• EXPOSÉ 1 - Linda Bergkvist, Digital Illustrator
    Linda Bergkvist, 7 July 2003
    Edited by Leonard Teo

    One of the digital illustrators whose work stood out and impressed the EXPOSÉ 1 advisory committee is Linda Bergkvist, a freelance artist from Sweden. She has been awarded with two EXPOSÉ awards: Master (Character in Action 2D) and Master (Character in Repose 2D). Linda took some time to chat with Leonard Teo about herself and her art.

    About Linda Bergkvist
    I was born in Sweden - in Umeå, same city I still live in. My main interests have always been art and language. When I was a kid, I did little but draw pictures and tell other kids long, intricate stories about creatures I had come up with. Sometimes, I pretended these beasts were real and I suppose I spoke of the 'monsters' with such enthusiasm and emotion that a lot of the kids actually believed me. We used to go hunting for a witch in the woods.

    When I grew older, I wasn't very sure of myself when it came to my artwork so instead of choosing an art career for myself, I chose language (this after having studied at an art related education between the age of sixteen and nineteen). For some years, I studied English and Swedish and had every intention of becoming a teacher, while on the side, I still doodled and painted. Quite suddenly, I was offered a job by a local computer company and I took it - abandoning my education (perhaps, foolishly) to start working with graphics instead. That's what I've been doing ever since. I miss language studies, however, and maybe I'll go back to that some day. But right now, I'm loving what I do. It's a challenging job and I meet wonderful people all the time.

    I work partly as a comic book colourist, partly at the university where I teach Photoshop classes, and partly as a freelancer. All of these things, I enjoy immensely. I have a few personal projects on the side - still painting pictures for a book I very much would like to publish one day.

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    Above: Linda Bergkvist with her cat Azrael in Umeå, Sweden. Top: 'Eyreequel', a commissioned piece for Mason Marconi.

  • Style of Paintings
    I love the visual element of fairytales. Things that are fantastic and unnatural and not quite real fascinate me to no end. I suppose I am in love with old, cruel tales and the wickedness that comes wrapped up in lovely forms. I suppose, in a way, I still enjoy the very same things that I have all of my life - a mixture of fantasy and horror with a little twinge of romantic idealisation.

    "Nelicquele" (left)

    "The forest had tones of amber and moss, and the shadows were a dusky, whispery purple much like the colour of her eyes.

    Where the depth of those shadows dropped away into blackness, she could see it. It. The looming darkness of the abyss. A darkness that opened up and threatened to swallow her, at times - a darkness that would slither close to her feet and plant little kisses against the hem of her dress.

    A feeling she had grown accustomed to - living there, on the brink of falling into the endless dark.

    It was a feeling she had grown to love."

    When I began painting Nelicquele, I was not entirely sure of what I was going to do. I had this vision in my mind of something but I wasn't entirely sure of what it was at first. I started out on a dark brown canvas and doodled around until she started to pop out - at first the angle of the face and her expression, and then the shoulders, hip, and skirts. I knew who she was the moment I drew the eyes in - and the story behind the face unfolded. The initial 'burst' of inspiration had been the work of several of the old masters of painting, but the second twinge of it was the moment I saw that there was a streak of arrogance hidden in her eyes, and I knew most people would never notice it.

    I constantly shifted between Photoshop 7, and Painter 7 throughout the entire image and I forced my perfectionist side to stay away from fiddling with the little details. I wanted to try something new, which included not working on every fingernail and rose petal until everything became smooth even when zoomed in on very close.

    At the time, I was also about to head into uncharted territory - from having painted things with very high contrast I instead began to play around with low contrast and saturation. I wanted a look as if from faded silk.

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  • About "Eyreequel" (left)
    Master Award, Character in Repose, EXPOSÉ 1

    Eyreequel was a commissioned piece, by the lovely Mason Marconi, but the only thing she asked me to do was to draw one of my famous beautiful boys. Androgyny is something of my trademark, I suppose, so of course I didn't mind. The actual inspiration for the image, however, was looking at some photos of rain forests and the lovely greenish hues that everything under a canopy of leaves seem to take on.

    I had a lot of problems with his pose, however, and had to look up a variety of different reference photos to get it right. Even so, in retrospect, I wish I would have done something about his foot. Sometimes, however, I feel that I can't possibly work more on a picture - flaws or no flaws, it's done.

    Like with Nelicquele and most of my images, this one was done both in Photoshop and in Painter. Him, I painted by using very pale yellow-greenish hues in combination with pink and turquoise. I played around a lot before I found the right colour that I wanted. I had a very strong vision in my head of how I wanted him to look and I refused to give in until I had him pinned down just right.

    The wings were, perhaps, the biggest difficulty in this painting. I could not get them to look the way I wanted them to and I reworked them several times before I was happy with them. I wanted them glass-like and ethereal on close inspection. The painting would be printed large and I wanted details that would draw the eye.

    I used a lot of custom brushes for this one. I think I created some ten new custom brushes for this one alone, mostly to get the textures right.

    The two birds in the picture were added partly to bind this one together with the other one commissioned by the same client. Also, the creature in the painting has fallen from grace - and I thought that his state of mind would be a lovely contrast to the bright innocence of a pair of white doves.

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  • "All that I loved is gone"(left)
    Master Award, Character in Action, EXPOSÉ 1

    I had watched a program about the pollution of the seas about five minutes before I began on this one. She is a mother of the oceans - a spirit like creature slowly drained as her seas are destroyed. That was the thought and while I painted I wrote a bit of text to go along with the picture that explains more about it than I could otherwise:

    She said,
    "The moon has fallen into a sea of dirt, and all that I loved is gone."

    They said,
    "There is still the sea. The clouds. The earth."

    She said,
    "The ground slides, filthy and bedraggled, into the melting earth, and all that I loved is gone."

    They said,
    "There is still the sea. The clouds."

    She said,
    "The sea is but a stench - it devours but it does not live. All that I loved... is gone."

    They said,
    "But the clouds. We still have the clouds."

    She said,
    "The clouds are veils of sulphur and acid rain."

    They said,
    "We love the rain."

    She said,
    "All that I loved is gone."

    I had to look at a lot of reference shots of the sea for this one. It had been a long while since I last painted water and I needed to figure it out all over again. I tried to make her incorporated into the sea and yet apart from it, and I used colours in tones that felt dirty and 'old'. I didn't want the look of a clear, beautiful, fresh ocean. Something that few people notice is the fact that the fish are dying. Imagine the image as a clock, with her being 11:59 and 12:01 all at once, and the fish being moments in between.

    For the clouds, I used a combination of a round, sharp edged brush, a brush with blotchy edges and the smudge tool on a custom brush. The frothy water was created in almost the same manner, minus the smudge. All the patterns on her dress were created by making a lot of separate layers and painting in different patterns on some of them, adding shading on others - and then lowering the opacity of them to make sure the texture of the dress itself would show through. Once these layers were flattened out against the dress itself, I painted over everything with a smaller brush, making sure it all fit together.

    All in all, I'm happy that the feeling in the picture is of movement though the character herself seems to be standing still. Something I was definitely aiming for. I had a heavy feeling in my chest for days after having completed it because it was such a rush of inspiration from beginning to the end. One of those images that I started with on a Friday evening and finished on the Sunday morning without having done anything else but grab the occasional bite to eat or moment to sleep in between picking the pen up with the intent of painting, and putting it down again with the pleasure of having finished.

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  • "Path of Petals" (left)
    When I began on this image, I already knew the story for it. It would be about the beautiful daughter of a noble and how she fled her father and ran into the woods to make him realise how much he loved her, and missed her... but that she wanted to make sure she would find her way home again.

    She remembered, then, old fairytales and how two children had once found their way home by following a trail of breadcrumbs. But instead of crumbs, she spread bright, almost glowing, petals in her path. Unfortunately, not only could she found her way home... but someone else could find her. The story is something in between a classic fairytale inspired by the story about "Hans and Greta" and a creepy kind of horror story. I wanted the picture to show both elements.

    Her clothes are inspired by the classic Snow White outfit, and the forest itself was painted to look like one of those old, moss-covered woods that makes you feel young and insignificant the moment you hide beneath the branches. The leaves and the trees have very intricate textures that I painted partly by hand in Photoshop and partly used the wonderful watercolour brushes in Painter to create. The process was painstakingly slow and was repeated (though in different patterns, of course) for the trunks of the trees and the texture of the stones.

    Together with the patterns on her skirts and her wispy hair, I wanted these textures to create a feeling of an old oil painting rather than something created on the computer. I left no strong highlights in and worked in muted tones to achieve an almost washed-out appearance to the whole thing. There are also several texture overlays that I first painted in Painter and then brought into Photoshop.

    This is one of the stories, and one of the paintings, I've made specifically for the book on dark fairytales I hope to finish, and publish, one of these days.

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  • Inspiration
    I remember, not too long ago - sitting on the balcony as the rain began to fall. It was nighttime and at first there were only a few splatters of water like a whisper. Then the rain came in heavy sheets and the puddles on the ground spat water upwards with every drop. Having watched that, I headed inside and painted my Melody of your Demise (found on my website). My inspiration varies.

    It can be everything from rain, to a song I'm listening to, to other artists that I really admire, to the way the light falls on a chair or a movie with exceptional visuals. Some books leave me inspired for days and I love when that happens. Once, I was inspired by a South Park episode though you certainly couldn't tell by the painting.

    John Bauer, Brian Froud and Tim Burton are my three main inspirations as far as 'art' goes. Watching pictures by either of the two first, or a movie or picture by the third always make me itch with the urge to paint. But there are also a lot of contemporary artists - and good friends - that inspire me in what I do. Too many to mention here.

    Linda Bergkvist won two Master Awards in EXPOSÉ 1, the CG industry's premiere art book celebrating the work of digital artists worldwide. You can find Linda and many other artists' work published in EXPOSÉ 1, which is now on sale. Also, visit Linda's website to view her full range of artwork.

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    Linda Bergkvist's homepage
    Ballistic Publishing - EXPOSÉ

    Words by Linda Bergkvist
    Edited by Leonard Teo

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