How Yggdrasil took root in our Ultra Limited collection

February 5, 2023 by Displate Artists Team in Artist Interviews

Can’t spell Ikaruna without “rune”, right?

Well, almost.

The point is, her art has always been dominated by Nordic mythology, ancient symbols, and legendary beasts. Now, we finally know where they are all coming from!

Try to imagine Ikaruna (aka Thea Magerand) as this giant (book)worm, coiled around an endless pile of fantasy literature, squeezing out the fine creative juices that fuel her epic designs.

Like the World Tree Yggdrasil, her awe-inspiring debut into Ultra Limited Edition!

After conquering the realm of Limited Edition, she finally branched out to the world of Ultra and we couldn’t be more excited. That’s why we had to sit down with her and find out where all these stunning images are coming from. Little did we know that we had just signed up for a mythology lesson.

Thea in her studio

Mastering the nine realms, one page at a time

Most of us have probably heard of it, but what exactly is Yggdrasil? Professor Ikaruna has the answer:

“Yggdrasil, in Norse mythology, is the center of all creation, the one structure that supports everything else, and upon whose branches all the realms reside. But Yggdrasil is much more than that. It is a tree of life, a concept that binds reality together, the structure that stands opposed to chaos.

This holy tree is also a metaphor for how Norse people understood the cosmos and the world around them; its roots and branches permeate the nine worlds and no one can fully comprehend it until they die. A host of creatures are said to inhabit Yggdrasil, many of which gnaw at its roots and leaves, but the tree is constantly watered by the three wells at its base, thus always regenerating.

Since we’re dealing with mythology, these details actually hold a deeper meaning, including the universe’s constant death and rebirth, while also representing change and hope.

So how does one turn this mythical entity into an Ultra Limited design?

“After receiving the brief from the Displate design team, I began the first phase: research. I already knew many of the little things I wanted to include, but how do you go about depicting such an abstract concept in a visually coherent way? After all, none of the remaining texts from Norse literature agree on a specific image for the great world tree.

To me, that also shows that to the Norse people Yggdrasil was more of a spiritual concept, rather than something set in stone. So, after spending some time digging into my book resources and historians’ texts, I decided to draw Yggdrasil as I view it: a realistic representation of an abstract concept.

I went through a few simple sketches, then set out to detail them. I imagined the nine worlds sitting on the tree’s roots, but with their substance also flowing around and over the edges – a bit like the medieval representations of the edge of the world.

I am a digital matte painter and almost always strive to get a realistic feel to my pieces with extra details. So, I always have to ask myself practical questions about texture, physics, light and volumes. This is a fantasy piece, and of course there is no water falling over the edges of a floating world, but if it were, how would that water flow? How would icicles form underneath a land of permanent ice and frost? 

I changed quite a few things along the way – the bubbles enclosing the worlds came later for example, as did the huge Jörmungandr. Sometimes as you develop a piece, little things just pop into your head and you end up thinking, “yes, that’s what it was missing!”. Much like Yggdrasil itself, the artistic process is not something that is set in stone 🙂 

Naturally, we had to ask how she came to know all this and -more importantly- where she goes for inspiration.

“One element is my passion for mythology – not just Norse mythology, but humanity’s fascination with interpreting natural phenomena and trying to understand the world around us. The other is my long-standing love for fantasy. As a nerdy kid I loved discovering history in the local library. And reading books, a ton of books! Mythology, fantasy stories, folk tales – I was wolfing them all down and haven’t stopped since!

Video games are a big part of it too, games like Senua’s Sacrifice, God of War / Ragnarök, or Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla help me immerse myself in a world that I deeply love.

Another huge source of inspiration when drawing is music. I often draw while listening to video game soundtracks, the LoTR OSTs, or even classical music. Sometimes listening to a particular piece evokes images in my mind, images that I then turn into an illustration. For example, I drew Yggdrasil while listening to the soundtrack of AC: Valhalla and Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture!

Ultimately though, I think it’s always been about the books. A love I first developed when I was a shy kid, as a means to escape into my own inner universe. As an adult, it has turned into an infinite source of inspiration that I’ll always be grateful for.”

Climbing the world tree with our Design Studio 

Now it was up to our Design Studio to pour some 3D water and other minerals on its sprawling roots and watch it grow into a masterpiece! Aleksandra Mosiej, our Product Designer, talks about how they made that tree extra lush.

“Ah yes, the giant mythical tree, known as Yggdrasil. This piece is full of details, that’s for sure! We decided to use a silver overprint here – the toned colors look really good with a metallic finish!

The cool thing is, this kind of design works like a story illustration: you can analyze it step by step, and keep discovering new things every time. The artist gave us a file where each element was named, which was amazing! So for us, working and sculpting details onto it was like an epic journey through Norse mythology.”

Sometimes myths turn into reality!

This tree just keeps growing! It started as a staple of an entire culture’s cosmology. Then it acted as fertilizer for Thea’s vivid imagination. Finally, it got carefully groomed by our Ultra Limited team with 3D elements, glossy surfaces, and a mesmerizing metallic finish. 

Now, it’s time for World Tree Yggdrasil to take root in your collection!

Intrigued? How about a closer look at how Ikaruna brought the tree of life… to life!

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