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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May, in the Sketchbook

Revisiting Norse and Celtic knotwork; they’re differences and similarities are always so interesting. On that vein, trying to to make life-drawing a little more interesting this week by incorporating themes from Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
graphite on paper | Strathmore 400 Series Sketchbook

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.

When in Doubt, Back to the Sketchbook

If you’ve followed the progress of my latest painting (Sparks of Rebellion) on Instagram, I’d say you already know all about my displeasure of it. But let’s start with the positives shall we? I had (in my opinion) a rather successful sketch period following this meltdown. I needed to figure out what went wrong with my painting, and I would say some things became more clear. If nothing else, the prelim. work behind the painting was one of my more enjoyable ones.

What I had excitedly envisioned for the finished piece got ruined within the first few seconds of the initial wash due to…..a brush, that required more extractions of bristles off of paper than I’ve had to do. Lets say that brush shall not haunt mine or anyone else’s dreams ever again. As the painting started to develop I also began to notice more errors in terms of figure/ form, etc. Unnoticeable to the audience perhaps but as artists will know, GLARING for us. Frustrations piled on, this painting was beyond ‘fixing’ at a certain point. With a bit of help with some coloured-pencils it regained the status of being presentable. In conclusion, more discipline I’d say on checking my tools, testing colour comps. thoroughly, and most important of all, triple-checking line-work/under drawing. Mirrors and views from a distance are once again my best friends. 😆

Sparks of Rebellion, watercolours & coloured-pencils, 11×14″, 2020

WIP and planning stages: the parts that were the most fun for this piece.

Alexsandr Kallus: SW Rebels, graphite studies on sketchbook

Wardruna Grá – Sketchbook

A quick little sketchbook share. Taking inspiration from my favourite Norse/folk band Wardruna, and their latest release Grá. I usually have some sort of music on while working; although usually at the painting/working stage. It’s usually Wardruna, Heilung & Kati Rán, among a plethora of other artists. I’d love to know how you work as well. 🙂

Grá. graphite on toned paper sketchbook, 22.02.2020

The Mandalorian – Last Drawings of 2019

30.12.2019_Sketch

I hope you all have enjoyed The Mandalorian as much as I have; it has given me hope for the Star Wars franchise on the big screen. Although I’m not part of the fan-base that have felt rage at the new movies, I was rather disappointed at the failure to develop the characters & plot in the manner that The Force Awakens seemed to have initially been heading towards. I can be satisfied with The Mandalorian however, and continue to enjoy the animated series, games, and books that Star Wars creators do well.

Having had the benefit of growing up with 2 older brothers, I was never short of action and sci-fi/fantasy media growing up. The Star Wars trilogy was watched to death on VHS, and my generation of course enjoyed (and criticize today 😅 ) the prequels when they came out around 2000s. Other than the unforgettable introduction of Darth Maul in the prequels, Ewan Mcgregor’s Obi-Wan really got me interested in the character and continues to be my favourite to this day. (Well ok…Obi-wan and a certain red-eyed, blue-skinned, art connoisseur 😆) Therefore, seeing director Deborah Chow behind 2 of my favourite episodes in The Mandalorian has gotten me very excited for the upcoming Obi-wan series which she’ll be behind. A really good sci-fi/fantasy show also means a longer wait for Season 2, which I shall now impatiently be waiting for.

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This is the Way, graphite on toned paper, sketchbook, 2019

05.12.2019_Sketch_Shaima
Want Some Soup?, graphite on toned paper, sketchbook, 2019

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A Creed, graphite on toned paper, sketchbook, 2019

*Prints available here.

December Inspirations – Sketchbook

A few drawings from the end of last month & this one, from shows that have inspired me enough to draw along. I mean anything Star Wars related is a no brainer, so that didn’t count I suppose. 😅

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Ka’kwet, Anne S3 / Colour-pencils on toned Sketchbook paper

28.11.2019_Sketchbook_Shaima
This is the way / Graphite on toned Sketchbook paper

05.12.2019_Sketch_Shaima
Want Some Soup? / Graphite on toned Sketchbook paper