Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology

I can’t get these artist athletes stories posted fast enough. This artist athlete is super busy with her own graphic design biz (me in case you’re already confused).

On the running campus, especially the ultra running campus, we meet people along the way and become facebook friends. Show up for the same races, don’t recognize one another, then post race we see on facebook that we were at the same race. I feel like I know Marcus but I really don’t. When he posted his pointillism work of an owl, my eye balls be buggin’. I love pointillism. It’s my weird thing. I like any kind of art that takes lots of tiny repetitive actions to make. My OCD finds this process very calming. So I hit him up with some Qs. Now I know Marcus England better – like him, I don’t take ultra running races serious and I am currently struggling with my weight. Oh, and we are both from the east coast.


When did you begin making art? What kind of art?

I started drawing, with an emphasis on wildlife, at a very young age. Grade school, perhaps. I recall spending a lot of time at my grandparents’ house in Findlay, Ohio. My grandfather was an executive at Marathon Oil Corporation, and he would bring home large volumes of paper that were printed on one side. I would draw on the other side, using photos from various wildlife references that my grandfather had picked up over the years in family vacations west of the Rockies. I sold my first commission, a White-tailed Deer buck, at the age of 12. There was a period where I thought I would be a wildlife artist. I ended up focusing on biology. I was invited to wildlife art shows in the Ohio outdoor community, sold art at auctions, etc. I was never super productive in terms of number of pieces produced. I dropped art altogether when I went into consulting. I’ve picked it back up again now that I’m trying to forge a new chapter in my career as an independent biologist and wildlife illustrator – my biological work coming in spring and summer (with very little time to draw), and drawing coming during the slow season for biology.

When did you start fitness? What kind of fitness?

The light was such that I could see my reflection clearly in the side of the vehicle. I saw a portly man. The portly man was me.

I’ve struggled with my weight as far back as I can remember. I started lifting weights seriously in high school between my sophomore and junior years, as that’s what teenage boys did back then in Columbus, Ohio. I carried that through college at Ohio State, however, I still managed to pack on the so-called “freshman 15”. I changed my diet (becoming predominantly vegetarian for awhile) and took up running on a daily basis, averaging about 6 miles per day at the peak. I did not run races, however. It was something I did solely to help keep my weight down. Eventually, the running stopped. In 2003, I moved to southern California and entered the biological consulting field. I also met Emily (who is now my wife), and started getting fed well. The combination of excellent Persian food and increasing office time as I moved up in my field resulted in my weight ballooning to 235 pounds. It was a gradual process, and the amount of my weight gain was largely unnoticed by me until I was in the field one day (2009 or so?) and returned to my vehicle. The light was such that I could see my reflection clearly in the side of the vehicle. I saw a portly man. The portly man was me. I realized I needed a change. I had always thought that running was the best way to manage your weight when time was at a premium. I took up running, and entered the Seal Beach 10K to keep me motivated. At the time, 10K seemed like an impossible distance to run. I eventually graduated to the XTerra trail race series, ran the Los Angeles Marathon, and learned about trail ultras. I signed up for the 2011 Bulldog 50K because it was on my birthday. I finished that (barely, as it was 110 degrees that day), and wanted more. I haven’t had a lot of success as a long distance trail runner if success is measured in race completions. That said, I have finished some very difficult 50 mile courses as well as the Zion 100. I really enjoy the sport and the community. I don’t take “racing” very seriously, however, so I often wonder about my future in this sport.

Any thoughts about the two coexisting in your life? Artist & Athlete.

As an extension of my statement above about not taking “racing” seriously, for me trail running is just another avenue for exploring the outdoors. It doesn’t help my training that I often spend a lot of time “farting around”, taking photographs of stuff, checking out wildlife, documenting birdlife, etc. Wildlife illustration is also an avenue for exploration of the same thing.

My love of wildlife and wild places is really driving force in everything I do and nearly every decision I make so, in that way, the artist and athlete sides of me are inexorably linked.

Your studies? Your current & past careers?

I graduated with a BS in Zoology (now called Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology) from Ohio State in 1998. I was the chief ornithologist at the Lamanai Field Research Center in northern Belize from 1998-2000. I worked at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Molecular Ecology Lab in 2001. From 2001 to 2003 I worked as the manager of Wild Birds Unlimited in Columbus, Ohio. In 2003, I was invited into a Masters degree program, ostensibly to study manakin lek mating systems in either Belize or Costa Rica. A colleague from Belize who worked as a consultant in California invited me to come out for the summer to make money before school. I never left.


Marcus England’s art can be purchased here:

Read about Marcus England’s “days at the office” in the great outdoors here:



One Comment Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Marcus C. England and commented:
    A friend and fellow ultrarunner covered me in her series on artists who are also athletes.

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