Niclas Mortensen is very much a student of the current age of merch designers. He counts Godmachine & Mumford as influences and works only with the computer. He has a love for a copious amount of detail and even though his career seems in it’s infancy, he has already done artwork for Amon Amarth & As I Lay Dying. Time to get to know Niclas:
How did you get your first paying art job?
Hmm. well, that’s a long time ago.
I started doing simple stuff in photoshop, because it was easier for me and my band, when we needed cd covers/myspace page/ etc.
I think my first paying art job, or job as a designer anyway, was back in the good ol’ Myspace days. I made a Myspace page for a friends band, and also did a couple of shirt designs for them.They told me that they would pay me, but they actually never did when I think about it. A big danish band called me one day, saying that they had seen the Myspace page I did, and that they would like me to do one for them. I did, and they actually payed me! haha
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
I’ve experimented with a lot of different stuff, because I wanted to be able to do almost anything when people asked me to do work for them. I’ve done simple silhouette stuff, cartoony characters, and realistic drawings with loads of details. I love doing detailed stuff, and focus more on depth. So right now I almost only do stuff with lots a details and hatching, but who knows, maybe one day that will change, but right now, that’s what I prefer to do.
Who are your artistic influences?
I really like the work of artists such as Greg Simkins, Killer Napkins, Godmachine, John Baizley and Aaron Horkey. I dig the amount of work those guys put in to their pieces, and the details are mind blowing in every single piece. I like artists who continue to amaze me.
What words best describe your artistic style?
Details, hatching, dark creepy stuff and lots of bones and skulls haha.
Tell us about your studio space? I actually work from home. Right know I am going to school to finish my education as a graphic designer. So I spend heavy amounts of time doing stuff from my workspace at my school too. I work best in a relaxed environment, therefore, most of my work is done at home, where I sit at my desk with my pc and my tablet, with all my figures and what nots, all around me.
When you create art for a band…Do you listen to their music during the process?
That depends. If I don’t know the band, I check out their stuff and try to figure out what would be cool for them. Of course if it happens that I know the band, and I’m not that fond of their stuff, then I wouldn’t be able to listen to their music during the whole process. Ha.
Take us through a typical day.
Well, at the moment its summer holidays here in Denmark. So I get up when ever I feel like it (that’s nice), and just relax and watch some tv. When I feel like I’m fresh and in the mood, I go over to my desk, check my emails and all that. When all that is done, emails are replied etc, I start drawing. If I’m in the middle of a piece, I just go ahead and start where I left. If not, I’ll just sit for a couple of hours, doodling and try to come up with some great stuff.
How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Usually I start by finding some sort of theme I want to work with. It can be everything from animals, old stuff like clocks, keys, wood, time and death or whatever. I like to settle on a certain theme before I get started. Then I start making some sketches. when I’m happy with how the sketch is looking, I start to do the linework. I try to do my designs, so that it will look good with or without color. So that if a band suddenly wants color on a b/w piece, that’s possible too.
What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
I do everything on my computer, with my tablet. I recently sat down and drew by hand, just to try it out, because it had been so long since I did it, but I find it hard to make everything perfect in the first try, and if I mess up I really cant undo it, like I can on my pc.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
It depends on what I am working on. I am not that good at anatomy, so if I need a certain pose or stand, I will take pictures of myself (usually in boxers, hubba hubba), and use as reference. If I need a girls face or something like that, I have my beautiful girlfriend, who doesn’t mind being used as a reference (good for me!) If I use reference material, its pictures I take myself. I can walk around and suddenly see an incredible tree or flower, and I stop and take pictures of it from different angles. Also, if its something iconic, like a famous person or whatever, I always use references to make it look perfect.
Do the bands give you any direction?
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Its actually pretty amazing, that some of the bands who can play crazy music, and write some of the sickest stuff on the planet, dont have ANY sort of creative feel when it comes to visual stuff. The best bands is the band that comes to me with a specific idea, and a good brief. I love when they know what they want, instead of saying “do your thing”.
Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
Practice, practice, practice.
Nobody becomes good in 1 day.
If you feel like your stuff is good, and you want people to see it, go to a place like mintees.com, and ask for directions. Dont just upload your stuff thinking you will be the next Godmachine or Mumford. I’m not saying that drawing isn’t something anyone can learn, but I believe that people are born creative, and that you cant learn to be creative. Take that into consideration before you quit your day job to become an artist.
Are your ideas good? Can you bring anything new and cool? and do you have your own style?
It takes time to develop a style, and anybody can copy all the big guys if they try long enough, but that’s not what you should do. Start by doing your stuff, and show it to friends and family, and maybe even friends who are in a band (we all have those). If they want to use some of your stuff, maybe even give it to them for free, and see if anybody notices your awesome art, when your buddy’s band are playing gigs.
What is your favorite project that you have ever done?
I think that my favorite projects were the shirts I did for As I Lay Dying and Amon Amarth. Those guys know what they want, and gave me cool briefs. Phil from AILD, is an extremely cool dude, and he has many good ideas and knows what fits the band. I like that. Amon Amarth even got me on the guestlist last time they played in Copenhagen.
What are you currently working on?
Right know I’m working on a piece that popped into my head one day. I dont know where this is going yet, but its gonna be a little different from my usual stuff. It will still be spooky, and detailed, but with a different subject matter. Also I’m doing a couple of pieces for a new brand.
Do you have any dream projects?
I would really like to do a gallery show with all sorts of stuff. Prints, paintings, even graffiti (just goot sponsored by MOLOTOW, and bought 550 cans, oh yeah!).
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
When I was younger I used to listen to Korn and Slipknot a lot, but that has passed haha.I don’t think I can pick 1 favorite band, because there are so many, but some of the best bands I’ve ever seen life are: TOOL, Prodigy, Muse and Green Day. Right now I listen to a lot of different stuff, Protest the Hero, Whitechapel, Dillinger Escape Plan, KRS-ONE, and Reverend Glasseye and his Wooden Legs (check them out!).
What artists would you like to see on MBA?
I would love to see someone like Craig Robson. He has done an amazing amount of work, for some of the greatest bands out there. His style is completely different from mine, but everything he does is amazing and extremely well executed. Also, an interview with Aaron Horkey would be amazing. I would love to crawl into that guys mind for a day.
Check out more of Niclas’ work at: mintees.com/people/141781-monkeymouth