he got hurt again. So, I printed up a couple of copies of a card where his arm had popped off. I thought it was mildly amusing but then I thought what if deGrom or his family saw it, so, I took it down.”

Kindness, it would seem is also one of Mosley’s prompts.

Covered a Mets-Astros doubleheader in 1987 and never looked back. Spent eight years at MLB.com, more than half of that as the Mets beat writer. Had one beat writer from another newspaper threaten to kill him in an elevator at the winter meetings. The other half was as MiLB.com’s staff historian. Worked three years in Philly at Comcast covering the Phillies’ minor leagues and doing weekly TV spots. Author of the popular blog The Bobblist, which covers everything A to Z in the world of bobbleheads. Really.

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