Inspired Strokes

Nik Duduković’s worst day at work is drawing a bad tree. For this young artist, his sketchbook just keeps growing.

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Right now the artist’s statement is a blank piece of paper. One art piece is started but only one-third finished. But come March, galleries in Savannah, Georgia and Jordan will be filled with graphic illustrations and etchings from artist Nik Duduković.

Based on a formula of putting aside crippling fears of not drawing well enough and learning not to finish the last piece five minutes before the first person arrives, Duduković’s work comes together through a series of inspired quotes and ideas that spark a beautiful marriage of artwork.

“To an extent there is a reason why the drawings end up looking and working together the way they do. But that’s not ordained from the beginning,” he says.

Something as simple as a Joe Rogan podcast or the repetition of Jurassic Park movies gives Duduković the tingle to produce great pieces of art.

“It’s like people that like to laugh once a day because they say it feels really good.

I like to hear something that gives me that tingle once a day,” he says. “It’ll just connect all these synapses in my brain and all of the sudden I see something visually. Or I at least see an idea.”

Duduković became a Torontonian after his move from Yugoslavia in 1991. After a year living in Hamilton, attending grade one when he didn’t even speak English, his family moved to Toronto. Though the transition is cloudy in his mind, “It might have had to do with the school burning down,” he laughs. Besides some fragmented memories of being given a comic book at the airport from his dad, his move to Toronto is otherwise blurred.

Duduković’s studies continued at OCAD, where he majored in printmaking. Aside from the early mechanics of how to print, etch and screen print, he says the real push came in his third year.

Duduković is an admitted workaholic, but not in the traditional nine to five sense; he is the type of workaholic that verges on an insomniac some nights with a brain that never clicks off.

He is a man that will lie awake at night, revelling in a combination of too much work and feeling like he didn’t finish enough that day. His next day starts with an early morning coffee or tea and a cigarette; then it’s straight to the next room to push paper or pixels around.

“I think there is always – even when I’m not drawing, even when I’m out with friends or at the movies or doing whatever – a chip in the back of my brain that always goes back to artwork.”

November brought a temporary end to the commercial work that Duduković had been mainly focused on for the past few months. His blend of producing album covers, book covers or editorial illustrations is a release for his analytical muscles. A chance to not produce what he calls his “brain children,” – ideas he saves for his own personal work.

Most of the commercial work he receives is from clients that enjoy his work and contact him. He still remains unrepresented, due to an honest lack of effort on his part. It’s never a consistent process.

Sometimes the client comes with ideas in mind, Duduković produces the project and with a few minor changes it’s complete.

“A lot of clients don’t know what they want and then the second I start showing them stuff they know what they don’t want,” he explains.

Though equipped with ink, quills, a couple of brushes and a couple tubes of paint in his home studio, he does most of his commercial work digitally, which allows him to make changes on the fly instead of being bogged down by the fine details of hand-drawn work. Fans of Breaking Bad would be shocked to find out Duduković has contributed to the AMC show by doing a small sketch to accompany an article about the show. “Nothing big,” he said. But Duduković himself is a fan. “I think there has been a renaissance in television where shows are all of the sudden really good,” he says. “With Breaking Bad I can’t do anything for 12 hours afterwards. Maybe I just smoke a cigarette and say, “That’s crazy,” and I don’t talk about it online or anything so as not to ruin it for anyone else.”

Even the way he describes his side hobbies, such as his love for basketball, amplify his artistic being. Unlike a typical sports fan that trades statistics and game recaps, Duduković’s banter about his favourite sport revolves around the way the basketball feels in his hands. “When I hold a basketball it just feels right; it feels like my hands are empty when I’m not,” he said.

The imperfect asymmetry in the horns of the otherwise perfectly symmetrical Chicago Bulls logo is the reason he deems it the best logo in all of sports. Coincidentally the jacket he walked into the studio wearing was a retro Chicago Bulls jacket that sparked an eager conversation with photographer Jalani Morgan as soon as he entered.

“It can take a while, but you sort of just reach a point where you think, ‘I do like [creating illustrations]’. The veil is lifted a bit and you see it clearer. It’s almost like you took a vitamin and your brain just starts working better.”