Around The World: ProgArt

Tucked away in the Swedish municipality of Alingsås, Mattias Norén has been creating cover art for some of European metal’s conquering titans for the best part of 15 years.

In 1999, he set up ProgArt, which he describes as, “a portal where bands and cover artists could meet”, and a medium to showcase his own creations. Following an interview with renowned illustrator Mark Wilkinson, Mattias hit onto a successful partnership with Zizania Records that saw him working with the likes of Dutch proggers Darius, Wolverine and Into Eternity. “After that the jobs started to roll in,” he remembers.

Mattias’ art draws deeply from the fantastical elements of progressive music, and he digitally renders his work.

He puts his choice of medium down to being a perfectionist: “It’s hard for me to be satisfied, and it’s so much easier to try alternatives on a computer than on canvas.” Traditional media still permeates his digital work, as a fully digital image “can look a bit sterile.”

With the likes of Ayreon, Kamelot, Circus Maximus, Sabaton and Evergrey as clients, Mattias’ varied, expressive and ethereal illustrations are indebted to the exploratory attitude of progressive music, as well as his own surreal psyche. “The fact is that I don’t read much at all. I prefer to listen to a good album instead!” he laughs. “So I guess the inspiration comes from real life instead… mixed with a whole lot of crazy ideas.”

His own musical journey started through the discovery of his older brother’s record collection, which introduced him to Magnum, Saga, IQ, Marillion and Rush. Since then he’s added the likes of Devin Townsend, Fair To Midland and Katatonia to his own record collection.

For Mattias, the artwork that accompanies music makes the experience complete: “Many albums are so strongly connected to their covers that it gives the music, the whole experience, an extra dimension. At least for an art-loving person like myself.”

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