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The Lord of the Blackened Pen
CVLT Nation interviews Mark Riddick

CVLT Nation had the chance to interview The Lord of the Blackened Pen…Mark Riddick. Since the early 90’s, he has dedicated his creative spirit to the dark arts. Within his imagination, maggots are butterflies, decaying skulls & rotting human flesh are things with virtues to be extolled. Mark has drawn for too many bands to even mention in this small amount of space. He has also had gallery shows all over the world. One thing that also really impresses me about Mark is that he is totally down to support the younger generation of artists that are coming up. So after the jump, check out this really insightful interview with Mark Riddick.

A collaborative illustration Mark Riddick & John Costa

What uppers Mark…how are you chilling?

Things are busy as always, thanks for asking.

At what age did realize you had a passion for art? Did your artwork have a dark vibe even as a child?

When I saw IRON MAIDEN’s self-titled full length LP on the record store shelf at age six, I knew then that illustrating for heavy metal music would be my calling in life. I began to take my art more seriously and found an outlet for my illustrations in 1991, at age fourteen, when I was introduced to the international underground death/black metal scene. I began networking, via postal mail, with several bands, fanzines, tape traders, and record labels from all over the world. The connections and friendships I made during this time helped me to get my work published in various fanzines, on demo and record covers, and T-Shirts, etc. During my childhood, my drawings were typical of what you would expect from a male adolescent; depictions of robots, monsters, dragons, landscapes, battle scenes, super heroes, and of course big-breasted women.

Did your parents nurture your artistic side?

Absolutely! My parents were always very supportive and tolerant of my illustrations during my childhood and they continue to be so today. They enrolled me in private art lessons during my formative years and encouraged me to pursue my art throughout my high school and college educations.

Did your parents nurture your artistic side?

Absolutely! My parents were always very supportive and tolerant of my illustrations during my childhood and they continue to be so today. They enrolled me in private art lessons during my formative years and encouraged me to pursue my art throughout my high school and college educations.

What artists inspired you when you were younger?

When I was much younger I was very inspired by comic book artists like Art Adams, Todd McFarlane, Bernie Wrightson, and many of the EC comic book illustrators. As soon as I started getting into underground death and black metal music I became heavily influenced by Chris Moyen, Alfonso ‘Artgore’ Ruiz, Steve Somers, Sean Carr, Paw Nielson, Wes Benscoter, Ed Repka, Dan Seagrave, and Kristian ‘Necrolord’ Wahlin. In recent times I have also taken a great liking and camaraderie with fellow metal illustrators Daniel ‘Desecrator’ Corcuera, Matt ‘Putrid’ Carr, Justin Bartlett, Kris Verwimp, Christophe Szpajdel, Mike Majewski, Halsey ‘Halseycaust’ Swain, Jeff Zornow, Toshihiro Egawa, and several others.

What would you say has been the greatest gift that being an artist has given you?

The best gift has been my livelihood, followed closely by the opportunity to work with and illustrate for some of my favorite metal bands.

Can you remember the first band that believed in your rad talent & gave you a shot?

Yes, the first band to solicit and publish my work was a little known grindcore act from Kentucky called SON OF DOG. I did an illustration for them in 1992 which was used on a 7” record cover and T-Shirt.

How did it feel when you first saw someone using your art?

It was an amazing and rewarding feeling to see my illustrations in print for the first time; even if it was a short-run photocopied underground fanzine or a limited edition demo tape. Much of this feeling is gone when I see my work in print now but the exciting part about what I do these days is the anticipation of who my next client will be. There is also much thrill in conjuring something from nothing, hence the power of creativity.

Was there one band that commissioned your work and made you realize you were living out your dream?

Yes, as I mentioned this is one of the most exciting things about being an illustrator for the metal scene. It seems that every year I get a commission that completely blows my mind, my most recent being a piece for MORBID ANGEL. I would say that the commissioned piece that made me realize I was living my dream was doing the LP cover for AUTOPSY’s “Ridden with Disease” in 2000. The LP was a repress of their early demos plus some live material by Hammerheart Records.

One thing that impresses me about you is that it seems you are really keen to support young artists worldwide. Why is this important to you?

I frequently get inquiries from young artists writing to ask about my artwork, whether it be my process or how I manage my clients, etc. I always do my best to write everyone back as I believe it is important to support others who have similar ambitions. I believe it is vital to be a model for others and to mentor as often as time and resources will permit. The metal community is a well-connected force and it’s essential to set an example by maintaining a strong work ethic, a professional attitude, and some humbleness. I’ve witnessed artists with immense talent in this scene fail because of poor customer service or the inability to follow through…these are mandatory components to success and I highly encourage any illustrator who wants to do this sort of thing to follow through with their passion. No one becomes successful by being lazy.

What do you think it is about the dark & gory side of life & death that brings you the joy to create?

I believe that a part of the human condition is to have a curiosity about death. Death is the only finite thing we know and it is absolutely inevitable that we’ll be confronted by it. An exploration of the ‘darker’ aspects of life opens the path to further wisdom, self-evaluation, and introspection, all of which are things I value and I hope that others might find value in.

If you could reinterpret any so-called art masterpiece in your own style, which piece would it be & why?

I’ve never thought about this in great depth but I am a fan of the Flemish artists of the Middle Ages; it would be intriguing to interpret a work of Hieronymous Bosch or Pieter Brueghel. Their paintings and illustrations of common medieval life and visions of Hell (commissioned by the church) are absolutely stunning and filled with immense detail. Reinterpreting one of their works would be a cumbersome endeavor for sure.

Do you listen to music while you are drawing?

Yes, I do sometimes listen to music when I illustrate. It depends upon where I am in my house as I have a four-month-old daughter and three-year-old son at home so I tend to draw at the kitchen or dining room table so that I can be close to my children and wife. If I am listening to music, it is in my private art studio spinning vinyl or playing cassette tapes…lately I’ve been listening to a lot of South American and German underground speed metal music.

Do you remember the first metal album that made you say, fuck this is gonna be my music & culture?

It’s not really metal, but BON JOVI’s “Slippery When Wet” was the album that turned me on to hard rock and heavy metal music. It only got faster and heavier from there.

In closing, thank you Meghan & Sean for your time and support in CVLT Nation. To view more of my illustrations, please visit my website at:

Metal ‘til death!

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