Local Stockholm artist Maria Sahlberg, one of the Northern Lights Workshop course participants, has organised a life drawing event for December 2nd, 2013 in Gamla Stan, Stockholm. The event will be from 18:00 until 21:00, with a live model in 1700′s dress. Maria has found a beautiful and inspiring space in the Old Town to host the event, and this should be a really fun chance to work with a live figure in a social environment.
The cost is a mere 150 kronor, and no registration is required, although you should arrive on time as the physical space is not unlimited – get a good spot! I plan to attend, and several of the NLW crew of Stockholm artists will be there, as well – hope to see you there!
Österlånggatan 37, Johannes Butik, Gamla Stan. kl. 18-21 Dec. 2, 2013
Contact Maria for more information at mariasahlberg.com.
This piece is my submission to ArtOrder’s November 2013 Inspiration Challenge. It hasn’t actually been easy to be inspired right now, as this is perhaps the least inspiring time of year here in Sweden. There also hasn’t been much spare time lately for a project like this, so I had to take a lot of short periods of time where I could find them.
I’d been working on this idea on and off since the second Northern Light Workshop, where I’d been trying an acrylic painting of this theme with varied results. Unsatisfied, I invited the gracious Elin Hökby to come back to the studio to help me with poses, and she was interested in the direction of the picture. With her help and support, I came up with enough material that I felt I could get the feeling I was after for the piece – a darker take on the valkyrie inspired by the rune stones I’d seen in Visby on Gotland.
I wanted to try the so-called “Rackham technique” I’d read about on William Stout’s blog (watercolour over warm-toned ink lines), and so I traced out my sketches on Canson Montval watercolour paper. I used a waterproof Faber-Castell sepia brush pen to ink the linework. I was sort of a nervous wreck doing this, but everything worked out. I was admiring the finished line art when I suddenly realised I’d left out a letter in the old norse translation. I sat there in shock for a while, trying to decide how to handle it. I was going to scan the linework before colouring it anyway, just in case, so I scanned it and fixed the mistake in Photoshop.
I printed out the artwork onto new sheets of the same watercolour paper, but somehow it just wasn’t the same anymore, and I was quite depressed about the whole situation. I finally decided to take the pressure off myself and just colour it digitally. I have a set of digital watercolour brushes created by Justin Gerard that I just love, so I felt better directly about this decision. I still want to try a proper test of the Rackham method, but it’ll have to wait until the next piece!
From that point, things went well. Even though I set out on this piece with Arthur Rackham and John Bauer firmly in mind, when I look at the finished work, I see how much I’ve been influenced by Hasui Kawase in the colouring. I can even see Mucha and Moebius in there in places. All of our various inspirations are whispering to us as we work, I suppose.
The text in the framing is a fragment of stanza 54 of Helgakviða Hundingsbana I in old norse, which I hope I’ve managed to translate (and spell!) correctly. It says approximately, “Down from the sky came maidens with shining helms…”. I wanted the overall tone to be a bit ominous, and to include the ravens, who are sometimes associated with valkyrie. Her garb is closer to actual viking styles, and she carries a saga-sized drinking horn!
I wonder what the judges of the challenge will think of it – it’s a powerhouse lineup of famous artists and art directors, so no pressure there. At any rate, I learned so much creating this, and I’m motivated to take things further next time – to have the courage to colour the entire piece with watercolours…
I thought I’d post this crappy photo of a work in progress. This is another watercolour experiment using the new “All Terrain” set I bought from American Journey. I love this palette, and I’m having a lot of fun learning to use it. This is a portrait of a friend of a friend in her absolutely amazing warrior priestess live-action roleplay costume. What you can’t see here is the large wooden portable shrine she has strapped to the back of her plate armour! It’s not the best resemblance of Frida unfortunately, but other than that I’m generally happy with the way the picture’s working out. Really enjoying watercolours…
I’ve always rather liked the character of ranger Sylvanas Windrunner from the Warcraft universe. She’s a bit like the Borg Queen: definitely someone you should stay far away from if at all possible, yet somehow compelling and magnetic at the same time. What I don’t care for is the “hot” treatments that most artists seem to give her in illustrations – she’s a revenant, after all, so that’s certainly uncomfortable territory to tread. I’ve always wanted to do a more low-key portrait of her, and give her a more “realistic” look (which is a bit silly given the character and milieu, I know).
I also did a lot of reading this summer about the Japanese Shin hanga ( “new print”) printmaking movement, and I became interesting in incorporating some of what I learned into my work. This picture is definitely informed by the palettes of artists like Hasui Kawase, and I was also intrigued by the depiction of hands in many works. My figures usually end up having my hands because I shot them for reference, so I wanted to get past this somehow. I’m happy with the hands here – and at the very least, they’re not mine! The excellent character and costume work of Carolina Dahlberg was also inspirational.
One last note: in my studying of archery, I came across the technique of so-called “instinctive shooting”, which was quite interesting and seemed very different from modern technical shooting – although that was equally impressive. I’m always pleased at how much I learn just from doing research for a painting, and the unexpected roads it can lead me down!
Hasui Kawase at Wikipedia
Here’s my second watercolour attempt, also very much in-progress. This image has been in the works since last summer, when I had a friend pose for the sketches for it. Here I’m building up many washes of very light tones, trying not to destroy the surface of the Canson paper too much as I go. I’m deliberately using a very narrow colour range so far, and it tends to vary between looking pretty good and going muddy, depending on the wash. I wanted to see how this technique feels to work in, and what kind of results I can get with it – it’s really different from how I tend to use acrylics. It’s been a real exercise in patience, waiting for each wash to fully dry!
Just thought I’d post a quick work-in-progress. This is my first serious attempt at full-sized watercolour painting. This composition was an unused idea for the ArtOrder Viking challenge, but I’d had the basic sketch around since last winter and always wanted to complete it somehow. I re-drew it on Canson Montval 300g and started in with the watercolours. It’s a very exciting media… it feels very wild to me here at the start and I have very little clue what I’m doing, but I’m really enjoying the challenge.
This is another piece created for one of Jon Schindehette’s Art Order events: the “Viking” challenge produced in collaboration with Allison Hourcade of RockLove Jewelry. Allison has produced a really wonderful new line of work based on historical viking hoard finds, and the art challenge was simply to include one or several of these pieces into an illustration.
I decided this would fit in thematically with some work I am currently doing anyway. I’ve been researching viking history quite a bit in recent years, and I’m especially interested in some of the newer theories about social structure, fashion and gender roles. This character builds off accepted historical material and plays into some of the newer ideas.
As with Drakflickan, the model for the young woman was the gracious, beautiful and very patient Elin Hökby, who quite definitely possesses a valkyrie’s spirit.
Rune stones are pretty fascinating in and of themselves, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to see some important ones up close. I thought this was a good opportunity to get one into a painting. The inscription on the stone is several stanzas which I quite liked from the skaldic poem Darraðarljoð. The Younger Futhark runes spell out the stanzas in Old Norse, and I hope I didn’t muck it up too badly.
Carl Larsson’s Viking Woman was also an inspiration for this piece.
Wanderlust won first prize in the Comic/Graphic Novel category, and was one of the three nominees for “Best of Show”. Sincere thanks to all the judges and organisers for your time and effort in producing the challenge!
Also as with Drakflickan, the painting is graphite on 120g Canson croquis paper, and was digitally coloured in Photoshop CS6 using Justin Gerard’s excellent watercolour tool presets.
This is my entry into the recent Art Order challenge with the theme “Dragon World”. This is intended as the cover to an imaginary book for older children called “Drakflickan” (“The Dragon Girl”). The idea of the challenge was to not only depict a dragon, but to show the dragon’s integration and influence with the world that it inhabits. I worked to achieve this by showing an intimate and obviously comfortable connection between the girl and the dragon, and suggesting some sort of working relationship by having them both be similarly armoured.
I didn’t want to do be too explicit about what the relationship between the two actually involves, whether they are equals or one serves the other, but the motif on the shield hopefully implies that they’re involved in some larger tradition of their cultures.
This was created with graphite on 120g Canson croquis paper, and was digitally coloured in Photoshop CS6 using Justin Gerard’s excellent watercolour tool presets.
Dinotopia artist James Gurney often posts at his blog “Gurney Journey“ about interesting light and atmospheric effects like sun pillars. I often see sun pillars here in Sweden in the summertime, but I took a photo of this rarer (for me) wintertime pillar back in winter 2011.
On the evening of December 2rd, 2012, my wife and I left our art studio and noticed a strange and ethereal shimmering quality in the very cold air. It was innumerable very tiny ice crystals… so fine that one couldn’t quite make them out without looking in just the right way. We looked out over the lake and saw pillars of light rising from the lights on the far shore.
At first, I thought it might be happening in my eyeglasses, but when I removed them, the pillars were still there. The night was dark, so I tried to capture them using the NightCap app on my iPhone. These shots are not ideal, but at least I was able to record this startling phenomenon. It’s easy to imagine that this effect is some kind of lens flare taking place in-camera, but this is indeed how it looked to the naked eye:
When we walked further down the street, I looked back, and now the lights were blocked by the row of flats facing the lake – but we could still see the pillars extending up from behind the buildings!
The next day, many people observed and took pictures of some glorious halo effects in the sky, but unless you were lucky enough to be out late on the evening of the 2nd, you may well have missed these strange and beautiful lights!
Here is a last picture taken by Sam Hellerström that appeared in Aftonbladet. It really shows how surreal this phenomenon was:
Registration is now open for the second Northern Light workshop! Taking place on October 12-14 in Stockholm, Sweden, this workshop features the return of popular guest instructor Jesper Ejsing in tandem with the very talented Eva Widermann.
Jesper and Eva will be demonstrating how to create truly successful character portraits, covering such aspects as:
- - thumbnailing/sketching
- - silhouette reading
- - strong posing
- - details
- - value control
- - color.
Each of the workshop days will begin with a talk by the instructors, in which they will discuss all the elements that make a great illustration, as exemplified in a single figure.
Portfolio reviews will also be available for those who are interested.
Class size will be limited to 14 students, so don’t miss out. Enroll today!