Getting brave and daring

By Jesper Ejsing

This here is a cover I did for Fantasy Flight Games. It is a round image fitting inside a circular frame. That explain the unfinished brushstrokes in the corners.

I remember this piece was a breaking point for me in the way it was executed. Ordinarily I transfer a very loose sketch directly on the board I am going to paint on, and then I tighten everything up to the point of stupidity. What was different this time was, that somehow along the way of doing an enormous load of acrylic paintings over many many years, it finally dawned on me that I could change stuff I didn´t like or that didn´t work by just painting over them. I could actually fix it right away with the brush instead of having to sketch it in with a pencil or a crayon. This was a tremendous leap of faith to me ( I realize while writing this how childish it must sound to those of you who paint digitally and who do this all the time ). I ended up changing the fighter's hand and weapon right on the board and I was filled with ecstasy over having discovered that I could do this. Right away I went and lowered the foot of the fighter in the front.

These things are so very personal that no one would be able to tell the difference. But to me, it was the beginning of a looser way of painting. When I started painting I remember looking enviously at other painters that were able to do careless and seemingly effortless brushwork. It almost looked like controlled sloppiness ( that is what I aim for now ). What I think finally succeeded was the loosening up and having faith in my self, telling me that I would be able to fix and tighten up stuff that my hand and brush did without much conscience thinking.

10 years ago I asked Paul Bonner how he did those wonderful textures that seemed to be a muddy mix of many colours and dotted brushstrokes. I asked him, stupidly, for a system, and the answer was, at that time, totally nonsense to me. He said: “ I try not to think too much about what I am doing. I let my eye focus wander and think about soccer, letting the brush do the work by itself”.
In my head I was dumbstruck. “ You squint and do not concentrate?” , I was thinking, while nodding my head knowingly. But years later when I finally loosened up and just started dotting colours away trying to capture some random texture those words finally made sense to me.

These days some one third of my painting, all the laying down colours and basic layers are done this way half squinting thinking of my roleplaying campaign or a cunning way of getting one of my studio mates to go down to the street to pick up some cake.

The point is: I am not sure I could have rushed forward faster than I did. Even with Paul telling me the truth I needed to experience it myself and get there at my own tempo. But you CAN force yourself to try.

I have also attached a newer painting with a detail that I really like, and that I feel sums up all the fumbling words above. The light on the snow and the cliffs were done with a very big brush, dancing away on its own with me at the end of it.