Mark Ryden is more of a painter than graphic artist these days, being considered both a lowbrow and a fine artist depending on the circles you rub shoulders with.
His depictions of haunted, porcelain-skinned children have become iconic markers of his signature style, mixing fantastical realms with social satire
For Ryden, a subtle sense of pristine weirdness forms the foundation for many of his paintings.
And some of this can be seen in his cover art as well.
He shy’s away from album covers nowadays, but there was a time, the 90s in fact, when he was churning out some gems, though it wasn’t his true calling.
“I fell into doing album covers. I didn’t try to, but it kind of worked out that way. It was the most creative of the commercial art that I did, and I had great success with that. I started doing album covers just as vinyl died out, so sadly I only got to see my art on 5” square cd’s rather than the 12” covers I grew up with.”
He thinks that doing a commissioned piece of art for a musician is very different creatively than doing your own art.
“The creative process of illustration is very different from that of fine art. They use completely different parts of my brain. For me, creating an image for a commercial purpose presents a very different problem to solve as compared to a work of fine art. The fine art is a more difficult “birth” coming from a deeper and more personal place.”
Music plays a big part in Rydens work personally, especially when it comes to what he listens to when he is working.
“It depends on if it’s for painting or driving or parties. For painting, I like something peaceful and calming, like Debussy harp music, or Brian Eno. Ambient sounds are better for cultivating the paintings, or for studio listening. I also like old jazz or lounge music, especially Frank Sinatra, but not so much for painting”
Bands he has worked for include, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Screaming Trees, Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, Ringo Starr, Warrant, Michael Jackson and many others.