News for February
Sick-day Reading, or Sifting Out the Pearls
Interview with Henning Ludvigsen
Interview with Henning LudvigsenArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
Henning, how did you get started in the illustration career?
I always wanted to go this way as a profession since I was a little kid, and I got good support from my family and elementary school teachers who helped me finding the right schools for me. After a couple of years in traditional art school, with an amazing art teacher, I had problems getting into the more professional art schools simply because I didn't have enough "experience points", even though I had top grades. This was a system that really messed things up for young students back in Norway earlier, obviously. Because of this, my teacher would drive me around, helping me to find a job, which I did. I started out in the advertisement industry, which basically meant a lot of work with ads, but also a fair bit of illustration, mostly for companies. I changed to the computer game development industry about 6 years ago.
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist for a living?
I have no recollection of when I wanted to work within the art genre, but I do remember being a kid, around 6-7 years old, telling my friends that I would like to become an advertisement illustrator when I grew up, hehe. I am still wondering why none of my friends became firemen or police officers, which was mostly what they wanted to be. :-P
Besides being a freelance illustrator, you also have a day job, how do you succeed at both?
Yes, this is correct. My fulltime job as the AD in a Greek/Norwegian computer game development company in Greece takes more than any of my previous fulltime jobs I've had earlier. The reason why I still manage to do extra projects and personal illustrations on the side is because I basically don't have much of a social life besides work and spending time with Tascha. I moved to Greece about 6 years ago from Norway to work in the computer game industry, which basically means that I have all my friends and family in the opposite side of Europe. I guess I'm making up for feeling bad about this by indulging in painting tentacles and boobies, heh.
How did you decide to start working in computer development?
The change into working with computer games kind of happened automatically. I was working on this game project for fun during my spare time along with some fellow computer geeks (whom I'm still working with, by the way, hehe), and never thought much about it, besides it being a lot of fun and educational. When the project suddenly landed an investor, and we got the option to move across Europe to work on this in Greece, I chose to drop everything I had and went for it. This was during a period in my life where the advertisement industry had almost worn me out, and I was also looking for an exit, in a way.
Who have been major influences in your development as an artist?
I have always had a passion for fantasy art, and my first favourite fantasy artist was Boris Vallejo. When talking about who influenced me in my development, I have no clear answer, as this is a compilation of all the helpful feedback I've gotten from fellow artists over the years. I would say that the "art community" has shaped me, along with my own slightly one-tracked minded interest in fantasy art.
For some years now, you have been together with another super talented artist that happens to be gorgeous. How did you meet Tascha?
This is another thing I can thank the art communities for. I met Tascha at DeviantArt, which is kind of cool if you ask me, hehe. It's great having a girlfriend with the same interests as your self, so that you don't have to pretend or feel stupid for having silly or nerdy interests, hehe.
I've noticed that many of your female characters resemble Tascha a lot. Would you say she is your muse?
Yup, indeed. Tascha is both my muse and my own personal reference model. I doubt that she would allow me to bring in other chicks for photo-sessions, so we've come to this kind of agreement :-P No, seriously, she is a great reference model, and she is used to the camera, as both of her parents are photographers. Win 4 me! :-D
My dad and I usually disagree about competition and couples working in the same area. Do you find that you and Tascha compete with each other? Is this necessarily bad? Do you learn from each other?
I have only good experiences with Tascha having the same interest as myself. We're even working in the same place during daytime. I have learned a lot from her, both when it comes to art, and other things and I value the fact that she knows what painting is about, and that you shouldn't let that go on other peoples demands. I have experiences living with a person who had no understanding or acceptance about spending time creating art, or listening to music, and by going along with that you create a mental prison for yourself. Respect each others interests and needs, and never give up on things that are important to you, no matter how small those things might seem.
If you had spare time to work on personal pieces, what would your choice be?
At the moment, I'm in Lovecraft mode, and my personal pieces nowadays would probably be something Call of Cthulhu related. There's just something about that 1920's era mixed with tentacle monsters that appeals to me.
What's with tentacles and hot chicks?
Well, what's not to like? They are both pretty and fund to paint. My guess is that this is a combo of two major influences; first we have the Boris Vallejo influence with hot chicks in silly and useless bikini armours, and then we have the Call of Cthulhu tentacle monsters. Mix them together and you have something slightly odd, often found with my signature on it.
Your work has a great sense of light, composition and character. What do you consider to be your biggest asset?
I believe that my strongest side is that I have never been afraid to take on a challenge; to jump into tasks with both legs, even if I didn't have any experience from before. I always surprised myself how well I managed to get out, and how much I learned each time. I'm also quite focused, and I'm working quite fast when I'm not completely worn out. My weakest side is probably conceptual work and speed painting, which is something I am eager to improve.
What do you consider to be more important in the illustration world, skills or contacts?
I believe both are important, of course, and it can be a bit of a two sided blade. I know that I have worked on projects only because I had the right contacts on my hand, even though I wasn't the best for the job. This is ok, in my opinion, if you're looking to do this for a living, you have to sell your arse and take on any challenges that come your way. I know incredibly skilled artists, which aren't taking advantage of art communities to make them selves visible, leaving them overlooked by potential clients that could have been perfect for them. This is a pity in many ways, but it proves that you have to be active to be visible to get jobs.
Being so busy with the day job and the commissions, do you still have fun when you paint?
Yes and no. Muse comes and goes, and when it's gone, it's very hard knowing that you HAVE to paint for your clients, when all you really want to do is collapsing on the couch, watching some brain-dead movie whilst waiting for your inspiration to return. Then again, once the muse is back, and I have no pressing deadlines, I find painting very rewarding and entertaining.
I've seen many times that you advice people to go outdoors when they have artist block. Are you an outdoors person? Does nature inspire you?
I like the nature, and I do find inspiration there. I am an avid photographer, and I love visiting places and shoot photographs, which often can be used for inspiration and reference. Still, I'm not that kind of active person you'll bump into climbing the Mount Everest, or running in the park. I have to admit that I'm more of a shopping mall person, and I love chilling in coffee places, or at the beach (at least whilst we're here in Greece, hehe). My advise is usually about taking a break, doing what ever you feel like until the muse returns, or.... Force yourself by keeping on working, no matter how uninspired you are. I usually find myself doing the latter because of deadlines I can't miss.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I have many favourite pieces by other artists, but if you're asking if I have a personal favourite amongst my own paintings, then I'll have a hard time answering. Once I put my signature on my painting I will never touch it again, no matter how bad it is. I like keeping all my paintings as they are, as this way I can keep a visible reference to how I'm improving from piece to piece, leaving all previous flaws out in the open as reminders. If I did something crap in one painting, I will make sure to make it better next time.
If I had to pick one, I think at the moment, it's a painting of Tascha which hasn't been released yet, depicting her as a Lovecraftian field researcher.
I know you are basically torn between two countries. Which one would you rather to live in and why?
I am actually town between three countries; I'm from Norway, currently living in Greece, and Tascha is from Switzerland. I've been in Greece for almost 6 years at the moment, and we're trying to take advantage of the beaches and the nice islands while we're still here. In the end, I do miss Norway a lot and it's hard thinking about how much I've missed out on, with both of my nephews, family and friends. I will however most likely have a lot to do with all three countries for a long time still.
Henning is the busiest, most overworked guy i know, yet he still finds time to motivate and teach what he knows. I just want to say, Thanks Henning! Do you ever sleep?
Abbas Saleem Khan:
Henning's greatest strengths are his powers powers of focus, attention and dedication - his diverse range of skills allow him to visually portray the stories in his mind in ways that would make most of us envious.
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