the spellbinding imagination of henrik pettersson
Henrik Pettersson and some of his new artwork for The Dark North.
Henrik is the first artist to be revealed for The Dark North – Volume 1. As a concept artist at Minecraft developer Mojang, Henrik (@Carnalizer) has lead the concept development for the online card game Scrolls. Prior to joining his current award winning game studio, he has contributed original art and concepts for a wide range of Swedish computer games. Henrik was actually the first artist ever (yes, ever!) to win the world’s most prestigious award for art in computer games - Into the Pixel - for a mobile game.
Henrik is a versatile artist, commanding dramatic, detailed boardgame cover art all the way to night-pitch dark, single-frame comics for Nordic daily newspapers. For the Dark North, Henrik breathes life into a new developing mythology featuring the Witches of the North. Born in the aftermath of the war between the Norse gods, the Aesir, and the gods that came before, the Vanir, we can assure you that you’ve never seen witches like these before. Ever. His new art promises to be as magical as it is jaw dropping. We can’t wait to show the full potential of Henrik’s original Dark North suite to the world!
Hi, Henrik! Tell us, what is The Dark North to you?
– The idea of bringing artists to the forefront for their art in itself really resonates with me. These days, most artists who want to eat have to find work in games, and with that comes anonymity. Don’t get me wrong; the games industry has brought forth more and better artists out there than ever before, but their work mostly ends up in a Powerpoint presentation, or on the desk of a 3D modeler. I’ve followed many artists on the internet for years, and just when they start to become really good, they disappear from the public view, with awesome art hidden behind non-disclosure agreements. I only wish there were more books like The Dark North, because there are so many artists!
What was your initial interpretation of the concept for The Dark North?
– The idea of a series of fantastical portraits is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It was only a matter of matching a theme to the project. I went back and forth between a few, but in the end, a reimagining of witches seemed fresh, creative, and with plenty of room for some darkness.
How has that interpretation changed through your creative process?
– It hasn’t changed that much. Apart from abandoning lofty ideas of doing huge oil paintings, of course. I even bought new canvases. It didn’t take long to remember why I work digitally though. Once I got started after that, things started to click. When Martin and I got to talking about the individual witches, and the presentation, all doubt disappeared. We’re having a blast with this.
How has the extremes of light and dark in the North affected your art, over the years?
– As an adult, it’s mostly a question of seasonal bipolar disorder. The brain needs light to be happy, and getting so little of it during winter, makes the summer so much more precious. As a kid however, it was more about the difference of night and day. Growing up in a rural area with plenty of woods and lakes, it was all too easy to imagine the creatures that surely must come out at night.
What do you find so interesting about witches and Norse mythology?
– I love mythology for all the crazy ideas that are told like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Tolkien had an imagination for sure, but he’s got nothing on the religious myths. The Norse myths are weirder than most, except for maybe Hindu myth. I don’t know if witches really have anything in particular to do with Norse mythology, but the idea here is to invent new concepts. In the end, I hope to come up with something like a superhero/supervillain pantheon, but with a distinct fantasy feel, and with some of that ‘someone born out of a random body part of a god temporarily being an animal’-crazy tone that is so pervasive in mythology.
What can we expect from your artwork in the book?
– A mix of the solemn, almost whispering nature I remember from my childhood, and larger than life characters, caught in a moment… and spot-on compositions, I hope.
Describe your art in the book in one sentence.
– Digital alla prima fantasy, with a focus on parallel or perpendicular lines of action and strong chiaroscuro-like contrasts.
Which media do you work in with The Dark North art and why?
– I start with small loose pencil sketches, which are scanned and painted over in Photoshop. I find this brings the best of two worlds. Working on paper in the conception phase is more conducive to creative thinking. No distractions, only a pen and paper. The digital part gives you access to a wide range of tools, the ability to change stuff around, and more than anything; the Power of Undo.
How have you developed creatively over the last ten years?
– My development tends to be driven by the question ‘Could I do it?’ This leads to trying a great many things. It’s a good thing when you work in a small games studio. It’s not that great if you’re trying to compete with great artists on a global market, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How has working in the Swedish gaming industry changed over the last ten years?
– I believe every studio is different, so it’s hard to discern trends. The options are more varied, the market is wider, and the audience is more accepting to new ideas, but the competition is more brutal than ever. I think that games as a business is mostly a lottery, and as lotteries grow, the chance of winning gets smaller, but the jackpot gets bigger.
What is your opinion about the state of the Swedish gaming industry?
– Sweden is the best place to be if you wanna work in games. There’s lots of sharing, lots of events and competent studios with decent work environments. Sweden is a nation of engineers though. The business need more and better art schools!
What is the most interesting thing going on in the creative landscape of Sweden today?
– The indie scene is strong here. We’ve seen several Swedish indie games turn the industry on its head. The Swedish manner of being both effective and innovative is doing great work across many areas of business, art and science.
What is the most frustrating aspect of being an artist in the gaming industry today?
– It takes fucking forever to make a game, that’s the worst. So many ideas, and one game finished a year if you’re lucky.