Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Road to Legend

Jesper Ejsing

Today I want to continue down the path I was a couple of articles back, The encountering monster road. This illustration is for the cover of Descent – Road to Legend by Fantasy Flight Games. The cover on the box is changed slightly compared to the acrylic original. What I share with you is the painting version that has not been altered too much in computer.

The description was very simple: “Heroes vs Monster outside somewhere”.

I did a bunch of sketches but in the end we settled on a lonely female figure fronting a dragon.
The sketch that lead up to this choice is the one with the female and the demon. As you can hopefully see, most of the sketches up till the final one lacks a lot of drama and dynamic. That is what I try do capture while doing all those thumbs.

Here is the common problem for a fantasy artist doing battles of heroes vs Monsters: You always twist and turn and shuffle the figure around so that all is seen from the front all the faces are clear and everything is equally cool. It has the tendency to be a little styled or too staged, I think. What I really really like about his illustration is that the Chief, Christian Petersen, took the chance of having a hero with the back turned towards us on the cover. It of cause gave me a lot of trouble since I now had to do a figure looking really cool and strong and heroic from the back. What I like about the posing of the figures is that she is kind of stoic and calm in the moment whereas the dragon is all out attacking. I gave a white arrow with a magic glow so that we might think she has a chance. Also her posture indicate that she is not too afraid.

Inspired by Angus Mcbride´s MERP illustrations I gave her a small cat-like creature as a friend. The mountain is actually added afterwards at a request from the art director. I found some mountains from a cover I did years ago for a Norse Mythology book and more or less copy pasted them in. “Thank you Photoshop”.

I tried 4 very different colour themes. I loved nr 1 myself. Grey sky and all grid and brown, but I felt quite sure it would be out of line with what FFG wanted for a cover. I had just painted a bunch of very colourful illustrations and the bright sunny day of nr. 3 just felt like something I had never done before, so I went with that one. Ironically the cover was changed for the final box to be bluish/grey like a cloudy day. Had I just followed my instinct I think this cover could have been so much more.


  1. While everything you have here is great, I was blown away by your color comps. How does one create so many gorgeous, colorful lighting situations and wrap them around one scene? I'd be forever composing, creating maquettes, lighting, retouching in Photoshop, throwing them against the wall and crying, but you do them all with a few concise brush strokes, all apparently from your head. Not that I'm jealous at all (yeah, right! :-) Reminds me of Sargent's strokes. You must have color science down cold. Marvelous!

  2. Hey Les
    Thank you, it is all gut-feeling. I wish I had some teory to back it up. It would help me to know where I am going. I bought the Gurney book Light and Color and when I read all the color teories I was all: "What the f...? why didn´t anybody tell me?"
    All I am saying is: there is a hard way called trial by error and all it takes is paper and persistence. try different themes and if they feel wrong, they propperly are. then you try again.

  3. Those sketches are delicious!

  4. I second Tristan, I really enjoy zooming in on your sketches! The fourth sketch is my favorite, I love the zig-zag shape that interplays between the demons wing and the edge of the cliff face, it has a nice repetition of shapes to it.

  5. Juicy, man. You have such a great knack for just the right amount of whimsical detail like that smattering of bones under the lip of the rock.

  6. thank you for this amazing post and sharing your beautiful artwork!

  7. Love this illustration sir!
    But the drawings in the middle of the post were what really caught my eye... How long did these take you to finish, and did you use any reference for the dragon, or did it come totally out of your head?
    Thanks for the cool post!