Glade Watcher

-By Jesper Ejsing

Glade Watcher, Magic the Gathering, Dragons of Tarkir. 

When I got this magic assignment I was thinking:"Yeah, Treefolk and forest background,; right up my alley". Turned out my alley was closed for reconstruction or something. Often I seem to complicate the most simple assignments by over thinking it or by pure bad luck or destiny. ( I do not believe in either of the 2 last ones, but they seem to believe in me ).

The trouble began after the first sketches. I had a very particular, but also quite fuzzy, painting in my head. Sorry, I am jumping a head of myself here. The assignment was to do an ancient treefolk herder or protector of the forest. The detail that caused me the most issues was that he should be both rooted and also raising one leg to uproot himself. I always try to keep the figure dynamic or in mid motion if possible. I think it creates a believability to the figure that it is in motion. But with this image he should not really be moving ( except the leg ) and he should look regal and old, AND I wanted it to look exciting and organic and moving. As you can see from the sketches I either did a very moving character that did almost forget about the root part or a still figure looking like a rack and the root part barely visible. The 3 to the right was simply too creepy and undead looking, the top left was too bestial, and the uproot part looked like he tripped over a rock. The middle left was the one I thought was closest. I was working at Wotc, as an inhouse artist, at the time the sketches was due for approval. Dawn, the art director, came in and looked at my sketches and liked the middle left also. For some reason I decided that she did not like it that much, so I submitted another sketch the same day, the one on the bottom left.

What I liked about it was that it had an upturned face looking up toward the light ( or God, if you believe in that ) looking for hope. It had a regal poised pose and it had the form of  grace and beauty that I had in my minds eye from the beginning. I was super happy that Dawn decided to go with this sketch.

When I had to do the real sketch on the paper I was going to paint on, I added some horns to his head and a couple of Faeries, one almost landing in his palm. I chose that to show how much in tune he was with nature. Like Snow White and the forest animals joining her in the clearing. But later I changed the faeries to butterflies. The world, this tree folk was protecting, had no faeries it seemed. I also ended up adding a lot more foliage to the forest.

I still have no solid answer to why this, seemingly easy illustration took so much more effort and though torment than I had anticipated. I can blame it on bad mood swing or the fact that I was travelling back and forth over the Atlantic at that period, or that it was to specific an assignment or too loose, I could keep going. One thing that bothers me was that I think I too early zoomed in on one idea and one mood. it made it harder for me to solve problems, like the root part, or to go with different ideas as they pop up.