Inspiration in Many Forms | Pagan Folk

As I went to post my latest Wardruna inspired drawing, I realized I missed posting the last two pieces I had done. So here’s me backtracking to a couple of older sketchbook drawings. As usual I’ve been using Strathmore’s Tan Drawing Sketchbook, and I would say after using it for this long it’s the only sketchbook I’ve gone back to over and over again (sadly some of my regular sketchbooks are collecting dust). Many artists, myself included, love the amount of depth you can easily create on toned paper. You already have a working middle ground, so pushing the shadows and highlights comes easier and results in better depth in the overall drawing. At 80lb (118g/m2) I find the paper to be quite substantial as well; I’ve tested out a few markers and microns on it without any bleed-through. I’d be cautious of using things like Copics and Shinhanart Markers however, as those notoriously over saturate most paper (unless you don’t mind avoiding the use of the back of every page).

WARDRUNA ‘Lyfjaberg’, graphite and white colour-pencil on paper.

The Appeal of Pagan Folk

I’m using the term ‘pagan folk’, but sometimes placing specific genres on a musician or band can be a bit vague or confusing to others. People come across bands like Wardruna and Heilung and call them ‘Viking’, or more amusing terms such as ‘demonic’, ‘barbaric’ or the best one of all, ‘is that Ragnar?’. Wikipedia tends to take the more…generic route, and uses terms such as ‘Norwegian music group’ or ‘Faroese singer-songwriter’ for someone like Eivør Pálsdóttir. I think Heilung does the best at identifying their music as “amplified history”, as thematically they tend to gear more towards the Bronze & Iron Age. Where as a band like Faun from Germany, often has a more identifiable ‘medieval tone’ to a general audience. You also have bands like Kalandra who are referred to as ‘alternative Nordic pop’, and singer Aurora thrown into these genres as well; either because of their collaborations, or messages surrounding nature and/or wilderness in their songs. I know I just threw a whole bunch of names into the field, but I thought it would be the best way to explain the difficulty of having to explain to someone that I listen to pagan folk for inspiration, without a whole lot of head scratching.

Although fairs and festivals have been going on in Europe for a while, I think it would be fair to say that in North America at least such events aren’t as common place. The occasional summer music festival usually tend to promote musicians from Hollywood; the mainstream genres of pop, rap, rock, etc. Renaissance, Medieval or Pagan festivals weren’t something you came across, unless you were actively looking for them I suppose. There has definitely been a shift in recent years however, as Scandinavian and other European folk bands have had tours lined up more regularly across major cities in North America.

You also can’t overlook the impact of shows like Vikings, The Last Kingdom, and even Game of Thrones & Outlander for that matter, have had on this growing interest on festivals and activities surrounding historical reenactment. I think the musical aspect goes hand in hand as lot of bands like Wardruna for example, with their track ‘Helvegen’ on Vikings, drew the attention of audiences unfamiliar with pagan folk. Similarly, my introduction to my favourite singer Eivør was through the very first episode of The Last Kingdom, and drew my curiosity into discovering more artists from Northern Europe. Even in adolescence, I think I’ve always had an interest in outside what mainstream music would be playing on the radio. I remember having The Mask and Mirror & The Book of Secrets albums by Loreena McKennitt on an endless loop, then substituting it for tracks like ‘La Notte Etterna‘ from Emma Shapplin.

I think the desire to be closer to nature, live more rural, and escape from the general madness of our concrete jungles is no longer reserved to a small population. It’s also something being translated more and more into different art forms including music, and of course visual arts. You’ll be able to find a lot more contemporary artists across social media for example, displaying work that incorporate nature in some capacity; some approaching it through its beauty and volatility, others through messages for environmentalism and conservation. My work probably encapsulates the former, although there’s no denying it’s a continual effort to try and portray that accurately. I think this is where my interest in pagan folk intersects with the creation of artwork. Inspiration can be found in many forms different from your practice; photography, film, etc, but mine has overwhelming been through music and literature. I can easily get lost in the rhythms and voice of a singer; feel transported enough to feed that imagination and overactive brain, and translate it to paper and paint.


“I think many people who don’t go to church or other religious ceremonies,
I think they miss that solemn, holy place.

One of the goals with Wardruna concert is to actually create that space.
To create that serious space, moment, where you can just get lost into the music.

It’s about communication, back and forth.
About acknowledging things that are bigger than yourself. Remembering nature,
that we are part of it, etc.”

-Einar Selvik with Iron Realm Productions at Midgardsblot 2016.

If you made it this far, thank you for stopping by this longer chatty post and feel free to continue the conversation below. Take care everyone!

WARDRUNA ‘Kvitravn’, graphite & white colour pencil on paper.

The drawings for Kvitravn; the one above and the one with the white raven featuring Lindy-Fay Hella, are both inspired by Wardruna‘s latest album and the visuals from their respective music videos which you can find on Youtube.


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4 thoughts on “Inspiration in Many Forms | Pagan Folk

  1. As always you have a wonderful line in your artwork . I must also thank you for the introduction to Wardruna . I am a longtime enthusiast for mediaeval music and , of course listen to folk music . I note the relationship between older instruments and those which survive in the folk scene which has become more noticeable recently with a shift away from US acoustic to actual surviving music from the North of England & Scotland . i guess in Ireland that has been the case for longer ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Rukshana! I’m glad you have a new band to listen to, as I love coming across new music through recommendations as well. 🥰 I agree with you on musical instruments; things like the tagelharpa or lyres seem to featured a lot more. I’m slowly getting into Irish music, but it does seem that the scene for traditional music is more prominent there perhaps? Maybe it goes hand in hand in trying to keep the Irish language going through the generations. ‘Trad TG4’ on youtube is a great one for Irish music if you were interested. In any case, thank you again for dropping by and your lovely comment.

      Like

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