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The Ghost Of The Vasa

April 16, 2010

The Warship Vasa was built like a cathedral to war. Its masts towered above a massive hull, its back bristled with carved ghouls and sea gods, and its belly was bloated with guns. It was built to stand against the world for the Swedish king, but it was not fit to sail. The ship sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 just outside the Stockholm harbor.

When I learned of the Vasa from a badly water-damaged book about the 1959 salvage operations, I was gathering visual reference materials for the above piece, ‘The Galleons Of Hell’. The piece was to be an LP cover for my friends in the doom-metal band Ironfist. Later, when I saw it in Stockholm’s Vasamuseet (the museum built around the ship in the late 80’s) I saw just how perfect a model the Vasa truly was. It could hardly have looked more ghostly, more deadly, more “Metal”.

The ship was once brightly painted, but three centuries under the sea have stripped it down to bare, black wood. The grim faces and bodies carved on the Vasa are run through with cracks, and the timbers of the hull are in a state of slowly advancing decay. Time has given the Vasa a morbid look true to its purpose as a war machine, and it looks every bit the ghost ship that it is.

image used under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0

At the museum I stood speechless. Its fearsome size and the incredible art of its design were like nothing I have seen before or since, even after the centuries have battered away the fine details worked by the Vasa’s makers. Aside from a few dutiful scribbles to record some particulars of ship anatomy which I knew I would not be able to remember, I didn’t sketch the ship at all. It was all I could do to try and absorb what I was seeing.

The pencil drawing was made in intense, intermittent spurts over the period of a year, in two different home studios. When it was finished and treated, I simply dropped a color layer over it in Photoshop for that Hellish quality, and my logo from the first Ironfist CD was the final touch. I’m sorry to say the LP remains unreleased.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Nate permalink
    September 17, 2010 12:54 pm

    the black and white looks better AND more evil.

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