Ólafur Sigurðarson is both an artist and a go player, and Ranka asked him about both of these activities. Some of his artwork can be seen on DeviantArt.
Ranka: How did you start playing go?
Ólafur: I first learned about go from a few friends of mine online. They had seen Hikaru no Go and they thought go was something that would suit me. I didn’t see Hikaru no Go myself until I was around 12 kyu. My friends stopped playing shortly after they taught me, but I kept on, and slowly, slowly, I started to get involved with the game. This was about eight years ago. There were just a few players in Iceland who were actively playing online back then.
Ranka: And what is the situation in Iceland like now?
Ólafur: Although I’m the president of the Iceland Go Association, I’m not really sure. We have about five players who are very active, and there might be about twenty others who are less active, but I don’t know all of them. In fact, one of them is actually playing in this tournament — for New Zealand. I was surprised when I saw his name on the list, because I hadn’t even known about him.
Ranka: How strong are your five active players?
Ólafur: Well, I’m around 2 dan, maybe 1 dan. There’s one other at about the same level and another who is around 3 kyu. The other two active ones are in the 6-to-9-kyu range. Most of our other players are also in that range, or below it.
Ranka: Do you have any clubs?
Ólafur: Just one, in Reykjavik, our capital city.
Ranka: Do you have tournaments?
Ólafur: We haven’t had any so far, but I really want to host one at some point.
Ranka: Do you play on the Internet a lot?
Ólafur: I used to play a lot, but in recent years, I’ve been working more, because I’ve bought an apartment, and that’s really cutting into my go-playing.
Ranka: How about the other Icelandic players? Do they mostly play online?
Ólafur: Yes. For example, one of our most active players, who is in the 6-to-9-kyu group, plays something like fifteen games a day, blitz games, online. He’s played tens of thousands of games.
Ranka: Now please tell us about your artwork on the DeviantArt website.
Ólafur: Well, I work in a freezer, a food freezer, mostly for fish and imported food like chicken. So my artwork is mainly just frozen ice and food coloring. It’s done in multiple layers and it’s a bit complex to describe, but what goes into it is mostly ice and food coloring, and a lot of time: about a week or so for a single subject.
Ranka: Your employer must be very cooperative to let you do this.
Ólafur: Yes, my workplace is very free. I can take vacations whenever I want for as long as I want. Last year I took two months of vacation in total, of which five weeks were paid.
Ranka: Do you enjoy your job?
Ólafur: There are currently some unfavorable changes, but I like the flexibility and I get to travel, and that counters anything else.
Ranka: How did you get started as an artist?
Ólafur: It was by accident. We had a company come in to do beer commercials, and they froze some beer bottles. I could see crystals growing on the bottles, almost like leaves, and I got curious about them. I started fooling around with them, taking pictures, using macro photography and all sorts of techniques. It took me a while to find the right equipment.
Ranka: Did you say macro photography?
Ólafur: Yes, that’s a technique for taking big pictures of things that are really tiny, using a special camera with small sensors.
Ranka: What are you trying to express with your art?
Ólafur: I’m not sure if I’m really trying to express anything. I’m exploring. I find it fascinating what you can do with such simple things as water and food coloring. I’m really just fooling around, but it’s incredible what you can do with the simplest things.
Ranka: Do you get any income from this activity?
Ólafur: Just a little bit, very limited. I’m not really trying to sell my art. I could get more if I tried to push them on the market, but that would take time and effort. I’d rather spend my time just taking the pictures.
Ranka: How do you balance your time among working, taking these pictures, and playing go?
Ólafur: It’s difficult, because recently I’ve started working out too, so I rarely have any time to myself just to relax, but I guess you could say that all of what I’m doing is for myself.
Ranka: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish here in the World Amateur Go Championship?
Ólafur: I’m hoping to finish above average, above the halfway mark in the field. I don’t see myself getting much higher than that, but I would really like to play some strong players and learn from them.
Ranka: Thank you very much.