Longmont illustrator Mark Ludy didn’t set out to be “the phone book artist.”
“Well, phone books, that was one of those things that came to me,” Ludy said. “I wasn’t looking to do phone books.”
But five years and more than a dozen covers later, Ludy’s artwork has been featured on the covers of the Front Door Direct phone books for Colorado cities including Greeley, Windsor, Loveland and Fort Collins.
“Their approach of using unique artwork for the covers I thought was brilliant,” he said. “Rather than just stock photography or just the same-old same-old, they made something - a coffee-table kind of thing to have.”
His covers have included cherubic Cupids for Loveland and stalwart rams for Fort Collins’ Colorado State University mascot. The 2017 Greeley phonebook still gives Ludy a laugh.
“I love this one,” he said, staring at the Western themed cover with a bear posing as a sheriff, standing against a fence post. Instead of pistols, two slingshots sit in his gun holsters.
Ludy’s covers have become something of a collectable. He’s met fans who tell him that they’ve actually kept all of them. He also sells prints of the covers alongside his other illustrations both at art shows and online.
When asked if it feels strange for him to have his art on something that eventually ends up in the recycle bin, he takes it in stride.
“It is disposable, but it was the kind of thing where it had enough appeal to me that it sounded fun,” Ludy said. “And it was always a little challenge to be able to cook something up.”
Ludy got his start on another “disposable” medium.
“When I was younger, I remember going out to eat with my family,” he said. “My dad would take out his pen and he’d pull the napkin and say ‘Mark, let’s draw something.’”
Father and son would pass the napkin back and forth. His dad would start by drawing some eyes and then Ludy would add a nose. This would go on until they’d created a crazy character.
“He always made drawing fun,” Ludy said.
These days, Ludy draws on a computer tablet instead of a napkin, but he still likes to get out of the studio for inspiration. For this interview, he suggested meeting at Ziggi’s Coffee House in downtown Longmont.
“I always like to picture the coffee as like a campfire, something that you can gather around,” he said. “I’ve always loved it, so this is where I’ve always […] done most of my work.”
As for this job, it’s now done. After more than a dozen covers, Ludy said he’s likely done with illustrating phone books. It’s just time.
“It was a challenge, and I enjoyed it and I’m proud of what was put out there,” he said. “It was fun.”