Thor: The Dark World

Artist Mike Mitchell Profiles Loki

We chat with Mondo artist Mike Mitchell about his new portrait of Loki for Marvel's 'Thor: the Dark World'!

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By Marc Strom

Last week, we showed you artist Mike Mitchell’s excellent portrait of Loki for Mondo in celebration of Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World,” but we also had the chance to chat with the illustrator and learn how he brought the trickster to life!

Mitchell has done a number of prints for Mondo, and has specialized in a series of profile portraits for characters ranging from the Bride from “Kill Bill” to Lloyd from “Dumb & Dumber” and Willy Wonka.

Now, the artist brings his talent to Tom Hiddleson’s Loki. Read on to learn about Mitchell’s process, what he feels makes Loki so unique and more!

Mike Mitchell's portrait of Loki from "Thor: The Dark World" for Mondo

Marvel.com: When you were approached to do this for Thor, what about it made you decide to pick Loki as the one who got his portrait?

Mike Mitchell: The thing is that they just asked me to do a Loki piece. They wanted to showcase all the [different] talent from the movie, and I was more than happy to do it. I love Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

Marvel.com: Had you seen Thor and Avengers beforehand?

Mike Mitchell: Oh yeah, I really liked Thor a lot, and am looking forward to the next one.

Marvel.com: You’ve done a number of posters in this similar style of these portraits of the characters. Where did the idea for that originate?

Mike Mitchell: You mean like the profile for the portrait?

Marvel.com: Yeah. Exactly.

Mike Mitchell: I just really like profiles. Everybody has one and they’re all really unique, and it’s just an interesting way to look at different characters. It’s my favorite angle to draw from because it’s so unique and angular and interesting. Especially with Tom Hiddleston. It doesn’t always work for everybody. Some people are almost unrecognizable in profile, but for Loki, it worked really well.

Marvel.com: When I look at your portraits, it seems like you had some type of formal or classical art training. Is that the case?

Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" in theaters & IMAX 3D now

Mike Mitchell: They’re digital paintings, but when I was in art school, I took oil painting class, and watercolor. I had been painting in Photoshop beforehand, but it wasn’t until I took those classes and really got a better understanding that I was able to mimic a more painter-quality to my digital paintings, if that makes sense.

Marvel.com: Yeah, absolutely. That’s kind of interesting too, that you do all this digitally. What sort of advantages does that have over the traditional paint-on-canvas?

Mike Mitchell: For me, there are a lot of plusses. The traditional medium is great. There are obvious benefits to that, and it’s cool having an original piece, but when you’re doing commercial work or stuff like this, especially if you need a quick turnaround, it’s preferred. It’s quicker, it’s cleaner, it’s forgiving. If you make a mistake in oil, you might have to wait a day or two for it to dry before you can fix it, or you might not be able to fix it. For digital, you can play with it a lot more. For me, it’s more like sculpting clay, where you can push-and-pull a little bit, and I really like that about it. When I do traditional stuff now, I do get pretty frustrated by it [because I] am so comfortable doing things digitally.

Marvel.com: For this Loki piece, what was your process with it? Did you do a few sketches? Did you use any photo reference for it?

Mike Mitchell: Yeah, I try to figure out what I want to do with it, then I go through the movies--Thor and Avengers--and look for reference. You definitely need reference for portrait, but I found one [shot] I felt summed up Loki for me, more so in the movies I think. You’re not sure where his heart is at. I mean, he’s the bad guy, but he’s still not Red Skull bad. He’s more mischievous like he’s supposed to be. I was trying to capture that. He may look sweet but you don’t really know what he’s got in mind. I didn’t want to go for the straight, evil sinister grin.

Marvel.com: Did you have to play around a lot with his facial features, or with his grin or smirk, or just that sort of structure of his face?

Mike Mitchell: I did a bunch of stuff for Mondo earlier this year, and some of them are just really easy. I can just crank it out, they’re almost effortless, but sometimes you’re trying to get something more subtle, and subtlety is pretty difficult to achieve, and it was that way with Loki. It was a lot of push and pull on that one, with a short deadline too, so it was a bit stressful.

Marvel.com: We touched on this earlier. You were asked for a Loki piece in this case, but do you think any other characters from Thor would make for good portraits?

Mike Mitchell: Oh yeah, Thor would be a great one. Odin would be great too. Pretty much everybody would be great, but I would have loved, and if I had more time I probably would have asked, to also do a Thor, just to have them facing each other. That’s a nice pair, but I’m really happy I got to do Loki--he’s such a great character, and I love how they made him almost as important as Thor. I always liked watching him.

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