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Henning Ludvigsen is a Norwegian artist born Holmestrand and who currently lives in Athens, Greece. Henning drew from an early age and at the age of 16 he started to study at an art school. After graduating from school, Henning Ludvigsen started to work in the advertisement industry until 2003, when he switched to the computer game development. Henning does also freelancing works and along his career he worked with companies such as Fantasy Flight Games, Games Workshop or Eidos and writing articles for ImagineFX magazine. Henning also won a series of awards for his work, such as CGHUB Master Artist award, multiple CGTalk Choice awards, ImagineFX Master of Art or Pixeltheory Award.
Interview with Henning Ludvigsen
Mihai (Dark Wolf): Henning, thank you very much for the interview.
How did you become interested in art? When did you start to draw?
Henning Ludvigsen: I guess my answer to your first question is going to be pretty standard and cliché; I was always interested in drawing and painting, ever since I was just a few years old. I was always creative making things out of anything that I could find, and the transition to art school education was natural and seamless. I had even made up my mind to become an illustrator when I was very young.
Mihai (Dark Wolf): Who do you consider to be the artist that inspired your career? Who is the most influential figure on your art career?
Henning Ludvigsen: I've always looked up to Boris Vallejo, the legendary fantasy artist. He is probably considerably guilty for a big part of my interest for fantasy art. My list is considerably longer today.
Mihai (Dark Wolf): You’ve started to study art at early age. Do you consider that starting an art school from an early age helped you improve your skills more?
Henning Ludvigsen: Yes, I started basic traditional art school when I was 16 years old. My two years there was the best time of my life, and I learned a lot about traditional art. We didn't use computers at all, but what I learned there is still as valid no matter what medium you're using, so I do feel that I had a very good base to build from.
M(DW): You have experience with the both mediums of work, traditional and digital. Do you think that there is a different set of skills necessary for each of them? Does the experience with each of these mediums help improve working with the other?
HL: I honestly haven't used any traditional mediums since I finished art school in 1993. I believe that there are different sets of skills that apply to traditional and digital mediums, but they also intertwine making it easier learning one by knowing the other. I sure feel that I have tremendous advantage from learning traditional art and then add this to the digital way of working. It also makes you appreciate real craftsmanship more, I think.
M(DW): Which one is your favorite? Does it happen to start an artwork in one medium and finish it in the other?
HL: I work 100% digitally; from sketch to final product. Most people prefer starting out on paper, but I work faster digitally and with constant pressure from deadlines I chose to use the most efficient way; still, not necessarily the best way but it works for me.
M(DW): You’ve studied traditional art in school and digital art through self-teaching. Which method do you think that is easier, the art school or the self-teaching? Which are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
HL: I started out playing around with digital art very early, with pixels and very few colours on the Commodore 64, to be precise, and later on the Amiga platform. It wasn't until later on the Mac/PC that I saw the real possibilities of working digitally with access to proper software and a wide range of colours. From my experience, working traditionally is very different from working on the computer. Traditional art is easier as you don't experience certain technical restrictions or problems, and you might feel more “connected” to a traditional piece that you can actually physically feel and smell. But what wins over anything in the very end is that beloved Undo button, he-he.
M(DW): For ten years you worked in the advertising industry before moving to the computer game development. You said that in those ten years you didn’t do what you liked the most, paint. How did your experience in the advertising industry influence your work in the computer game development? Do you use techniques learned in the advertising while working on a computer game?
HL: When I worked in ad-agencies, I got to do some illustration work in-between standard work things depending on the project, but it wasn't the kind of illustration work I wanted to do. I wanted to do higher quality work, and not just make some cheesy character to sell some random product. Still, I did learn A LOT from these years as I got forced to master all kinds of styles, all levels of complexities, short deadlines which trained my decision making experience, and so on. This made it easier for me to do get involved with a wide set of different things today when working with computer games. Most of the techniques I do today are different, but there are still elements from my old profession that I make good use of, in addition to working fast and efficient.
M(DW): Your preferred theme, if I am not mistaken, is fantasy. What attracts you towards fantasy? Do you feel that fantasy gives you more freedom of expression?
HL: I like both fantasy and sci-fi, but I seem to fall back on fantasy when I find myself sitting down painting something for myself. I'm not sure why I seem to prefer this genre, but I guess that the fact that I'm a bit of a geek who enjoys fantasy and sci-fi movies/TV-series, pen and paper role-playing games, and computer games, it's natural for me to dwell in what interests me.
M(DW): Does your interest in fantasy go outside art too, in literature and cinematography for example? I saw that you made a few book covers. Is there a novel in particular for which you would like to illustrate the cover if possible?
HL: Yes, I am a fond fan of fantasy and sci-fi movies and TV-series, and I'm always trying to keep an overview and catch everything that I think might interest me. I've made a few book covers, but I don't read much as I simply don't have the time, he-he. I don't have a holy grail of a novel that I would like to illustrate, but I did enjoy the Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader book cover I made for Fantasy Flight Games. I don't think I'll ever get anything cooler than that so I guess I am happy with what I've achieved so far.
M(DW): I know that one of your dreams is making art with as few restrictions as possible? Do you feel restricted at the moment? Do you feel that these restrictions are imposed by you personally or by the domain of work?
HL: I'm a Norwegian living in Greece with a Swiss girlfriend. Things are complicated, and I would love to see a more simplified situation rise sometime in near future. I don't have any specific ideas as to what it could be, more hopes and daydreams. In addition to my full time job as a game developer, I work a lot during evenings and weekend, and I have little to no time for anything else. It's been about two years since my last personal painting, since I'm reaching critical mass with too many interesting projects getting offered. It's hard to turn those down, even though I sometimes have to.
M(DW): I know that you use many reference photos of your friends and yours when working on portraits. Do you use references when it comes to other subjects besides portrait? Can be the use of references a restriction?
HL: I prefer using reference especially when painting characters. There's just so much information you can find in a face that your imagination simply can't make up on its own. Little imperfections, errors, creases and light and shadow situations that any keen student of light and shadows couldn't make up on their own. I don't find using references for parts of my work restricting at all. If this is restricting your work, then you're simply doing it wrong. It should aid you, not limit you. (I'm using the term references as in looking at something for inspiration, not actually using photo parts in my work. Some people tend to misunderstand this term.)
M(DW): Would you use someone’s photo if he/she would ask you to make a painting based on it?
HL: I don't really do personal commissions any more, and I never work for free. Should someone still ask me to do a job like this, then yes, as long as the reference is good to work with and I can see the details needed to capture the person. No blurry, drunken sofa photos taken with an inbuilt flash. Yeah, I've gotten a few of those, he-he.
M(DW): On your website there are many tutorials of your art and you also used to run a forum about art, Pixelbrush. Does the fact that you are also a self-taught artist fuel these initiatives? Do you think that the new and developing artists can use more such features from the already established illustrators?
HL: We recently shut down Pixelbrush, unfortunately, but I wouldn't be surprised it sees the light of day again sometime in the future, perhaps in a slightly different wrapping. I believe in artists helping each other, and as I've learned a lot from different art communities throughout the years, it just came natural to open Pixelbrush. It even grew completely on its own, with the members asking for the different activities we used to have. Good times. Any artist needs good and helpful feedback, no matter the skill level. It's hard to get this online; it can either be too shallow, or too harsh leaving the artist a bit helpless, unmotivated and perhaps running in the wrong direction with their art because of invalid or simply insufficient feedback.
M(DW): You worked on board games, card games and computer games. Which one offered you more pleasant moments while working on it? Does each of these types of games needs a different approach when it comes to the art involved in their creation?
HL: Yeah, all of these are completely different beasts; card games are fairly straightforward, with basic illustrations printed in a small format, which is the key-word here; composition has to work on a small scale. All board games are different from each other, and mostly more technical, and a bit more limited as you're often bound by grids or cut out templates and so on. Computer games takes every skill you have, and even some you didn't knew you had to pull through. They all need different ways of thinking, planning, and executing.
M(DW): You did quite a few maps while working on the board games. Did you enjoy the experience? Would you like to repeat this experience in the future?
HL: I've always had a fascination for old maps, as a kid I would study old maps for hours. I am also very fond of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, making the creation of the boards of the city of Kingsport and harbor town of Innsmouth something I enjoyed very much.
M(DW): At what are you working at the moment and what future projects do you have?
HL: There's a massive force of pin-up requests nowadays, so I've been doing a lot of these lately. Most of which haven't been released yet as I'm bound by NDA's. I'm currently doing some work for a wine company, which is a lot of fun, and some more board and card games that I can't say much more about just yet. For the future; looks like even more pin-ups are waiting in line for me to be created. There's also a lot of work being done on our computer game, www.darkfallonline.com for this year (2010). We have a massive graphical update coming, leaving me and my team with more than enough tasks to keep busy and sweating. Wish I could be more specific here as well, but all I can say is that I'm looking forward to what's coming later this year, both for my personal projects and my full-time job.
Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.
Thank you for having me, I'm feeling honored.
For information about Henning Ludvigsen and more of his works please visit his website, Henning Ludvigsen.