Painting Process – Odin’s Secrets

The process for Odin’s Secrets was a long one. This was a personal project, so I didn’t have any deadlines. On one hand, this is great because you can constantly refine, but on the other, sometimes the only way you know you’re done with a painting is because you have to meet a deadline. Regardless, I am happy with the result so all’s well that ends well.

It all started with a scribble in my sketchbook. I’d been wanting to do an Odin piece for a while, and I was searching for what to do. As I read the Prose Edda I came across a line about Odin consulting Mimir’s head for knowledge. This got the creative wheels turning, and I started to doodle.


I refined my doodle digitally using Photoshop. Another aspect of Odin is that he is the Hangmen’s God or God of the Gallows. I had the idea of a tree with lots of hanged men in the background.


I showed the sketch to some friends and I was reminded that if a piece is going to be a portrait and focus on a single figure, then I should crop in closer on the figure. For this reason I dropped the hangmen tree in favor of a single large tree.


From there I shot reference and did a more refined sketch.


I then printed the sketch out lightly on tan paper and did a tonal drawing.


At this point I sent the sketch off to my friends for critique. The comments I got were telling. Why do both Odin and Mimir have their mouths open? Makes them seem like they are singing. With everyone looking off the page in the same direction it makes the viewer wonder what the heck is happening over there? I was then given some good suggestions on how to fix the piece.

Ultimately as I thought about the changes, I kept coming back to another nagging feeling. I was not happy with Odin’s face and Mimir’s head looked too alive. I did a quick digital sketch over, but it still wasn’t quite working.


So I decided to start over with a doodle in my sketchbook.


Immediately I was MUCH happier. Odin’s face had life and Mimir looked dead. And so the process started again.

I refined the sketch.


I re-shot reference and did a tonal drawing. In the background I nixed the big tree all together in favor of a winter forest scene.


I then printed the tonal drawing out on large 18″ x 24″ paper, mounted the paper on hardboard, and started to paint.

I don’t often take progress shots, but this time I did. You can see the gray areas where the drawing still shows through without paint.


At this time something GREAT happened—I got a lot of work. So I set Odin aside and started working on paying projects. I had quite a few lined up…

…but then I had a dream. In my dream Odin appeared to me and told me that I should set aside my other projects and finish his commission; that his painting was more important than the others, and I needed to get back to work.

As I had several deadlines I couldn’t immediately obey Old One Eye, but I did find a way to insert Odin’s painting in the mix and managed to finish it in between several deadlines.

Odin's Secrets © Sam Flegal 2013

Odin’s Secrets © Sam Flegal 2013

The final is an oil painting measuring 18″ x 24″. After finishing it I got a big response from fans and art lovers that the painting was well liked. So I did a Kickstarter and it was very successful! I guess Odin knew what he was talking about after all. 😉

To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project please visit:



5 thoughts on “Painting Process – Odin’s Secrets

  1. Fantastic work! Congratulations! Would mind if I use one of your sketches (my favorite is the second drawing) as my avatar on a Tolkien forum? I’d obsiously give give the credit for the work to you.

    Kind regards,
    Alexandre (from Brazil)

  2. Pingback: Going from Drawing to Painting | An Artist's Journey

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