VERTEBRAE33’S RODNEY GITHENS INTERVIEWS METAL ARTIST MARK RIDDICK FOR METALSUCKS
One of the most prolific artists in the metal scene is Mark Riddick. He has created a tremendous amount of art for such bands as Beneath the Massacre, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gravehill, Internal Bleeding, and hundreds of others. He could quite possibly be the Norman Rockwell of zombie art. His lavish black and white illustrations take the viewer to a twisted land of corpses, demons and intestines. But what his work does not tell you is that he is a really nice guy, who is very supportive of other artists and a devoted family man. This interview was conducted via email, and I am astounded that he got back to me so fast, especially after hearing the rundown of an average day for Riddick.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can click on any of the below images to enlarge.
My first published freelance piece, aside from doing filler art for underground fanzines in the early 90s, was for the Kentucky-based grindcore band, SON OF DOG. I illustrated a 7″ record cover and t-shirt for them in 1992. Although I was probably paid next-to-nothing for the project, it was well worth the experience of having my art published on a record cover for the first time.
Have you always worked in your current style? And if not, how did you work before?
Yes, I’ve always worked in black and white, and I do believe that although my technique has evolved over time, my style has been fairly consistent.
Who are your artistic influences?
My greatest influence is derived from the old cut-and-paste underground death/black metal fanzines I collected from the early 90s. The black and white, do-it-yourself, photocopied ‘zines packed with gruesome filler artwork still resonates in my style and approach to this day. One of the first underground metal illustrators I happened upon was Chris Moyen, whose style is heavily associated with the black metal scene-his artwork immediately appealed to my senses. Other illustrators like Vince Locke, Drew Elliott, Stevo (IMPETIGO), Steven Somers (PHANTASM), Lori Bravo (NUCLEAR DEATH), and Kristian Wahlin (GROTESQUE) also influenced me early on. Since then a plethora of talented illustrators, whom I also appreciate, have paved their own paths into the scene like Daniel Desecrator, Mike Majewski, Matt ‘Putrid’ Carr, Tom Denney, Tony Koehl, Aaron Crawford, etc.
My wife and I purchased a new home this past year and I decided to dedicate a space strictly to my freelance art endeavors. I wanted to be surrounded by the work of other artists who have influenced me, so I began purchasing original black and white illustrations and limited edition prints to embellish the wall space. My private collection boasts original pieces by Jeff Zornow, Matt ‘Putrid’ Carr, Niklas Sundin (DARK TRANQUILITY), Justin Bartlett, Toshihiro Egawa, Dennis Dread, Tom Denney, Aaron Crawford, Vince Locke, Daniel Desecrator, and more! My studio space is also home to my vinyl record collection and features a record player and cassette player so I can listen to my records and old demo tapes while I work.
Take us through a typical for day at the Riddickart HQ?
I regular day for me goes something like this: I wake up at 4:40am, prepare some things for my son’s day, get dinner started in the slow cooker, leave for work at 5:30am (day job as a multimedia graphic artist), get home at 5:00pm, prepare dinner, do dishes, do laundry, play with my son, get my son ready for bed, and by 8:00pm I’m hanging out with my wife; so realistically I only spend anywhere from half an hour to two hours per day working on my freelance artwork.
My creative process begins with a very rough pencil sketch on 65lb matte cover stock paper. I will sometimes sketch the piece in its entirety or I will sketch it in fragments to be pasted together in Adobe Photoshop. Much of this depends on the nature of the illustration. After the pencil sketch is complete and approved by my client, I begin inking with a standard or fine point bic stic ballpoint pen. Upon completion of the inking I scan the illustration into Adobe Photoshop where I mask and invert the background from white to black and complete any other edits I feel are necessary to give the piece a ‘finished’ look.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
Some of both. While most of the creative aspects of my work are drawn from my imagination I do refer to anatomy books and my favorite illustrators for guidance and inspiration.
Do the bands give you any direction?
Yes, at times bands come to me with specific requests. Other times I am given lyrics to work from or I’m left to create something from my own imagination. I’m fine with any of these options but I’m most comfortable drawing from my imagination.
‘Riddick Brothers’ is a collaborative effort by myself and my twin brother, Mike. ‘Riddick Brothers,’ or riddickbros.com, is more of a graphic design endeavor we both pursue. I will admit that I’ve steered away from doing freelance graphic design as I don’t find it as rewarding as my illustrative pursuits, but I do continue to do the graphic design and layout for my own bands. My brother has cut back his attention to freelance graphic design as well because he’s very busy with his heavy metal record label, metalhit.com, and running metalmaniacs.com.
What is The Fossil Dungeon all about?
The Fossil Dungeon was a CD/vinyl label that my twin brother erected about 10 years ago. It has since been converted to a digital download-only label and focuses mainly on ethereal, darkwave, and medieval music.
Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
Yes, be original, be consistent, network, and pay attention to customer service. Originality is key for an artist as it can set you apart from all of the ‘copy-cats’ out there. Originality is something that comes with experience and practice so I encourage both. Using the Internet and other tools to network with bands (domestic and international) can help get ‘your foot in the door’ and lead to interesting projects or requests. Lastly, being responsive to your clients’ or potential clients’ needs is key. Being lazy won’t get you anywhere; success requires action, accountability, and responsibility.
I’m currently working on a new logo and T-Shirt illustration for Ancient Spirit Magazine. Ancient Spirit used to be a German underground print ‘zine but has since converted to an online-only publication. It’s managed by the label owners of Cyclone Empire Records. I’m also working on some illustrations for the Cartoon Network’s Metalocalypse series, the Brazilian black/thrash band SODOMIZER, Japanese doom/death maniacs COFFINS, border artwork for a book called Black Metal Revolution, an oversized illustration for a limited edition print collaboration with Danger Press (Atlanta, GA), and finally some pieces for my own bands FETID ZOMBIE, GRAVE WAX, UNBURIED, and THE SOIL BLEEDS BLACK.
Do you have any dream projects?
I’m always open to possibilities but nothing that I can conjure right now. I’ll wait to see what comes my way.
It’s always an honor when I’m invited to participate in a gallery showing. I’m never able to attend in person because of my responsibilities to my family and job, though I do my best to send giveaways and other things for the curators to hand out to gallery visitors, etc. MF Gallery invited me to participate in one of their Halloween exhibits a few years ago and since then we’ve had an ongoing relationship. The owners, Martina and Frank, are wonderful to work with and they’re also very talented artists themselves.
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
It’s very difficult to mention my favorite bands of all time because there are so many of them. I can list here some bands who have put out albums that I completely adore: WITCHTRAP, VITAL REMAINS, DYING FETUS, METALUCIFER, SEPTIC FLESH, ROTTING CHRIST, ORPHANED LAND, DESULTORY, BESTIAL HOLOCAUST, BESTIAL MOCKERY, DEATH, PESTILENCE, GORGUTS, SUFFOCATION, TIMEGHOUL, PHANTASM, INTERNAL BLEEDING, ASMEGIN, MORTUARY DRAPE, and the list goes on. I’m currently listening to the German maniacs, NOCTURNAL and OLD. I’m also spinning some vinyl from SODOMIZER, HELLKOMMANDER, TRIBULATION, CREMATION, and BLASPHEMOPHAGER. I recently picked up the new NUNSLAUGHTER Black CD EP and it fucking crushes! Just picked up the TEMPLE BELOW cassette which is also a death metal masterpiece from Chile… finally I’m worshiping ARMOUR from Finland (hard rock music featuring members of PEST, SATANIC WARMASTER, etc.)