Behind the scenes with the Blade, Thunderbolts and Daredevil cover artist
By Ryan Penagos
It seemed as though Serbian artist Marko Djurdjevic appeared out of thin air in 2006. Bringing a fresh new style to Marvel Comics, the artist has quickly chalked up a portfolio of 50 covers (and counting) for the House of Ideas. We grabbed a few choice pieces from Djurdjevic's body of work and had the artist dig through his sketchbook to examine the original cover concepts and give us some insight into the creative process.
Additionally, we asked Djurdjevic to break down his methods us, revealing a number of interesting facts about the artist. "This is something I take a good amount of pride in," notes the artist, explaining his use--or lack thereof--of references. "I've never worked with references of any kind. I'm completely self-taught and everything I draw or paint comes directly from imagination. I never had life drawing classes or used photography for my work. Everything is created straight out of my head. If I can't nail something with my initial approach, I work on it until it works. Even if that means spending countless hours laboring over a single detail. I consider the artistic lessons learned through such an approach to be much more valuable then constantly looking for shortcuts. I see my brain as a hard drive, a visual library that needs to be fed with informations constantly, when I want to understand something better, I look it up and memorize it, so I can draw upon it any time I need."
Foregoing the use of references, Djurdjevic lays down his ideas in pencil before painting--digitally. "I use the same technique that I would use if I was working with acrylics on paper or canvas," says Djurdjevic.."I work on one single layer only, I don't use undo keys. If I screw up a part, I paint over it. There are no filters or magic tricks to my process. My drawings work as a foundation for everything I want to paint. If the drawing sucks, the painting is going to suck as well. You can't polish a turd, so to speak. I try to nail my ideas tightly enough with my pencils, but still leave room to explore them while I paint. Production art, as in comics, demands great speed and flexibility. The fact that I work digitally just speeds up my process, but the outcome is still determined by my skillset."
Djurdjevic's vast skillset may be finely tuned, but he still finds influences to his style. "I take inspiration out of sources that have nothing to do with comics," adds Djurdjevic. "Graphic design, high fashion magazines, books, music, history and politics influence my work more then other artwork does. If my main inspiration would come from other artists, my art would start looking like other peoples art. That's something I try to avoid at all costs. My color choices really depend on a certain mood I'm in at any given day, but the most important part to me is to stay open to experiments. I never try to limit myself to a certain palette because not every job is the same and I try to keep up with what's fresh and modern, to avoid getting outdated by repeating myself too much."
Constantly working to keep things fresh and modern has helped Djurdjevic's work continues to evolve. "I think my favorite [cover] is always the cover I'm working on at the very moment. Since I constantly try to improve, I'm never satisfied with anything I create for longer then an hour, so I always gear up to make the next cover even more exciting and stunning. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but I think it's a good attitude to have, since it keeps you swimming with the sharks. If I had to pick one that I really like, out of the host that I've done in the past few months, I'd say Blade #9 [see above] takes the cake this week. It's everything I like a cover to be: funny, graphic, good choice of colors and a preview on what's happening inside."
Check out the selection of covers below, along with Marko's original thumbnail pencil sketch (in some cases, it's just one of several sketches per cover) and the artist's commentary on the formation of the piece.
"This drawing is one of the many ideas and drawings that get lost in the process of creation. Originally planned to be done for Blade #6 I wanted to show the average day in the life of Blade, after his work is done. I'm a sucker for the macabre and I felt the scenery to be grotesque enough to suck new readers in. After a handful of discussions with the editor we went with another, more action oriented idea instead."
"This was the first Daredevil cover I was commissioned to do a few months ago. The description for it was fairly simple, Daredevil swinging over Hell's Kitchen, harrowing the new arc that was going to start off with issue #95. I chose to do something exciting with it and flipped Daredevil upside down. I love when the easyness of a superhero doing stunning things, like jumping from rooftop to rooftop, translates into his posture. When the viewer can actually feel that it's no feat for Daredevil to flip saltos in midair."
Marvel Magic Handbook #1
"This cover was a crazy task. I basically had only 2 days left on my schedule to paint the entire thing, but since all of these characters were really old, most of them needed a redesign as well to modernize them for today's audience. At the same time, all of their colorschemes put together on one cover looked like a flea circus on the loose. So my main concern throughout this painting was to find a harmonious way to make all the different colors interact. My eyes were completly sore after this marathon."
Mystic Arcana: Scarlet Witch
"The Mystic Arcana project was great since all the editors and authors involved were really into it. I get most of my motivation from people who are excited about what they do. When I can sense passion behind a project it's so much easier for me to tap into my own creative juices and spill them on paper. As for this cover, it followed the parameters that were set for the entire series. Each cover was supposed to focus on an iconic shot of the protagonist for the corresponding issue, with arcane symbols in the background and a colorscheme resembling the element that the character belongs to. In this case, Scarlet Witch belongs to the element of Water, thus the almost floating nature of her posture."
Marvel Illustrated: The Man in the Iron Mask #1
"The idea for the composition of this cover was so tight from the beginning, that I really had fun putting the hours into devoloping a fully rendered drawing. I wanted the musketeer's rapiers to dominate through their diagonals and verticals, giving me the chance to lead the viewer through the entire piece. It's rare that I jump on historical painting commissions, but I felt challenged to give it a try."
Super-Villain Team-Up #5
"I pretty much knew the entire colorscheme I was going for on this cover even before I put down the first line. I wanted to work with an effect from Spielberg's 'Schindler's List,' where you have a black&white movie where only the color of fire is orange/red. Also, the description for the cover said "triumphant" (I love that word), so I immediately went for a frog perspective on the composition. I wanted the main character's fist to be the highest point on the cover, using the joints on his wings to form an invisible triangle, that resembles the peak of victory."
"I have a foible for flying/jumping characters and head over heels compositions. It's one on the rare things that is truly unique to superhero illustration, since gravity is not influencing the panorama of your camera angle. When I did this drawing, I completly ran out of place for the logo, though, so for the final I had to add space to the composition and drop the characters further into the back. I still like the way both Bullseye and the Green Goblin are flying torwards the viewer and the deep blue late summer evening sky does it's best to push the drama of the painting."
Keep your eyes glued to Marvel.com in the coming weeks as we first explore character designs with Marko and then launch Marko's very own cover blog!