This interview with the Dutch oil artist Jeroen van Valkenburg was done by Sherrie Zemla in March 2005.

Deep rooted beauty portrayed through creative, metaphysical, and mythical concepts conveyed with the use of rich ancient and modern symbolism. Labeled a Pagan Artist, Jeroen van Valkenburg from Holland has been working as a professional artist for over 12 years and his work has been displayed in galleries across the globe. Along with being a unique artist, Jeroen also has a master's degree in archaeology and is specialized in Viking funeral rituals. Original oil paintings by Jeroen van Valkenburg.

What are your main sources of inspiration?
My main source of inspiration are the myths and beliefs of pre-Christian European societies like Vikings, Celts and Germannic tribes. I studied archaeology for 6 years and this is where I learned about my ancestors. These myths are filled with such powerful symbols and visions that they are perfect to use as inspiration for a painting. When I study a myth many strange visions start to develop in my mind and these visions are later on transformed into a painting. Every painting of mine tells a story but I try to make it not too obvious for the viewer to see. I like to stimulate the imagination of the viewer also.
Everyone sees my paintings differently and I'm often surprised what most people come up with when I ask what they see in my paintings. Another source of inspiration is my own sub-consciousness. Often when I'm painting my mind creates really strange images (maybe because of the paint fumes ha ha) and I use them in the painting. Last but not least I use music as inspiration. I always play music (mostly Black metal) when painting, and I transform the music I hear into paint.

Are there any established artists that you have drawn, and/or continue to draw influences from?
For me the greatest artists ever are the anonymous Pagan artists from ancient times who have created such magnificent objects like the Gundestrup Cauldron (Iron Age, Denmark), they inspire me the most. But also the medieval painter Hieronymous Bosch is an absolute genius.

Music is often a huge inspiration for many. What type of music/bands truly inspire you in creating the art that you do?
When painting I mostly listen to Black / Pagan metal. This kind of music has such a strong visiual power, that it's perfect for me while painting. It gives me so much energy and inspiration! My favorite bands are: (old) Mayhem, Devil Doll, Nokturnal Mortum, Temnozor, Stalaggh, Absu, Silencer, (old) Slayer, Hellhammer etc etc.

I know that you have done artwork for bands such as Diabolical Masquerade, Immortal, and October Tide,etc... Did they seek you out, or did you approach them? Have you since worked with any other bands?
Every album cover happened in a different way. Sometimes the band or label asked me to do a cover, sometimes I send my art to a band and asked if they were interested in using my work for their cover. If I really like a band, I will work for free, it's always an honor to see my own painting on a cd I really like.
These are some bands I worked for: Immortal (re-edition of Battles in the North, 1995), Bal-Sagoth, Mordaehoth, Grievance, Stalaggh, Blackdeath, Diabolical Masquerade, October Tide (the now legendary "Rain without end" cd), Mystifier, DemonRealm and some less well-known bands.

With which of those band/music related creations did you feel most content and fulfulled with the finished product? Were there any that you found particularly difficult to bring into fruition? And what other sorts of projects have your talents been acquired for? -outside of your own personal works and music related art-
That must be the cover I did for Immortal. Herve of Osmose productions asked me to make a cover for the re-edition of 'Battles in the North'. So I decided to make a direct impression of their music. I put on the cd on auto-repeat while painting and I transformed Immortal's massive cold sound into a painting called "Winterdemon". The band and label were so pleased with the cover that they released it without putting a logo or text on the cover. The painting was also used for a T-shirt.
The most difficult to make have to be the covers for Stalaggh. Stalaggh is a totally insane project that uses real mental patients to do the vocals. Their 'music' sounds like a trip through the mind of a serial killer. Making a painting while listening to that many times, almost destroyed me mentally! But the result fits their music really well. I've also designed book and magazine covers, but cd and lp covers are the most interesting to make.

Given your experience with Archaeology, Viking funeral rituals and Pagan ties, and the role it all plays in your spiritual self and your work , what sort of mood atmospheres and thought forms do you entertain while painting?
While painting I reach into the deepest pits of my soul and try to bring out the most ancient archetypical emotions. I try to connect to the spirits of my pagan ancestors to give me visions and inspiration. Making a painting is almost like a ritual itself.

With a degree in archaeology, I must ask: If you could live in or merely visit any time period, which would it be and why?
Without doubt, this must be the Viking age (9th to 11th century AD)! Vikings had such a rich and developped culture with the most interesting myths and the most beautiful artifacts. I would love to visit a Viking town and watch them forge a sword and make jewellery and then sit around the fire and listen to the Skalds (poets) who sing of the glorious battles of kings and gods. Vikings were not only fierce and gruesome warriors, they were also very intelligent and civilized people. That combination makes them the most interesting for me.

What is your view on "spirituality" vs. "religion"?
I see religion as a collection of beliefs shared by many people who they put their faith into a God. Spirituality is a far more personal and can be experienced alone in your own way. Spirituality explores the powers of your own divinity. I prefer spirituality.

Looking back to before you were a professional artist, what were your biggest struggles, and what drove you to continue to the level you're at now? Is this something you realized you always had a talent in, or was it something you harvested and grew into?
I never realised I had a real talent. The only thing was that I made completely different drawings than the other kids in my class. I always had my own vision of how things should be and I never followed any rules. I never had any art-class and learned all painting techniques myself. I think this is why I have a style of my own. I started painting when I was around 16 and almost immediately people wanted to buy my paintings. I sold my first painting for $5. Now my paintings are around $1500 to $2000 and I've sold about 250 paintings. I had my first exhibition in a gallery when I was 18 and soon many other exhibitions followed. I think I've had over 100 exhibits of my work. I have a strong creative urge inside me that drives me to paint. If it was possible, I would paint all day and live in the worlds I'm creating in my paintings. Now, I can live off my work very well. I sometimes sell 3-4 paintings in a month.

If I'm not mistaken you choose to work strictly with oil paint... Can you explain why oil paint is your preference?
Oil paint has the best and most natural colors. I don't like synthetic paint like acrylics. Most of the materials used to make oil paint come from nature. But the most important thing is that an oil painting can survive for 100's of years, while other types of paint only last for 50 years or so. When I make a painting I want to be sure that it still exists after I'm long gone so that my soul lives on in my art.

Thanks for the interview Joroen! I hope you and your art continue to prosper in all ways. Is there anything you'd like to add or finish this off with?
Sherrie! Great to hear from you! Maybe you can add my new website, and I also have pro-printed posters of my work for sale. Thanks again for the interview!

Links of interest:

Jeroen van Valkenburg