Reflections on the Folklore & Fairytales Challenge

Reflections on the Folklore & Fairytales Challenge

If you’re a follower of my Instagram feed, you know that by the end of March, I set a challenge for myself to draw more in April. I felt like I was losing some of the momentum that I had gained around the New Year’s because of an injury and very much felt like something needed to be done to get back on track. 

Anyways, I decided that I needed a challenge to dig into so that I could fall back into the habit of drawing every day. I’ve done a couple of challenges over the years and it has always helped me move on artistically. But what was I going to do? Inktober was almost a year away still, and I couldn’t really find any existing challenge that worked for me. So. I created my own and birthed the Folklore and Fairytales challenge. 

The challenge itself was simple enough. I was going to draw a given character from Scandinavian folklore or Norse mythology every day. To make sure I did that, I was going to hold myself accountable by posting the drawings onto Instagram every day. The main focus was to let go of pressure and have fun with the prompts, but I also wanted to practice character design, anatomy and push my style a little further into realism. I’ve been working with the UniPin 0.05 fineliner for about a year now, so the medium was a given, but everything else was to be pure experimentation.

When I posted an update about the challenge, I honestly didn’t think that anyone would care at all about it, especially not enough to actually join in, so I was very surprised to see that the reception of the challenge was very positive. I think that maybe I unconsciously timed it very well, as both God of War and Thor: Ragnarok was going to be released about the same time as this challenge went live, but lucky coincident or not, a whole bunch of people actually joined in and our journey through the Scandinavian folklore began.

I can honestly say that I’m not much of a fantasy person. I neither read nor draw much fantasy, so on April 1st, I was actually a bit hesitant about how to begin. The fantasy genre is such a established one, and the fantasy fans generally seem to have a formed opinion
about what different types of creatures look like. I knew I wanted to challenge those expectations with my characters as well as actually trying to make them look plausible as fantastical creatures. So instead of drawing inspiration from artists that generally work in the genre, I tried to find inspiration in nature, in old fairytales and in old folk art. Throughout this challenge, I’ve looked through old tales from different parts of Sweden, tried to channel ancient traditions and given them a contemporary context. This is a delicate path to thread, as many of the old Scandinavian traditions and myths are now used as tools for nationalists and nazis in their propaganda, and I very much did NOT want to be associated with that. To keep away from that, I’ve tried be conscious of why certain creatures have been created and in what type of society they thrived. I’ve tried to raise issues of mental health, women’s rights and discrimination and weave them into my work, and I think that has allowed me a certain amount of freedom for creativity with the designs every day. When it’s not a matter of reproducing characters with the intention to draw the most awesome elf/orc/goblin/dragon ever, but creating something from scratch that can tell tales of life and death, exciting things happen.

I will not dwell on all this too much longer, but I still wanted to document some of the things that I’ve learned and reflected on during this project.

What am I taking away from this challenge?

– I’m more humbled by my ancestors and their struggles.
– I am more confident in my technique
– I have gotten to know a beautiful bunch of humans
– I’ve gotten more comfortable with drawing in public
– I more eager now than ever before to keep improving my work
– There is always time to draw if you are dedicated enough
– Holding a challenge isn’t as scary as it seems
– I really need to do more nature studies
– The drawings I like the best are usually not the ones that other people like best

I hope that the wonderful people who have joined me on this adventure has had lessons and reflections of their own, and that we all have learned a lot from it. Together, we accumulated about 450 drawings, and that is amazing in and of itself. I want you to know that I’m so grateful for all of you, and that you’ve been an inspiration to me in this!

To see all of the entries, please visit my Instagram page.