Here at Soundscape, we’re big fans of artist Jonas Darnell, the creator of the long-running Herman Hedning comic, having discovered his awesome and unique style via the artwork he’s created for the True Norwegian Balkan Metallers TrollfesT. Wanting to know more about the artwork, the stories behind it and what goes into making it, we caught up with the man himself to ask him a few questions!
Note: Click the photos to see them in better quality!
So how did you first get into creating art?
I’ve been drawing and painting (well, mosty drawing) since as long I can remember (that would be the age of three), and after considering becoming a doctor, an architect, a chemist and some even weirder occupations, I decided to become a commercial illustrator at the age of 16 – and that was AFTER I got rejected and humiliated as a cartoonist at 15. I didn’t get into art school as planned though. I got rejected there as well at the age of 22. But at the same time I somehow slipped into the comic business anyway, and was hired by the same guy who told me to take a hike seven years earlier. And since then, I’ve been a cartoonist – but also doing fun side jobs like album covers!
According to Wikipedia, your Herman Hedning comic has been going since 1988 – how do you come up with new ideas for such a long-running piece of work?
Well, it wasn’t actually meant to be THAT long running. I was doing 7 or 8 comics at the same time back then, but my boss wanted a short fun comic for the editorial page in “The Phantom” magazine, and I was to scared to say “No, I haven’t got the bloody time to do more comics” – so I just gave him what he wanted.
How did you first create the characters for it?
Herman Hedning was a weird mix of my friends banter (several of them played in local heavy metal bands in the eighties, and since I couldn’t play any instruments I did the covers if anyone got a record contract) and some of my favourite comics as a kid, among them “Broom Hilda” and “B.C”.
How long does it take to create each strip?
It can take anything from two days to to hours. It all depends if you know what to draw and write – the “lyrics” always take more time to find.
I find your style to be very distinct and unique – how did you go about creating a style unique enough for people to recognise it’s yours just by looking at it?
Thanks 🙂 I have never found myself very unique style wise. I always felt there was so many things I couldn’t draw, and as a cartoonist you really must be able to draw everything! And when I grew up I only drew things I enjoyed, that being monsters, guns, cars and buildings. But humans, horses and all that stuff I simply avoided and kept being useless at it. So I spent my first years as a professional comic artist learning to draw (and nobody seemed to notice) copying how others did. I studied how the french masters (Franquin, Mezieres, Hergé, Uderzo and Morris) drew, as well as the Phantom artists with their more realistic style. But after a few years this blend of different styles became a some kind of “a style of my own” – and now I’m stuck with it!
Moving onto your work with TrollfesT, how did your working relationship with the band first come about?
Well, they simply contacted me by email. They had read my comics – Herman Hedning was also published in Norway – and wondered if I would be interested in doing an album cover for them. And so I was!
Is there anything that differs with drawing the various TrollfesT characters compared with the ones for your Herman Hedning comic?
I think the Trollfest characters are very much like my usual work – only slightly more crazy 🙂
How much info do the guys give you for when you create the artwork for each new character they dream up? Do they just give you a name and a basic description, and give you free reign, or do they ever request something more specific?
Well, these guys write even longer and weirder scripts than I do! It’s hilarious to read through the background story to each album, and how they created each character involved in the album. I usually make some sketches after given a description of what should be included on the cover, the center label or the fold-out and then we discuss changes. But I often manage to get it right pretty quick 🙂
One of my favourite pieces of art you’ve done for them is the cover of A Decade Of Drekkadence, as it featured all the characters (at the time) that had featured on their past albums. Was there any in particular you were excited to revisit?
It was great just remembering them all – and being flipped about how many trolls I’ve made 🙂
Which character is your favourite to draw and why?
It’s hard to pick one specific troll, I love them all, but must admit I like the Trolljeger/Jägermeister. Maybe because I still enjoy drawing big guns…
I think my favourite character is the Villanden duck – I love the unique aesthetic the duck has with all the spikes! How did you go about creating that one?
Well, the raw model for that was actually a black rubber duck my kids had in the bathtub – I just added some spikes, horns, leather and sawblades!
You also worked on the artwork for their new album Helluva – is there anything you can tell me about it, or are your lips sealed? 😉
Well – I have to check with the band (and the NSA) about that – but I guess I can at least tell you that it will be very UNDERGROUND Balkan Metal 🙂
How does this character compare to the others?
It adapts very well into the established lane of … insane characters!
If you could create your own character in the “TrollfesT universe” (by which I mean contributing someone or something without any input from the band) what would their story be?
Oh! Well, that have been discussed, and … that ended up in my lips being stitched tight with piano wire – I’ll get back to you on that, when I find a good piano wire cutter!
And finally, is there any other bands you’d like to work with in the future?
Well – IF Derek Riggs (the cover artist of Iron Maiden) should ever – and I actually hope not – consider to retire, I would be happy to take over his job. After all – his work with the Maiden covers back in the eighties, started my dreams about being a heavy metal cover artist when I was about 19. Back then, in my home town crowded with bands – and I felt I was the only one not being able to play any instrument – I became the one doing covers for those of my friends that got some kind of record deals.
And by pure coincidence – the guitarist of the best of these bands (Parasite) looked me up the same day I found my interview request from you, and told me he finally wrote and mixed those songs that were supposed to be on that follow up LP – 30 years ago. And now we need a new cover 🙂