We're excited to share this interview with Henning Ludvigsen. He's a senior member of Shadowness and has always amazed the viewers with realistic illustrations that seem to know no bounds.
My name is Henning Ludvigsen and I'm a Norwegian digital illustrator. I've been living in Athens, Greece since 2002 working as Art Director and partner of Aventurine S.A., a computer game development company which is developing the MMORPG, “Darkfall Online” ( www.darkfallonline.com ). During my spare time, I'm working for several clients such as, Fantasy Flight Games, working on their card and board games. (“Call of Cthulhu”, “A Game of Thrones”, “Civilization”, “Warhammer 40K”, and lots more.) I've done work for Eidos, and Burton Snowboards as well. I've also started small company called BadgerPunch Games with a friend, making small games just for fun. ( www.badgerpunch.com ).
I enjoy making computer games, even though I don't play much. I like pen & paper role-playing games, and grabbing some beers out with friends where I can show my true Viking colours.
When did you first become aware of your interest in art? Were there specific events that lead you to it or did it feel like a natural decision?
For as long as I can remember I was always interested in drawing and painting. During elementary school I was always the kid dealing with illustrating team projects and so on. Well, I also drew gigantic sharks eating masses of people, leaving the teacher with no other choice than talking to my parents to put a stop to it. I remember wanting to become a commercial advertisement illustrator, which I guess is a pretty weird choice for a 9-year old. (laughs) So when it was time to choose my path for further education and the future, things went pretty much seamlessly.
I went directly to traditional art school where I had 2 great years learning the basics of traditional art and art history. Live nude drawing, too, which could be a scary ordeal depending on the model we had at the moment. After art school I went directly to the advertisement agency industry where I had to learn the basics of working digitally. This even though I've been playing around with computer graphics on the Commodore-64 from of back in the 80's, (Amiga-platform, too) it was still quite the leap from that into the commercial industry.
What does Shadowness mean to you and how has it affected your vision of online art communities?
I've always enjoyed Shadowness, and I was a member back in the early days as well when it started out. I'm really enjoying the current version, which brought me back from not being very active in any community at all, really. I like that it has a slightly different approach to the usual communities and forums out there. Also it's a very friendly community which I really enjoy.
I understand that you started a traditional art education at the age of 16. Looking back, how large of an impact did it have on your growth of knowledge within the arts? Would you recommend beginners to enroll in a school?
Having a traditional art background has helped me a lot even when working digitally. I'm using the same theories and even similar techniques sometimes, depending on what I'm trying to achieve. I very much recommend education, even though at the end of the day it all boils down to proving yourself, working hard, and having experience to make it in the industry. Education will help the process very much indeed, as you have a better understanding of what lies beneath the creation of creative work, I think.
Your portfolio contains vibrant and realistic paintings, the style and technique must have taken a very long time to achieve. How long have you been creating digital paintings and what type of software do you use to achieve the realism?
Well, I started playing around with digital illustration on the Commodore 64 back in the 80's; so, that means well over 20 years of fiddling around with digital graphics. Back in the 80's we had 16 terrible colours to play with and were limited by all kinds of things. Creating pixel art with a joystick on a 14-inch television doesn't really give your creativity anything at all.
Later, when the Amiga computers arrived, we suddenly had A LOT more colours and better software.
I was creating quite a few illustrations using a program called DeluxePaint that turned out ok, all things considered. It still had limitations, though, and when I finally started working in the advertisement industry (years later) I discovered Photoshop and Illustrator.
This was during the youth of these programs, so they looked and acted much differently than they do today. Still, I didn't have to worry about limitations like pixel size and amount of colours, which is a tremendous artistic block if you have to take this into consideration when creating something.
Which of your creations are you most pleased with and why?
I'm rarely happy with my final work, but if I had to pick a couple, then I would mention a couple of pieces I've done for the “Call of Cthulhu” card and board games. Like «Field researcher», «Priest of two faiths», and «Zoe the Innsmouth cook». Besides this, «Wall» is probably the only painting I've done that I consider art-work. It actually has a deeper meaning which inspired me. It was made just after my Swiss girlfriend got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which was a tough time.
Everything else I do is pretty much illustration-work. I'm an illustrator, and not much of an artist. I'm also very happy with the work I've done on “Call of Cthulhu, Mansions of Madness” board game that released recently. It’s a massive project with tons of details and effort put into it, but then again, who doesn't enjoy a good old-fashioned session of dungeon crawling? :-D.
Would you tell us about your history of employment within the art & design industry, from where you began to where you currently reside?
I started out in the advertisement agency industry back home in Norway. It was a rat-race, often with several deadlines each day, and if you missed one, you knew that the remaining ones would get messed up as well. It was very stressful. I worked with advertisement for almost 10 years, including being self-employed for a couple of years. I climbed the corporate ladders and found myself in a good position as the Creative Director at a medium sized ad agency in Norway, but I was burned out and not very happy. At this time, I was working on the side with a computer game project with some old friends of mine; we wanted to make the BEST mmorpg ever made. (this was towards the very end of the 90's) We managed to get a Norwegian investor that didn't really work out, but soon after, a new opportunity arose where we were given an offer to move to Athens, Greece to work full time on our beloved computer game project.
Long story short; I sold everything and left, which I guess is quite a bold thing to do considering that I didn't really have much experience with computer art, besides being very interested and trying out things with my friends. We released the game in 2008, and our company, Aventurine S.A., is growing, and I'm currently still here in Athens, 8,5 years after I got here. I'm planning on moving back to Norway in near future.
For many artists, working in the entertainment industry as either a concept artist, digital painter, etc. is a dream job, but, without a doubt, it's one of the most intense fields out there and definitely an occupation that requires a '24/7' attitude. What do you love and dislike about it?
It can be frustrating from time to time, especially if you're working as a freelance artist. People might try to trick you, sell your art for their own gain and so on. I'm spending a lot of time trying to remove my work from sites selling prints of things I've done for clients that not even I am allowed to sell prints of.
My full time job in the computer games industry is pretty great. It's very hard work being responsible for a team and the overall visual quality of a living mmorpg, but it's definitely worth it when you can see people enjoying themselves, playing the game, and participating in a world we've created for them by hand. It does take a 24/7 attitude indeed. When I'm home from work in the evening, my freelance projects take over, and I tend to work until 3-4 am every night, even during weekends, so I guess you need to be up for that to enter this industry.
For artists who wish to seek a career within the entertainment industry, do you have any general tips on how to approach it? What one should focus on, etc?
In my opinion, you naturally need the right attitude and expectations. It DOES take A LOT of effort, and there are no short cuts. You need to be seen to get noticed, so it's very important to be visible within the art community and also do well there. Get featured by earning it, have a nice looking and easily navigable online portfolio that you constantly keep updating, and be helpful to fellow artists. Don't be a dick. When approaching the industry directly, make sure to present yourself from your best side. Don't throw everything you've ever made into your portfolio, but show your diversity and only your best work. Three GREAT pieces will count more than thirty mediocre ones. Be humble, structured and always deliver on time with more than you've been asked for, if possible.
What mistakes have taught you the most when it comes to developing your knowledge within the drawings/paintings area?
I've had a couple of bad experiences with private commissioners, unfortunately. Clients not paying, or even disappearing in the middle of an unfinished project! I only work with clients I know, now, and not private people. Should a new company show up, then I make sure to go through contracts and the proper legal stuff before doing any work, to protect both parties, really. I've also learned that it is important to take breaks if you're overwhelmed with work. I'm not really holding true to that experience right now, as I'm currently more than booked, but still; it’s an important thing that one should put in the front seat. When talking about gaining knowledge on painting specifically, I've learned a lot from different art communities. People are usually very helpful with giving feedback. (at least on some sites) By watching others share their knowledge I've integrated their thoughts in my ever updating work-flow.
Do you have any specific sought after dream in the future that you aspire for? (It can be anything from working with a unique project to landing a job at "that very amazing place"!)
I honestly don't have big aspirations to work at a super big and famous place. I enjoy smaller scale businesses and also being a part of shaping it. The company here in Greece started out with just a few friends having fun, and now we're 30-something people working full-time in house. I guess that, for the future, I would like to continue what I'm doing, but to be more condensed and focus more on my own projects rather than having to be creative for someone else most of the time.
Which favorite artists do you admire & why?
I love the work of many artists, and to me it's more about their work, or specific pieces, rather than specific artists. If I have to mention some, then I will mention Boris Vallejo simply because he's awesome and he was the first artist that really stood out to me. I will also mention Michael Komarck, as he is able to create some amazingly dynamic and traditional-looking art-work digitally.
Do you have anything you wish to say to the members on Shadowness?
Thanks for taking your time to read my random blathering, and I hope that the Shadowness community stays as friendly and easy going as it grows!
On behalf of the team Shadowness, I'd like to thank you for participating in this interview!
Be sure to have a look at /henning for more amazing pieces!
Apr 2nd, 2011
Very good interview. Always interesting to read an interview with someone who has similar experiences and background as myself. As the business is relentless, and you sometimes forget that others experience it in the same way, it's good to be reminded that you aren't the only one ;-)