This cover illustration is for a DnD supplement book called: Elminster’s Forgotten Realms. I think it is the first cover I ever did picturing a bright sunny day in “Fantasy Land”. It struck me, while starting on it, that I always choose strong unrealistic or symbolic color themes. This time I would have to base the colors and light on something real.
The assignment was to show a Ranger waylaying a disguised Drow on a wagon pulled by a troll. All should take place in a sunny country-like setting. One evening in my sofa I sketched a couple of thumbs. One of them caught my fancy and I sent it along with a description of what it was. It kind of needed that. I was going to make the ranger hide behind a pillarof stone about to draw his weapons. Kate Irwin, my art director at Wotc liked the idea and asked me to continue.
As always, I started sketching each figure individually to keep me from keeping the darlings. I do a bunch of sketches of each figure going for the strongest expression or pose I can. The rest is abandoned midway or when I see they are of no use. I then digitally placed the ranger and the troll sketch in the thumb to see what it looks like altogether. “it kind of looked boring”. When I looked at it for a while I realized, that the trouble was, that the ranger, who was supposed to be the antagonist, was facing away from the action. His face was turned away from the villains and the whole storyline read more like he was being discovered while hiding in fear, than that he was attacking them. This is, to me, one of the worst pitfalls in sketching. Since I am the illustrator and I got the art description to read out loud again and again, I KNOW what is going on in the picture, no matter how unclear that is. But the spectator should be able to see the same thing even at first glance. That is my job.
So I started out again on the ranger. I sketched him as he was jumping over the pillar striking at the unaware troll. The troll seeming to have heard something behind the stone and looking for it while lifting his club. This sketch had a much better story. But now I ran into some other troubles: The Ranger was filling out way to much at the top of the image where the title would be. In order of moving him down I changed the pillar to a stone fence and corrected some anatomy of the troll. I also changed the drow from being unaware to having actually spotted the attacker desperately trying to pull the troll back. This image shows the scene right the second before it all goes bloody and crazy. It holds so much more tension and automatically makes you guess at the outcome. Those are my favourite. I am pretty sure the Troll is not going to make it, and the way the Ranger is smiling it seems like he got everything under control.
This version I sent for approval, and it was accepted with one change. The trolls was not using clubs but fists and claws. I decided to change that while transferring.
In transferring a sketch to board I try to further emphasize everything the picture is all about. I add details and use references of trees, stones, paths and wagon and harness. One more thing: I liked the idea, from the first thumb, that the troll was leaning or bending down searching as if he heard or discovered something. I was going to add a dead chicken or a bloody piece of meat to the cracks in the stone fence. Supposedly the Ranger left it there as a decoy to make the troll halt or even look down so that he could strike. I tried different things but was afraid that it would be impossible to see what it was, so I came up with the idea of a small golden statue of a ranger like figure. It would gleam and shimmer and catch the eye of the stupid troll. The nose acting almost like an arrow pointing towards the figurine.
The grey version is how my painting looks like before I start painting. It is inked in thin pen, toned with black acrylic. On a print out I made a colour rough. In the final I got so carried away in details that I even added butterflies. ( there is 2, can you find them?)I liked the idea of the ambush taking place in “just another day in Forgotten Realms”. I even stopped at my way to the studio in the morning to pick flowers along the road to paint from. This painting is one of my favourites from last year. Perhaps because I got to tell a story. When I think back on my favourite DND covers it is always the ones with a story I remember the clearest.
Awesome, thanks for sharing the process!
That's an amazing piece, Jesper. It has the weight and force of some of Paul's work but it's wholly in your style. I think it's my new favorite Ejsing painting!
I really love how you depict a story and capture action and grittiness in your paintings, it always feels like your in the scene as its happening.
Your thumbnails are something i enjoy the most from your work, getting to see from start to finish.
my god i hate you!!!
great compo, great colors, great characters!!!
did i mention that i hate you 😛
keep it up,
thanks a lot Jim. At least I am almost up to the same amount of details in this one as Paul is. Maybee just 14 days extra of nit picking with a pubic hair will do it?
I hate me too
This piece does really stand out from your other work and I really like it a lot. The gold figurine being planted by the ranger was immediately clear too and it got me excited over the fact I understood what was going on 🙂
The drow is trying to be incognito so he hops in a quaint little wagon pulled by … a troll?
Nice to see you paint a more naturalistic environment Jesper! Great illustration!
But he put on a wizard's robe. Wizards do odd stuff like having wagons pulled by trolls. 😉
Also, one white butterfly to the right of the Ranger, one orange butterfly below the golden statue on top of a flower. I enjoyed looking all over the painting for those 😀 It's a great picture!
The very bottom middle image, in which you're halfway through your painting process, is always the stage where I struggle the most. I refer to it the 'crap' stage, because this is where I feel most overwhelmed, challenged, and sometimes battle with discouragement.
I inevitably always make it through to the end. However, it's always a terrifying stage for me because I wonder, and sometimes doubt, I'll be able to pull a painting off.
Do you have struggles like this in your painting process? -if so, what things do you do to help you make it through to the end?
You have out done yourself with this one! Knocked me on my can 🙂
wow, kan godt forstå hvorfor du kan li' dette maleri. Det må klart ligge i top 5 af mine favoritter. Og som altd super spændende at se processen.
This is my favorite piece by you Jesper. Really nice work.
Jesper – its just an honor to follow your artwork 🙂 Im glad I got the chance to join your painting course with Tegnebordet a few years ago 🙂
I really dig the narrative here. There's all those little details for the story but it doesn't take away from the overall effect. Great stuff. I also super appreciate the insight into your process. Did you color digitally? I know you said the black and white was pen and wash, then color rough on a print out.. but just wondering how you get that finished look. Epic story was told and I can feel the damage that ranger is about to do!
Great job, I really like the final version 🙂 Also sketches are interesting and the story and way of thinking. Great
Just one flaw, that string pulling the wagon must be mithril or something alike.
This is my favourite of your pieces – even more so after reading the background and seeing the three stages of the painting's development next to each other.
I hope WotC and Paizo keep hiring you! 🙂