lukas thelin delves into the dark mind of the north

Lukas Thelin  and some of his new artwork for The Dark North. 

Previous work by Lukas Thelin.

Previous work by Lukas Thelin.

Previous work by Lukas Thelin.

Previous work by Lukas Thelin.

Lukas Thelin. A name so closely knit to the Swedish world of role-playing games and board games that you can't separate the two. Lukas is the in-house artist – and masterclass cover artist – at games publisher Åskfågeln and his critically acclaimed work can be found in the recently released Western RPG, the games magazine Fenix and in the Swedish edition of Lone Wolf RPG. 

Lukas’s art is always as striking as it is fueled with drama. As expected, no less so in his imagery for The Dark North, which will take us back to his roots in the far North, and into the darkness of the mind that comes from living in the endless night.

Lukas, what is The Dark North to you?
– I have always been a massive fan of art books. Happy as I am to see good art in any context, enhancing books, game material or what have you, I take particular pleasure in seeing simply the art presented on its own terms. For me it’s a pure form of appreciation, one artist to another. The Dark North project presented an opportunity too enticing to pass up. Getting to showcase brand new personal pieces in a printed product, rather than previously published commissions, is a rare treat.

What was your initial interpretation of the concept for The Dark North?
– My idea was to visualize aspects of nature and folk myth as fantasy creatures interacting with people in northern Sweden as they went about their everyday lives. The dark still water of the lake, the fire in the moonshine still, and so on. While I felt the idea had potential, I struggled to find a real connection to the Dark North theme.

How has that interpretation changed through your creative process?
– I eventually felt that I wanted a simpler theme with more room for variety. It would be life’s big finishing trick. Its capacity to end. Death is the baseline. The unifying factor. Everything from the loss of a pet to the dark behind the stars. It felt appropriately human to my northern sensibilities. From there, the original idea morphed into one depicting dramatic confrontations with abstractions of the numerous shapes of death in the north. Whether it be superstition, loneliness, or just plain bad luck, the Reaperman’s got your back. And your number.

Where did you find the first inspiration for your vision of The Dark North?
– It was a story my girlfriend told me. The grandmother of a friend of hers used to scare the children by saying: “Better watch yourselves. Behind every seventh pine-tree stands the Devil.” Such a lovely, creepy image! That got the wheels turning.

What can we expect from your artwork in the book?
– Hopefully both some drama and contemplation, with some crazy monsters thrown in. My art tends to feature figures center stage and be pretty “splashy”, but I intend to have more varied and open compositions as well.

Describe your art in the book in one sentence.
– Visions of the unseen things that lurk behind the trees of the deep dark forests of the mind.

Which media do you work in with The Dark North art and why?
– Digital, Photoshop and Wacom Intuos Tablet, although I still do sketches and doodle in ink on occasion. When I started coloring my artwork digitally back in early 2000 I was using PS and a mouse. It seems almost comically user unfriendly now, but it was what I had always used since my youth, drawing cell animations in Deluxe Paint on my little Amiga, so it seemed perfectly workable at the time.

How have you developed creatively over the last ten years?
– Most noticeably in style. In early 2005 I was still drawing cartoon type artwork with much emphasis on black lines and stylized shapes. Over the years I have left the line art behind to move more towards contemporary digital painting and currently I’m looking to learn from more traditional sources such as Angus McBride and James Gurney. Having had the opportunity to continually contribute to Fenix magazine since 2004 has been a tremendous boon for me creatively. I owe it’s creators, my friends, and current employers Anders and Tove Gillbring a huge debt of gratitude of allowing me to hone my craft on their fine publication.