Who, you may ask, is Freyr? Freyr is the God of fertility, prosperity, and peace for the Norse Heathens and is often thought to be one of the noblest of his pantheon. It is during the harvest time that he is especially honored and shown respect. So since it is the beginning of harvest time for many areas in the Northern hemisphere and I did do a painting of my impression of Freyr, I thought this would be a good time to share the painting process.
Unlike the ancient strange and somewhat grotesque statues that are associated with Freyr, my painting of him depicts him as a masculine elfin like humanoid with skin the color of rich soil and hair that is luxerious and black almost like that of a Native American. And yes, for some reason I did give him a tail which probably adds to his nature quality and links to the Vanir and people of the Fae realms. He strikes me as a being who is perfectly at ease with the natural world around him and rarely becomes upset unless something of great importance is awry. Because of this feeling I wanted to depict him in a natural setting along with items that are tied to the legends around him.
So I placed him in a forest near a water source so that I could include the fabulous golden re-sizeable boat that he is said to own. He was also said to have traded his sword for the hand of a woman in marriage and therefore carries a stag horn in its place as a weapon, which seems like a rather romantic gesture upon his part, so I placed him walking in a misty moonlit forest.
This was a difficult painting for me because it is not based upon a photograph that I can simply refer to. I had to research parts of the painting and put them together, which I am not an expert at. I think this is a skill that will take me a great deal of practice to perfect. Hopefully someday I will look upon this painting with a smile and know that I can do much better like a Boris or Frazetta, who are masters of pulling beautiful images out of their minds and putting them onto canvas and paper.
I started with getting everything in place and putting down paint so that I would not “lose” where I wanted things to go in the composition. Then I started building up the paint and color to be the shade and depth that I desired. By the time I got to the point of the 3rd photo, I had secured all the areas to be where they should be and started to put basic color into the regions of the painting.
By the fourth photo I am starting to consider where the light is coming from and acknowledging the need to plan for shading for the shadows that will help give the objects in the painting some solidity. I don’t really want this to be an Egyptian style painting that is flat and only representational. The goal is to invite the viewer into the picture and imagine themselves in this location with Freyr. In the fifth photo I have started the background so that if I need to paint closer objects over it, then it can happen without any concern for ruining areas that are supposed to be closer to the viewer. I think most paintings are done in this manner. And in the sixth photo I have started to concern myself with items in the middle ground and start to establish color and some detail.
In photos 7 and 8 I am working to establish the middle ground by working on the highlights on the water and more details for the boat. The painting is starting to get more personality, and the need to start establishing the front ground is becoming more important as well. I am trying to keep in mind that shading and color is very important to expressing the idea of the place where I imagine Freyr walking. And as you can see, I have left the focus of the painting, Freyr himself, to the very end so that I could center all my attention on him.
And finally in photo 10 I have completed Freyr and the rest of the details of the painting. To be truthful I wish it would have looked more real since I saw it more realistic in my mind, but you also have to know that the photograph doesn’t seem to do the painting justice. And that’s seems to go for many artist’s works. Great photography is so important, but it never seems to be as good as seeing the actual item in person. I consider this to be a practice painting and hopefully it will be the first in a long line of its kind.
If you would like to read more about Freyr, here are a few links that you may find useful to begin your own study of who he is and what he has meant to people of European heritage: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Mythica, and Hurstwic North Mythology.
G. Winkler © 2012