3 Pieces Inspired by Sweden & Norway

It’s been a year since I hunkered down at home in Colorado due to the pandemic. Before the news of Covid-19 hit, I had been tentatively planning a few international trips - daydreaming a visit to England and Scotland with a college friend, exploring Iceland, and returning to Norway and Sweden. Well, all those plans quickly disintegrated.

I have been reminiscing on my trip to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark in the summer of 2018. It was life-changing in that I had never traveled out of the country, and I had never taken a two week solo trip anywhere. As someone who is pretty reserved and appreciates routine and planning, it was a big deal. Besides booking some hostels and train tickets so that I had a rough idea of where I would be each day, I didn’t plan anything else.

In the end, I visited Göteborg, Oslo, Bergen, Malmö, and a final day spent in Copenhagen. Of these places, Bergen, Göteborg, and Malmö were my favorites. I also spent a day hiking in the forests outside of Oslo, and that was a fantastic experience as well. The fresh air, mossy forests, and beautiful views lifted my spirits immensely.

Upon return, I had a lot of photos, which I knew I wanted to use as references for new work. Over the past few years, I have been occasionally pulling from these photos to inspire new pieces and studies.

The first piece to come from my experience in Sweden is Vintern - a digital illustration created with ink and gouache brushes in Procreate. Because I traveled by train, I had a few long train rides between Oslo-Bergen and Göteborg-Oslo. I was on one of those routes when I snapped some photos of some homes and cottages beside lakes and rivers that ran along the tracks. I love the Falun red that characterizes so many buildings across Sweden and Norway, so I wanted to create a piece that highlighted it.

Vintern is a digital illustration created in Procreate.

About a year or so after the trip, I started dabbling in oil painting. I wasn’t sure if it would be a medium I would like - I prefer to finish pieces in a day, and I like media that allows for a lot of control. Oil seemed too messy and time consuming. Still, I wanted to branch out, and now I love it. Despite the cleanup, I find just enough control and in reality, working with oils has allowed me to be more free with my brushstrokes.

This next piece was also inspired by views from a train, this time between Oslo and Bergen, as I looked out at views of vast lakes and fjords. “Views from a Train in Norway” is certainly not my most successful piece - mostly because I was so new to oils. Still, it was a valuable way to practice painting techniques with a subject I enjoy.

Views from a Train in Norway

“Slottsmöllan,” is the most recent piece to come out of reference photos from my visit to Malmö, Sweden. Initially, I didn’t have much planned in Malmö. At the suggestion of my host (thanks Katya!), I made my way around the city to Stortorget, Lilla Torg, and finally down to Malmöhus slott, where Slottsmöllan resides.

Over the past two months, I have been drawing a lot of small-scale ink landscape sketches in one of my pocket sketchbooks (I talk more about this in my last post). To get some practice drawing buildings, I pulled up a few photos I took at Slottsmöllan. Overall, I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Slottsmöllan in Ink

Detail of Slottsmöllan in Ink

I hope to create more work inspired by Sweden and Norway in the future, especially when it is safe to travel again. 

Are there any places that you feel particularly inspired by? Share them in the comments below!

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