master of the nordic myth

Magnus ”Mojo” Olsson and some of his new artwork for The Dark North. 

Previous work by Magnus Olsson.

Previous work by Magnus Olsson.

Previous work by Magnus Olsson.

Previous work by Magnus Olsson.

Previous work by Magnus Olsson.

Previous work by Magnus Olsson.

Known to some as the artist behind the iconic, action-filled cover for the Swedish cult RPG Neotech, Magnus “Mojo” Olsson takes The Dark North by the horns and goes straight for the core – the Nordic mythology. 

Magnus, what is The Dark North to you?
– The Dark North is a place of mystery. It´s a place where things hide in shadows of light. A place that chills me to the bone while I sacrifice my mind to understand the purpose of life. A place where I go on the path of life between history, tales, myths and future. The Dark North is a sad place with glimpses of hope. It is a place where I can find peace to be creative with all the tools I have at hand. It allows me to be an adventurer, an explorer, it makes me want to be creative and to share a bit of Nordic culture.

What was your initial interpretation of the concept for The Dark North?
– I was absolutely clueless at first. Just had to follow the light while I was guided into this world that already felt like home.

How has that interpretation changed through your creative process?
– In my mind I formed shapes and stories from the past and present. I felt a need to pull myself closer to the Nordic mythology. Not necessarily as defined in the books, but more something I saw in my mind and from the stories I was told when I was young.

Where did you find the first inspiration for your vision of The Dark North?
– It was there all the time. I rarely go by the book when I create, I work from the feelings I get when I develop the artwork, the composition, the light and the details, the story visualized in the growing creation.

How has the extremes of light and dark in the North affected your art, over the years?
– I have always been a night person and mostly enjoy my creative time during nights or in dark spaces. It pushes me to see more of the colors I create and to be concentrated on the artwork. What has changed though is how I spend my time with details, but that has nothing to do with the light nor the dark.

What can we expect from your artwork in the book?
– Since my process is in constant motion much can still change. I have not visualized all the artwork for the book in my head yet. Even if I had, the final product would not look the same as I imagined it at first. But one thing is certain; I will keep my idea close to the Nordic mythology as I imagine it in the process.

Which media do you work in with The Dark North art and why?
– I work in traditional media, preferably acrylic on canvas with real colors and brushes. My intention is to keep creating the artwork in this way, but I might build something with ink and watercolor. I love to work with real traditional media. There is always a thrill to the point of facing the unexpected happening to the artwork without easy ways to correct it. It is like letting myself both be in control and be able to lose control and watch great things create themselves at the same time.

Which media do you work in usually and why?
– There are so many great media to use and to learn. I can work in most types of media, both digital, painted and drawn. My speciality is traditional inking for illustrations and aquarelle for paintings. Over the last few years I have also used thicker media like acrylic, that dries really quickly and can be used to create more distinct colors than watercolor. It also offers greater possibilities to build textures. But I have always strived to become a great inker both for comics and illustrations. When I was young, my hands shivered when I was tense and I have really concentrated on inking as a way to relax, get more steady hands and to keep even the thinnest lines controlled.

How have you developed creatively over the last ten years?
– Actually I developed most of my creativity back in the early 90´s. Since then my creativity has changed to more of a mindset rather than perfecting my use of the material. The market for drawn artwork has not improved during the last ten years. People still love original art but they no longer seem to understand the value of having to create art, or the value in art. It makes it harder to sell and forces the artists to find simpler, less creative solutions that fit the client’s perception of value.

What about Sweden and the Nordic countries inspires you in your work?
– The creative environment shifts with every season and there is a beauty to be found each day. I live in a fairly big city, Gothenburg. It is a mix of different styles and times that have affected this city. Old buildings mix with newly designed ones. The countryside of Sweden is astonishing, absolutely gorgeous and it is always frightening not to know whether there’s a wolf, a moose or a bear in the woods. The coastlines bring so much light and darkness depending on time and season, and you always feel that slight worry about what hides beneath the deep, dark waters. The woods are a perfect hide-out for fantasies, animals and trolls, or even creatures yet not revealed. During wintertime the nights feel dark but the snow lights up at short distance, a glimmering light from the moonlight's reflection. The sound when your shoes meet the crust of the snow, just imagine that, what creative imagination will that bring to you?