I’ve recently finished the latest painting in my Norse portrait series of a winter goddess named “Skadi.” She’s more obscure than the other characters in the Norse pantheon but actually has one of the most interesting backstories. I had a lot of fun painting her and enjoyed the challenge of portraying a complex character in a simple composition.
As usual I started off with a very loose idea of how I wanted to portray her in a series of very rough thumbnail sketches. Because I’m leaving the background white on these images, the silhouette has to be strong and interesting to lead the eye around the picture. Also, I quickly realized with this series that it could easily become a bunch of pictures of “people holding stuff.” As a result, it became important for me to try to inject additional narrative into the piece with the more subtle aspects of posture, expression and costume.
After I established the pose, I asked a friend to model for me to get the correct photo reference. Skadi is a huntress and I wanted her to be holding a pair of antique wooden skis, similar to the style a hunter in Norway might have used. Since I didn’t have any around I mocked up the shape of them with some fishing poles, and duck taped them together to make them wider and more similar to skis. An old fur coat from a thrift store was perfect for the costume and had just the right texture.
My initial sketch dealt with a lot of problem solving right off the bat. Looking at it now, I can see that I was struggling with the facial structure. My model had a lovely cleft chin, but this can very easily look too manly if depicted with a heavy hand. Although Skadi is a huntress, she is by no means a man. This problem came up again during the painting, but the second time around I found ways to soften and subdue those harsh lines. I think sketching is where I usually make all my mistakes, sort of like a trial run. I also ended up tilting the composition more when I transferred the sketch to the canvas, making it much more dynamic and alive.
This is around the middle of the beginning of the painting after I’ve laid down initial colors over the underpainting. This is where I’ve begun to sort out the issues with her face and add some additional elements that weren’t in the original drawing, such as her deer skull necklace. According to the legends, Skadi is a half-giantess and I wanted to allude to this aspect with the deer skull. If she is wearing that as a necklace- then she’s gotta be huge!
And here’s the finish! I had the most fun with the textures on this one. I set out with the goal of making every texture in this piece feel alive and I think that at least partially succeeded. The gloves sewn from animal hide are my favorite part. In case you were wondering, the footprint on the ski is a nod to her origin story that involves the choosing of a suitor by his feet. I won’t tell the entire story here but you can read a decent summary at norse-mythology.org
Thanks for stopping by!