Interview: Henning Ludvigsen

Henning Ludvigsen is a Norwegian illustrator with an eclectic body of work. His digital art has been used by Fantasy Flight Games, Warhammer 40K (Games Workshop), and Eidos. Some of his Lovecraftian illustrations have appeared in Mansion of Madness and other items of the Call of Cthulhu Arkham line.

IFP: How did you begin working as an illustrator?
HL: As a kid, I was always the “artsy” one, and I enjoyed drawing and painting and it just came naturally to me to pursue this as a profession. As a kid, I had already decided early on that I wanted to work with illustration and design, and I honestly never really considered anything else when I got older and it was time for me to choose a path for my education.

After two great years at a traditional art school, I had to start looking for work because of some silly points system the Norwegian school system had back then, leaving me with no further choices for educationm even though I had top grades. My low age left me with fewer points than older applicants with low grades, something even my teacher was upset about, so he took it as a challenge and spent his spare time driving me around to different advertisement agencies to get me a job, at which he succeeded. Guess I owe a lot to him.

IFP: What attracts you to fantastic art?
HL: I’ve been fascinated by fantasy and sci-fi art for as long as I can remember. Even back in the old days, we would try to copy the old fantasy masters on the Commodore 64 and Amiga home computers, and during art school, I was always looking at fantasy and airbrush art books. It must be the geek in me finding the fantasy genre a lot more rewarding to study than your run-of-the-mill still life. I’m also into pen&paper role-playing, so I guess it’s in my blood, hehe.

IFP: What are some of the artists that have influenced your artwork? What about books, music or movies?
HL: Back in the old days, it was all about the old fantasy masters, like Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Keith Parkinson, and so on. Later, with the Internet on my hands, my horizon widened, and I discovered so many amazing art works and incredible artists. Music, movies and, especially, computer games can also be a part of triggering my urge to create, but I rarely create anything specific based on single movies or songs.

IFP: Do you have a favourite illustration you’ve created?
HL: I’m rarely happy with my work, which I guess is a good thing, as it keeps me on my toes reaching for better results all the time. However, I am fairly happy with a few illustrations I’ve done for the board game, Call of Cthulhu Arkham Horror, and for the official Call of Cthulhu Card Game. If I had to pick two, then I would mention “Field Researcher”, and “Priest of Two Faiths”.

IFP: What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on? Why?
HL: That would have to be the mmorpg I’m working on full-time: Darkfall Online. I’ve been a part of this project since the very beginning, over 13 years ago, back home in Norway, and we managed to build a successful company here in Greece from what started out as just a few guys wanting to make OUR dream mmo game. Because of the complexity of the game, our limited resources, and the amount of time and personal effort and pain poured into this project, I don’t think anything ever will be more challenging, yet rewarding, than this.

IFP: How has your artwork changed over the years?
HL: I feel more confident about my work now and I believe I have a better sense of judgment on what works and what doesn’t work, which makes the creation process a bit easier and more streamlined. Also, with all the requests I’m getting, I’m in a position where I can pick the ones I would like to work on, leaving me with more focus on what I think suits my style. So, in the end, I guess the work I deliver now is less random and more focused around my skill set, and what I believe I can tackle and deliver.

IFP: Which book/writer would you like to illustrate, but have never had a chance of tackling?
HL: This is hard to tell, as I rarely read books, because I simply don’t have any time left when I get to bed at 4am in the morning, after working the entire day. However, I always seem to find Lovecraft-inspired authors interesting and I guess illustrating something for my actual favourite Lovecraft stories would be great fun, for example, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”.

IFP: I heard you are friends with Cthulhu. How did you discover Lovecraft?
Hehe, yeah, we’re old buddies. I don’t know how or when I learned about Lovecraft first, but I wasn’t too familiar about the details until I started working on the official Call of Cthulhu Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games. As I learned more about the characters and stories, and later also worked on a couple of Call of Cthulhu board games, I became a huge fan and started studying all the short stories.

IFP: You’ve painted a number of images for Call of Cthulhu. Is it difficult to illustrate Lovecraftian projects? Rick Sardinha recently told us getting the shadows right with tentacles takes some work.
HL: Yes, I’ve been working on several Call of Cthulhu projects, varying from multiple sets for the card game; several expansions for Arkham Horror; the board game; and now, recently, Mansions of Madness, which was a lot of fun to do. I don’t find it very hard to illustrate for the Lovecraft universe because I enjoy it so much. When it comes to tentacles, I’ve always had interest in painting glossy surfaces, and I used to study shadows and surfaces during traditional art school, back in the early 90s. Still, it’s not like you can ask your tentacle-pet to strike poses for you, so you’ll need to experiment a bit to get them look just right, hehe.

What projects are you working on?
HL: I’m an insomniac and workaholic, so I’m working a lot. Also, living in a foreign country leaves me with a lot of spare time, as I don’t have my family or childhood friends around, so I’m taking advantage of this to train my skills.

I’m working full-time as the Art Director of Aventurine, a Greek computer game company in Greece. Our biggest project is Darkfall Online, a fantasy mmorpg. During my spare time, I’m working on extra projects that I enjoy doing, like, all kinds of board games for Fantasy Flight Games, some old-school pin-up work for several other clients, and I’ve also recently started BadgerPunch Games with a friend of mine, where we’re making small computer games, mostly for fun. I’ve also done some work for larger clients like Burton Snowboards, which was great fun.

IFP: If you could have lunch with any artist from any time period, whom would you meet and what would you eat?

HL: I would meet Michael Komarck, simply because he is an amazing digital artist with some breathtaking Call of Cthulhu pieces. I would dig deep to learn from his experiences, as I can’t seem to find much information about him at all online. I would eat Mexican, simply because it’s awesome and you have an excuse for being a bit messy.

On a side note; having a huge beef burger and a pint of beer with Boris Vallejo would probably have been the manliest thing ever, so I guess that’s a good second place.

IFP

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IFPInterview: Henning Ludvigsen

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