One-on-One with Linda Lithén

Today Boneshaker Press presents you Linda Lithén. Situated in the city of Skutskär in Sweden, You can reach Linda in DeviantArtTwitter or via her website.

What’s your background?

I have been drawing my whole life and grew up with a fondness for reading and, thanks to my tech interested father, an interest in PC games. When the time came to apply for a gymnasium program (that’s 10th to 12th grade in the Swedish school system and has nothing to do with gym class) I chose one with a focus on art. Through it I tried sculpting, traditional painting, abstract art, film and traditional photography, so it wasn’t an in depth art education. After that I attended a college program in game development and, once again, got to do a bit of everything with no real in depth classes. We were given the tools and the introduction classes, and then left to develop on our own. So, I spent most of my spare time holed up in my apartment, painting. During those years I realised that I was much more interested in illustration than concept art, so that’s what I have been studying on my own since graduation.

What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

I can’t really remember. I recall copying from these little Barbie commercial pamphlets when I was little and having colouring books, but I think it was Lord of the Rings and Warcraft III that really got my gears turning in terms of art.

When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?

I’d say my mid-teens, but I’ll be honest with myself and say that I didn’t really get serious about it until I was in college. That’s when I started making a genuine effort to improve as I discovered the art outside of DeviantArt.

Sunbathing Merman
Sunbathing Merman

Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!

I’m not entirely sure. I can think of one particular piece though, that I finished December 2010. After I moved five hours away from my hometown for college, I ended up in a severe art slump—what with moving, the horrendously dark Swedish fall and winter, and just generally struggling to adjust. I had so much pressure on myself over my art that I would quickly get frustrated and give up when drawing. All the tutorials I looked at online showed artists doing this nice crisp line art and I did not like doing line art, but that’s what everyone was doing, yeah? Surely it must be something wrong with me!

Then we finally got to the 2D class in the curriculum and I can’t remember what our teacher talked about aside from ImagineFX, Spectrum and sharing my guilty pleasure of having Top Model on the TV while working, but I left that room actually feeling an itch to draw.

After that I got to work on a painting of two of my guildmates from World of Warcraft—a lovely couple who were a blast to play with. That’s the painting which made me realise that I could do this and that there were a lot more ways to paint than just the cel-shaded anime artworks of DeviantArt.

In the Frozen North (guildmates from World of Warcraft)
In the Frozen North (guildmates from World of Warcraft)

Do you collect anything?

I enjoy geeky stuff, so most what I collect is centered around that. Artbooks are one thing I enjoy a lot, especially those that contain rough concept art from early development. I tend to joke that I could open up a library, but I’ll get to that later. Otherwise, I enjoy buying the occasional figurine or invest in the odd collector’s edition of a game if it has nice physical items and not just random digital downloads that I’ll never use in game.

What research do you do?

Way, way too much of it, haha. I don’t trust the warped pop-culture image we have of history and I’m from Sweden, so let’s just say that I grit my teeth when I walk the tourist areas of Stockholm and see Vikings all over the place with horned helmets. Spoiler: they didn’t wear them historically.

I love going through museum collections online and have, over the past four years, slowly amassed a collection of books on Western fashion, weapons, traditional cultural wear from all over the world, jewellery, architecture, textiles, etc. I find it a lot easier to start researching something when you can use specific terms rather than just google ‘Victorian fashion’ and hope that you’ll get lucky. Not to mention that, in books, you’ll often find items that aren’t on public display or in private collections, or photos of areas otherwise closed off due to preservation.

Personal character inspired from Nordic cultures.
Sariene, Personal character inspired from Nordic cultures.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

I browse art sites and catch up on news over breakfast. It usually takes me an hour and a cup of tea to wake up properly. After that I do my daily studies.

I have a loose, rotating, weekly study schedule. I don’t schedule it so strictly that I’ll do figure drawing for 30 minutes then 60 minutes of colour studies. I’ve tried that and found it pretty overwhelming, so instead I have a few set studies per day. Like, on Mondays I do 10 figures and a rough colour study. On Tuesdays I do feet studies and have my target set on about 100, or 10 pages of it, until I switch to something else for a period – maybe master studies or animals. Wednesday, figures and Schoolism lessons. Thursday I do full figure studies, either in colour or a skeleton-muscle structure breakdown. Fridays I focus on the head, either by doing a colour portrait study or just a page of heads at different angles. Weekends I do self study courses like Schoolism, Oatley Academy, Old Generation 1 Art Camp from Noah Bradley. etc.

I’ve found that it helps to just write things down, plan out the week ahead of time, and not feel ashamed if you slip up and miss one day. I have my colour study sheet ready to go with the references already compiled in the document, so I don’t waste three hours on deciding on which one to do a study of.

And for me, I get creatively recharged from gaming, so I try not to deny myself that hour of completing a quest in The Witcher, or playing Dishonored for 30 minutes on my lunch break if it’ll help me relax. Just don’t get carried away and play for five hours.

Isis, the Egyptian goddess of health
Isis, the Egyptian goddess of health

What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

There is no wrong way to paint or a one size fits all way to paint. Pick and choose what works for you when following tutorials.

I would get so stressed over not doing neat, beautiful line art that I completely shut down. It wasn’t until I saw some workflow images from… I think it was Kekai Kotaki, that I realised that heeeeeey, I don’t need to do the super crisp lineart thing! I can work from just my kinda rough sketch.

What themes/ideas do you pursue?

I have always enjoyed folklore and mythology, so aside from general fantasy stuff, I tend to draw on those two subjects a lot too. Like I said, I don’t trust what I think I know based on pop-culture depictions, so I like to go to the roots. Aside from that, I may tend to depict female warriors a fair deal. I detest bikini armour and forced sexualisation that makes no sense for the character’s personality or occupation. Your personality is reflected in the way you dress after all.

How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?

Learning new things and trying different things, but also looking at old things. And, as I mentioned before, I get recharged with games.

Professionally, what’s your goal?

Honestly? I just want to get to the point where I can make the most of my living from my art. I don’t really have any dream studios to work for in-house and I’m fine with a part-time day job.

What’s your main challenge when beginning a new piece of art?

Getting past ‘the ugly phase’, for sure—when you’ve just added all the colours and have actually started painting, but things will still look like a hot mess for another three or four hours. It’s all too easy to get gripped with doubt at that point.

Elandrin and Adalene

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

A bit typical perhaps, but ‘paint what you see, not what you think you see’.

How has your practice changed over time?

It’s gotten a lot more focused and structured, for sure.

What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?

I’m currently working on a series of images for the Critical Role folks. It’s a Dungeons and Dragons webshow with various well-known voice actors and it’s been my weekly treat for the past year, so I wanted to give something back to them. Other than that, I’m getting back to my own world-building a bit and dabble with various RPG game fanarts on the side—mostly focused around developing the visual designs of my player characters or illustrating small lore bits.


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