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Linda Bergkvist

“If I could design characters and stories for books and games, I’d be giddy with joy.” Someone fetch a chair because it’s only a matter of time…

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LINDA BERGKVIST
Age: 29
Country: Sweden

Renowned for her pictures of fae and elves, Linda is an international star of fantasy art, also known online as Enayla. Expect a book of dark fairytales soon.

Web:www.furiae.com

Art and Linda Bergkvist got off to a bit of a rocky start. “I went to art school when I was 16, but by the time I hit 19 I was weary of it,” she explains. It wasn’t the paint and the brushes that tired her though: “I suppose I didn’t feel that I fitted into the world of modern art and modern installations.”

Linda decided that painting would be a personal thing, “I would work as something else entirely.” A couple of years later though, Linda began working part-time as a comic-book colourist, and quite rapidly moved to working full-time. “Getting to work with something I really loved inspired me to give it a second go and not care if I didn’t fit the view of what a ‘real’ artist should be like.” The mysterious power of the comic book strikes again.

To paint was the goal: “It’s always been my greatest passion, but it wasn’t until when I was actually working as an artist that I knew for sure it was what I wanted to do for a living.” Three years of art school and random art classes later, “I have to say that forums are what have taught me the most of what I needed to know.” That is a telling indictment of art colleges everywhere.


Fantasy


In her falling out with ‘Art’, fantasy themes can be detected. Linda always painted fantasy art. “I was an avid fan of fairytales as a little girl and if I look at my early drawings, it’s a consistent theme throughout,” she muses.

When Linda encountered Edgar Allan Poe and JRR Tolkien, horror was added to fantasy and the deal was done: “When I was around 11 or 12 years old I started to play role-playing games – yes, I know I’m a geek,” she laughs.

Of all the possible sources of inspiration though, fairies seem to have been the most consistent. Aged 16 Linda decided to develop her own fantasy world to play role-playing games in: “My faeries – the Fae and the Fairies – were part of that world from the very beginning.”

To this day, the ever-evolving world that Linda’s work continues to add to owes a debt to that curious 16-year-old: “The look, feel and storyline behind almost everything I do has roots in the world I wrote back then and continued to work on up until now.”


Person and Place


The work that Linda produces, perhaps because of this personal fantasy world, has a strong sense of character and place, but the she is keen to avoid being seen as overly calculating: “A lot of what I do is less intentional than people give me credit for.”

That fantasy world functions more as a bedrock, giving Linda confidence in her own powers: “I work intuitively, and I paint what I know and what I feel. I’d like to think that what shows through what I paint is who I am – regardless of whether it’s a flattering image or not.”

But in the main Linda paints fairytales: “Little stories that should be told, part through the pictures and part through words.” And as we know, fairytales don’t always involve fairies, “I always try to touch on things that are personally significant, but it’s not my style to be aggressive in how I present my opinions.” Lovers of fairytales learn by allegory.

Although some of her images have recognisable themes, such as the environment, Linda is very post-modern in her attitude to the viewer: “As much as I might have had something in mind while I painted a picture, I’m very happy to have people interpret the work in an entirely different manner.”

 

Furiae


The freelance life seems to suit her: “I get up when my cat wakes me up, go with him for a walk, and then work for as long as my imagination allows me.” Outside of the feline exercise regime, there’s that Furiae book to be finished, “It’s been long in the making,” Linda admits, “and the process keeps being interrupted by freelance work… but I’m closing in on the finishing line.”

Of course, one of the main benefits of that life is the possibility of a varied diet: “I’ve done work on movies, books, comics and album covers, but I think my most fun project so far was working on the movie Golden Compass.” Adapted from the first volume of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, “I loved the project from start to finish and I’m very happy with the work I did.” The film is due out in 2007.

Given that list of accomplishments, what can be next? “Now that I’m where I am, and doing what I do, I am perfectly content – I love my job.” There’s always a ‘but’, “If a girl’s allowed to dream though, I would like to eventually do my own thing on a grander scale.” It’s about letting your imagination take flight: “If I could design characters and stories for books and games and somehow bring to life my own vision, I’d be giddy with joy.” Fair enough.

 

First Jobs


This is all a far cry from those first tottering steps as a freelancer: “That was terrifying. The first few times I took on freelance work, I was absolutely petrified with the prospect of messing up… of charging too much and of somehow making my client unhappy.” This high-wire sensation will be familiar to freelancers the world over.

“I think I had higher expectations of myself than the client ever did and I treated the job accordingly – working nearly around the clock to complete what I had to do.” The realisation that you are your own biggest critic may be less commonplace.

Linda started out with comic book colouring and one of the things with that is that you’re expected to finish a couple of pages every day, “I remember that the perfectionist streak in me couldn’t finish up things quickly and just ‘let them go’ the way that maybe I should have, and I wore myself thin and ragged trying to keep up.”

That type of thing is fine so long as you learn, and Linda did: “I learned a lot about colour and light but equally importantly, I learned about my own limitations.” That is the mark of a professional, “It’s okay if you’re frazzled and all over the place with your first few jobs, it’s how you figure out what you’re good at.”

 

Work in progress


One of the things that clicked with Linda was digital production, “These days” she notes, “I work almost entirely digitally.” It usually starts with a full sketch, “picking out the colours and the feel for the image.” Then there’s the reference question, “If I’m lazy, or if it’s a job that I don’t want to botch, I’ll go out and snap a bunch of reference photos to make sure I get everything right.”

Often though, it’s an organic scenario, “Some of the paintings are nothing but doodles gone serious – where I’ve sketched and sketched and suddenly it’s not so much a sketch as a serious image, if you know what I mean.” We get the picture.

But Linda does have a calculating side: “At other times, I’ve got everything planned out from the get-go, the concept, the colour-scheme and the composition all in my head before I even pick up the pen. It depends on the mood and how inspired I am.” And that fluidity of approach feeds through into the final work in the shape of conviction – Linda’s is quite incredibly involving.

 

The great motivator


Technical excellence aside, something extra has to happen to produce work like Linda’s, a set of circumstances maybe. “My surroundings are very important to me,” she says. “I need to be able to have music blasting and for the most part, I’ll want to be completely isolated when I work.”

That’s not an exaggeration: “I shutter the windows, I often turn the phone off and if I’m really inspired, I’ll probably not answer the door or even remember to eat while I’m working.” The spell would be broken.

Setting that spell in the first place though, that’s the trick to master, and it seems Linda has: “Tim Burton is one of my greatest inspirations and influences. If I’m feeling grey, flat and dull, I need only switch on one of his movies, or read one of his delightful poems, to be in the mood to paint.”

And if Tim doesn’t provide: “Then there’s my friends, my cat, nature, taking long baths and eating good chocolate,” she reveals. The smooth, sugary treat that never fails to attract the fairies: “Yes, chocolate is a great motivator!”


Painting the beasts as well as the beauties

 

“I’ve played a web-based RPG called Urban Dead for a while, where you’re either a zombie or a human,” Linda begins. “I love the game so much, I’ve painted portraits of all the characters I play. I tend to paint beautiful things, so these zombies were a wonderful challenge for me.”

“I decided early on that I needed a recognisable style for all the images, and I decided to make them slightly exaggerated. Huge eyes, small noses, defined lips and vivid expressions that would appear slightly freaky at both first and second glance. The colours for Hushed, who is a very passionate girl, were complementary and strong with brushed dashes to pull the eye around the image. It’s sketchier and wilder than my usual style, but it was fun and inspired me to make more, similar images.”

So after hours of work, is Linda pleased with the finished result? “I’m very happy, save for one vital detail… Hushed in her ‘human form’ has a birth mark on her cheek that I forgot to add in her zombie form. Typically, I was too fascinated by painting her torn skin to remember..

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