First Im­pres­sions

Mark Zug’s imag­i­nary worlds.

ImagineFX - - Fantasy - Mark Zug

Where did you grow up, and when did you re­alise you had a tal­ent for art?

Be­fore age eight my mem­o­ries were chiefly of Ja­pan, where I lived for three years and also dis­cov­ered I could draw. For years it was just draw­ing, with only oc­ca­sional at­tempts at colour. Only when I de­cided to get se­ri­ous at age 25 did I get some paints and start pud­dling around. Acrylic at first, but oil very quickly re­placed that.

Did your up­bring­ing in­flu­ence your paint­ing style?

Only in­so­far as I spent so much time draw­ing in imag­i­nary worlds. Whether my up­bring­ing or not, I dis­liked draw­ing what was in front of me. I al­ways drew the in­ac­ces­si­ble: di­nosaurs, space­ships, aliens, imag­i­nary crea­tures and so on. My paint­ing as a young adult was most in­flu­enced by my idols, who in­clude Frazetta, NC Wyeth, Jan Ver­meer, JC Leyen­decker, Howard Pyle and Max­field Par­rish.

Did any­one in par­tic­u­lar help you along your art jour­ney?

Other than my par­ents who kept me am­ply sup­plied with pen­cils and pa­per all through my child­hood, I’d say Ken Laager, whom I met when I was a stu­dent and who took me on as a kind of paint­ing as­sis­tant for a couple of years. He was my first close en­counter with the ac­tual pro­fes­sion of illustration that I wanted to be a part of.

How has your paint­ing process evolved over the years?

I no­tice that I out­lined my forms a lot more in the early days, prob­a­bly un­der the in­flu­ence of comic books. I still do it for ef­fect here and there, but now what I really love is round­ing the forms back, and pulling back­ground light over their con­tours. I think I’ve also got­ten more com­fort­able let­ting rough tex­tures con­trib­ute to the re­al­is­tic gestalt, whereas I used to see very tight con­trol as the only an­swer. I hope this all adds up to “bet­ter!” What’s been the high­light of your ca­reer so far? Any low points? Get­ting to work with Har­lan El­li­son, which kicked off my ca­reer and opened my eyes to a great many things, is right up there at the top. Along­side is get­ting to pro­duce Sands of Gor­goroth for Pat and Jean­nie Wil­shire of Il­luX­con. Close to that is my work on my self-com­mis­sioned No­ble Gases, which I con­sider some of my best to date.

As for low points, right af­ter my work on I, Robot was fin­ished, I started on the graphic novel of the same name. The plug got pulled on that project, so I was sud­denly out of work, hav­ing done no sig­nif­i­cant self-pro­mo­tion. That was a bit of a scram­ble.

What’s been your most chal­leng­ing com­mis­sion or as­sign­ment?

A tough one to an­swer… it’s down to two. In Prairie Dragon I had to do a sweep­ing land­scape that could have been pretty bland grass­land, in­vent three en­gag­ing hero­ines and their ca­nine com­pan­ions, de­sign a unique dragon, and in­vent the walk­ing ma­chine in the back­ground in­hab­ited by our ter­tiary char­ac­ters. The ma­chine uses a real ar­tic­u­lated leg de­sign by Theo Janssen, which I self-man­dated to get right in ev­ery de­tail. And at 30x40 inches it’s the largest can­vas I’ve ever done.

The other is An Orc in the Shire, a self-com­mis­sioned piece that strad­dles the uni­verse of The Lord of the Rings and that of the Last Ring­bearer fan-fic­tion. It’s just rich with de­tail that has to both pay trib­ute to and defy Tolkien. Both of th­ese pieces took lots of re­search and di­ges­tion of ref­er­ence.

Your Dune art was your first game art. Do you ever re­visit the world of Dune?

Only by read­ing the Brian Her­bert/Kevin J. An­der­son pre­quels and se­quels. Their A Whis­per of Cal­adan Seas short story, pub­lished in Amaz­ing Sto­ries in 2001, was the last Dune illustration I’ve done.

What ad­vice would you give to your younger self?

I feel like I’ve put pretty much ev­ery­thing on the fire to achieve my artis­tic goals, and I was al­ways aware of that. So my ad­vice to the younger me would be to ex­er­cise more open-mind­ed­ness in my quest for knowl­edge. Also: don’t de­pend on any one pub­lisher or pa­tron!

Sum up your work in un­der 10 words.

Clas­si­cal ado­ra­tion of the hu­man, sub­hu­man and su­per-hu­man­in­fested uni­verse.

Af­ter leav­ing art school Mark painted his port­fo­lio while work­ing as a ma­chin­ist. In 1992 he quit all other work and em­barked on the life of an award-win­ning free­lance artist. See more of his art at

I feel like I’ve put pretty much ev­ery­thing on the fire to achieve my artis­tic goals

Sands of Gor­goroth Who are the in­hab­i­tants of Mor­dor, and what really hap­pens when Gon­dor pre­vails?

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