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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Margarette| Watercolour Painting


Drawing Without Reference

Going into this year I really wanted to improve the way I drew faces and proportions. Most important of all I wanted to be able to see said improvements when not working with any references. I was noticing the loss of creativity that I had an abundance of, when I used to create art in the early days of middle & high school. Back then I was doing more of a manga/anime style work, however I had much more creative ideas come through in terms of design.

A really good article that caught my eye earlier this year was The Danger of Reference by Jesper Ejsing via. Muddy Colors (A website you should be following if you’re interested in acquiring a wealth of knowledge from artists in the industry). It was something that I had gotten too comfortable with, and something I hadn’t even noticed or thought about until I read Jesper’s article. I had indeed created a safety blanket for myself over these last couple years, relying heavily on references for all my work in every stage. Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this process (most artists require references at many stages of their work), there is a danger of killing creativity if you don’t step outside the technical once in a while. This reliance on references came from an insecurity of my own skills as an artist, and of course comparison to the masters in the fantasy art and illustration industry.

So at the end of September, as sort of a spur of the moment thing, I decided to do a painting in which I would draw a face without the help of any reference material. …Confession, I did give up on the hands 😅; something I have yet to master in terms of structure/shape. I am pleased I was able to come up with a face, composition and design at least. Small steps.

Margarette, watercolours & acrylics on paper, 8×10.5″, 2020

WIP.

This painting along with many other originals are available for purchase directly through the Shop section in this website. If you are looking for prints, please visit my Inprnt store.

Update & August Sketches

August has just flown by for me. It started out rather slow, and then ideas kept piling up and now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. 😯 While I get into finishing up some newer pieces, I thought I’d share some sketchbook drawings from this month. I’ve been trying out the Strathmore Drawing Sketchbook, and it’s quite fantastic I have to say.

Head studies using Victorian & Edwardian photo references.
graphite & acrylic ink

New Project, Kickstarter Collab.

I’m excited to also share that I’ll be joining a roster of very talented artists in illustrating part of a Tarot Deck from Changeling Artist Collective. Guesses as to which card I’ll be illustrating? 🤭 The project will be coming to Kickstarter in 2021, so make sure you follow CAC on Instagram as well to keep up to date. Here’s a little sneak peek at what I’m working on.

July Painting – VENTRESS

The Switch

I’ve made the switch to hot-press paper. Having conversations with other artists and looking at their process, it was time to switch over and give this paper a try. I think I’ll always prefer cold-press; the texture and depth of colours you can achieve is much more satisfactory, but alas the scanning results in my opinion are rarely so for displaying work online (especially for more illustrative pieces).

Stock piling and clutter in both art and life is not something I’m keen on. Something I’ve had to reconsider during this pandemic. Luckily I had enough supplies until shops opened up again, but what I didn’t have on hand was hot-press paper. A month back, the only shop that had any in stock here in Toronto was Deserres. 4-5 ‘misroutes’ with Canpar, emails & phone-calls back and forth with both companies, and I finally had my paper arrive in a bent cardboard box. …I don’t know if I was more surprised at having received my shipment at all, or that the paper had somehow survived with minimal damage. Yay to Canadian postal service. 👍😑

Ventress, watercolours & acrylics on 11×15″ paper, 2020

New Vision for Ventress

I chose to test out Fabriano’s Artistico Hot-Press Watercolour Paper. I would suggest everyone do a little test run before starting a new piece, but seeing as I didn’t follow my own advice it seems a tad bit hypocritical to say so. 😅 After success with this paper and seeing that it wasn’t a waste of money, I’m eager to try out Arches‘ (pricier) paper as well. I had little to no warp with this one, although I’m suspicious of my 3m masking tape playing a part as well. I don’t put down a lot of heavy wet washes either, so I can’t say what the result would be for those of you who like to do so. Again, do your tests!

I suppose it’s no surprise I’m doing another Star Wars related piece. With the last season of The Clone Wars finished and looking forward to both Season 2 of The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch, my head is constantly buzzing with ideas for artwork. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Dave Filoni to continue the stories of SW Rebels characters, and that of Ventress in future animated projects. I had hoped to see more of her life after serving the Sith and her new missions as a bounty hunter; even more interactions with Boba’s team perhaps.

Achieving some ‘glowy’ eyes with acrylic paints.

Keeping the bounty hunter theme in mind, I wanted to soften Asajj’s look by giving her hair again (drawing on the flashbacks of her lavender hair as a child), as well as changing her usual Sith attire to more of a civilian one. Taking liberties of course from the original art & design, I played around with additional Sith corruption marks and tried to include references to her Dathomirian heritage with things like beaded necklaces, and of course some elements of witchcraft & necromancy. This was a fun little side project to work on, although personally it’s always nerve-raking to mess around with original visions of any series.

Process.

3rd time’s a charm; various attempts of re-imagining Ventress.
The final drawing on tracing paper before adding some tidbits of embellishments.

Through the Void – Graphite Drawing

Graphite WIP for Through the Void

As a promise to myself to improve my figure drawing, (the male form in particular), I was surprisingly satisfied by the end of this piece. My current displeasure with my work was that there was something off about how my figures in my watercolour paintings were looking. There was a flatness that I didn’t really like, and really wanted to improve on. Therefore I went back to the basics with graphite. Obviously a much more forgiving medium, it gave me the chance to really analyze what I was missing in how I presented the male/female form in my work; taking a slower pace, and building up each layer with shadows, highlights & textures. I think the next step will be to play around with much more dramatic lighting to add more dimension to faces and figures.

It was also really fun to play around with some of the graphite shavings/residue I had saved from sharpening my pencils. So do save them if you sharpen your tools with a blade! 🙂 Although scanners don’t do a very good job at picking up the subtleties in traditional work, I hope you can at least see the attempt to create more solid black planes. I’ve wanted to incorporate this technique for a while now, without using black paper or ink washes. Although easily created (as seen in the halo), there will inevitably be a visible texture no matter how dark the graphite. So this technique was quite interesting to try out, as well as figuring out whether I like graphite better on white or tan-toned paper. The verdict’s still out on than one.

Through the Void, graphite on 11×14″ paper, 2020