Friday, January 18, 2008

The Illustrations of Tomislav Tikulin

He’s one of the brightest stars in the fantasy and science fiction world. His digital art evokes vivid yet fantastical landscapes that transport your mind and elevate your soul. Croatian illustrator, Tomislav Tikulin, is my Friday Feature.

Tikulin, who was born and lives in Zagreb, Croatia, recently confided in me that he had never been to North America. I find this ironic, considering that his art is showcased internationally, having appeared in every country imaginable. Tomislav Tikulin’s art work has graced the covers of many SF and Fantasy books including Chris Robertson’s Voyage of Night Shining White, Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama, and recently Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine (50th anniversary edition).

Tikulin creates convincing images grounded in reality then throws them into fantastical alien landscapes.
Many of his pieces evoke a sense of yearning within a grand tapestry of his imagination. Through the use of lighting, tone, filigree and color, Tikulin infuses his imagery with mood and “motion”. His art flows with a tender ache for “more”… a call to adventure…a hero’s mythic journey...a sweeping vision of the future…a whole world to discover...

When Tikulin agreed to illustrate my book, Darwin’s Paradox, I was ecstatic and honored. After some conversation back and forth, he produced the striking image you all know. It has, I can assure you, been one of the main reasons people have picked up my book off the bookshelves.

Eager to meet the man responsible for the success of my book, I notified Tikulin that I would be in Zagreb, refueling, and invited him aboard my sentient ship, Vinny, for a drink. To my delight, he readily and intrepidly agreed.

Like all his predecessors, Tikulin rode the crystal beam with the ease and the sublime frisson of a Ray Bradbury character. He didn’t get sick either, I observed, as my stomach growled its typical objection. Like a giddy twelve-year old kid on his first rocket ship ride—wait, this probably was his first rocket ship ride—Tikulin asked a million questions and I had to bat his hand away from the colorful crystal controls several times. Humans! So curious!...


Once we get on board Vinny, and thinking to put Tikulin at ease so I can better interroga—er interview him, I instruct Harry, my bot, to fetch us each a pint of Canadian beer, this time a Kokanee lager. As we settle into two comfortable chairs in the aft lounge with our beers, I make my move.

SF Girl: I lean forward and make direct eye contact with this good-looking Croatian from Zagreb and decide to start with something mild and innocuous. “So, when did you know that you wanted to be an illustrator and how did you get your start?”

Tikulin: He meets my gaze with intense laughing eyes of candor. There is something very genuine about him that sets me at ease and I realize that it’s me who is nervous; not him. Tikulin drains half of the beer in one long draught, leaving some foam on his upper lip, then begins in a strong Croatian accent, “Well, it happened a couple of years ago. I was involved in the production of a point and click adventure game. My job was to make backgrounds, matte paintings, etc.” In fact, he was Chief 2-D artist on the project. “I realized that I had learned a lot of things during that production and that I must do something with that knowledge.” Tikulin tilts his head to one side and ponders the past. “I also worked as a comic colorist for many years and had a promising career but I made a decision to do something else and that was a turning point for me…[After meeting] some publishers, that was the start of a new career,” he ends with a boyish laugh.

SF Girl: I decide that he’s getting a little too comfortable as he draws another long appreciative gulp of Canadian beer (maybe he doesn’t get out much, I conclude). Still… Thinking to stir him from his beer-induced contentedness, I pry, “What does your family think of your art?”

Tikulin: He throws his head back and guffaws. “Like any other normal family, they would be more than happy if I did something else… occupations like a lawyer, doctor, or just working in some nice and clean factory…”

SF Girl: Before I realize it, I’ve grown maudlin, reminiscing about my own parents’ wish that I’d chosen a normal career like planet-building engineer in the Zeta system (very lucrative work, I might add!) or an accountant with the Galactic Bank instead of the space-adventure scoundrel I’ve become… When I find him staring at me with those dark George Clooney eyes, I quickly regain my composure and ask, “What kind of things did you draw as a kid?”

Tikulin: He eases back into the soft chair, a loose smile sliding across his face that makes the thirty-two year old artist look like a boy. “As a kid I was drawing more or less the usual stuff…cowboys, Indians, spacemen, etc. I love movies, especially scifi movies…I spent many hours watching TV, maybe too much!” He flashes a grin then adds, “That was the trigger for me.”

SF Girl: “What is it about science fiction and fantasy that draws your interest, particularly to illustrate in these genres?”

Tikulin: “I love movies. I’m a movie geek. I watched a thousand times Alien, Blade Runner, original Star Wars Saga, Star Trek and other nice movies and series. I was hooked as a kid with fantastic landscapes, green slime aliens, space heroes and all sorts of villains.” So, he’d met some of my relatives, I conclude…Tikulin continues, “I like the old masters. I’m not a big fan of modern cyberpunk stories. My heart is full of sorrow because Hollywood doesn’t make Sci-Fi films like they used to.”

SF Girl: Totally disarmed by this gentle (and very good looking!) Croatian, I ask, “What’s next for Tomislav Tikulin?”

Tikulin: He flashes another of those wonderful boyish smiles. “To have fun, to make lots of covers, to make covers for Frank Herbert’s Dune, and one day to create production illustrations for a big Sci-Fi movie.”

I don’t doubt that he will. To see more of Tomislav Tikulin's artwork or to contact him, here's his website:

Segments of this interview were kindly borrowed from an interview in Ray Gun Revival, Issue 12 (2006), and incorporated into this one.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

An excellent interview, Nina. He looks a good illustrator.

Nina Munteanu said...

Yes, he is a wonderful illustrator, Jean-Luc! And there are many good ones out there too! I must confess that the book cover is the first thing that attracts me to a book, particularly if I don't know the author... so the illustration (whether rendered well and accurately portrays the story) is important...

Anonymous said...

Very nice...indeed. And yes, I agree , book cover makes the first impression and makes me take the book into my hands...

Kinda ashamed since till now, never heard, or haven't noticed, of Tikulin. Furthermore,Im from Croatia as well, even having the same firstname (Tomislav)
Anyway, ty for 'putting some light into my knowledge darkness', SFGirl.