a future darkly

Joakim Ericsson. 

New artwork for The Dark North by Joakim Ericsson.

New artwork for The Dark North by Joakim Ericsson.

Previous work by Joakim Ericsson.

Previous work by Joakim Ericsson.

Previous work by Joakim Ericsson.

Previous work by Joakim Ericsson.

Previous work by Joakim Ericsson.

Previous work by Joakim Ericsson.

Joining us this week is classically trained painter- turned- concept artist Joakim Ericsson, who is the first to explore The Dark North in the far future. With an immaculate sense of detail and perspective, as well as true mastery of color, Joakim will take us on an epic journey not only forward in time, but to the war-torn Dark North itself.

What is The Dark North to you?
– Well… My home I guess, both physically and mentally :) The dark, cold winter is always hard to deal with, even for someone born and raised here. I think it stimulates creativity and imagination though, because during the long, dark months it gives you something to dream of, and long for: spring, summer and light… better times. I don’t see myself being as productive in a place like California or Hawaii. Mood swings are a necessity for any creative process, I think.

What was your initial interpretation of the concept for The Dark North?
– A very interesting project, where you had the opportunity to share your own vision within the concept.

How has that interpretation changed through your creative process?
– Not much to be honest, since I was already working on a project that pretty much fit the concept. It’s a cliché to say “it was meant to be”, but who knows… this time, maybe it was.

Where did you find the first inspiration for your vision of The Dark North?
– The very first inspiration was when me and an old RPG buddy were discussing ideas for a game world. He mentioned something briefly, which had to do with a randomized world generating table, a rulebook chart. It immediately sparked my imagination. Something that was SO symbolic and SO unique. It was growing in my mind for a while, and it then flourished into a full vision for a world and a story.

How has the extremes of light and dark in the North affected your art, over the years?
– I honestly can’t tell. When I was a classical painter (oil and charcoal you know), people told me they thought my work was dark, serious and depressing, a lot of the time. Some loved it, some hated it. Burning horses, and demons mourning their dead offspring are a tough sell in the gallery world though :) In games, movies and other forms of storytelling, that imagery seems to be more appreciated.

What do you find so interesting about dark science fiction?
– “Light” sci-fi is boring in my opinion, I can’t think of a single example that defies that rule. I think an interest in dark sci-fi has to do with us as viewers/readers sympathising with the protagonists. We love to see how good stands up against evil, be it a Sith Lord, Alien, Terminator or the Tyrell Corporation. Hopefully the good side wins. Often it doesn’t in dark sci-fi, and we seem to love that too. Maybe because that reminds us of the real world we live in. I used to think that Steven Spielberg’s early sci-fi movies were light, that they defy the rule, but they really don’t. Close Encounters is about a man who gives up his family to find answers to his questions about E.Ts. E.T is about a boy without a father who meets a benevolent alien, it becomes his true friend, then it dies, gets resurrected and has to leave earth, never to return… heart wrenching! Early Star Trek (before J.J. Abrams) is what I consider “light” sci-fi, and I find it quite uninteresting.

What can we expect from your artwork in the book?
– Images from a project I honestly believe in. Hopefully my images do it justice, and people enjoy it.

Describe your art in the book in one sentence.
– Classical, dark, atmospheric and cerebral sci-fi.

Which media do you work in with The Dark North art and why?
– Photoshop, it allows the most flexibility and creative flow. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll do them in oil, but that is an open and far away discussion.

How have you developed creatively over the last ten years?
– Quite a ride. I was a classical painter for fifteen years (figures, landscapes etc.), showing works at galleries all over, but in the end, I started feeling like it wasn’t my right element. I was always passionate about movies, games and storytelling, and it started to grow more and more. In the art world, people wanted me to do pretty still life paintings, and I just couldn’t do them anymore. My final decision came when I had done the two best paintings of my career, and they eventually ended up on my own studio floor, covered in bubble wrap, unsold and collecting dust.

How has working in the Swedish gaming industry changed over the last ten years?
– Not sure, since I haven’t been in it for more than a few years, I have been a gamer for much longer though. Talking about the gaming industry in general, I kind of feel that since it is now generating so much money, it becomes more and more restricted creatively. Pretty much like the movie industry ended up. You see more and more games looking like clones, not just visually, but also in terms of gameplay and concept ideas. Developers end up doing the same thing over and over again, because it’s the least risky economic decision. Most effort goes into developing the tech and graphics, rather than creating an interesting and unique experience for the player. The creativity often has to step aside, because money and creativity are usually not compatible. There are some developers who dare to stick with their own vision though.

How has the creative atmosphere in Sweden changed over the last ten years?
– Well… A project like The Dark North would not have happened ten years ago, that’s for sure. I find it extremely positive. There have always been people who really care about images and stories, but now they actually find each other, through the internet mostly. They don’t sit isolated in their little hometowns anymore, feeling like weirdos (like me and my friends did in our youth). To experience how people today connect with each other and create projects only for the sake of working together on a vision or a workshop is fantastic. In that sense, the creative atmosphere is better than ever.

What is your opinion about the state of the Swedish gaming industry?
– It’s doing really well as far as I know. I try not to think about it too much, I am too busy creating images. I am happy to be able to do what I am doing.

What is the most interesting thing going on in the creative landscape of Sweden today?
– Again, projects like this.

What is the most frustrating aspect of being an artist in the gaming industry today?
– Uh Oh! Who is reading this? Ehhh... it’s all hunkydory :) Seriously though, it’s the money. As a perfectionist, I wish more time could be spent on the art making, and that ideas were allowed a longer time to develop. Quality and time spent, often goes hand in hand, money and fast production represent the opposite side. But, as a realistic idealist I’m OK with it, most of the time. If we don’t make money, we can’t keep doing what we are doing… Two sides of the same coin. In a perfect world though...