«I've never been after the credentials. I draw and paint. I have no relation to the concept of being an artist. In that sense, I'm closer to a craftsman than an artist."
Jens Flesjå shows us around a well-refurbished barn, now functioning as both a studio, a party venue and a storage room for lawnmowers, old doors, a sled (!). Just like a big cabinet of curiosities. One flight up the staircase, along the walls of the studio, rest big and small canvasses; naturalistic depictions of reindeer and bears, dark landscape paintings of plains, marshes, and forests, and charcoal drawings of birds, the species of which I do not have the ornithological expertise to identify. Perhaps the Naumann's thrush?
The fascination for nature and wildlife started early. Jens was raised on a small farm on the Finnøy island in Ryfylke. One of this childhood memories is following cows to the fields.
His peers were interested in football and music, as teens often are, but this never seemed appealing to him. Instead, Jens, 12-13 years of age, took a boat to the islands in Ryfylke looking for different bird species and collecting eggs.
There was one other thing that fascinated him as much as flora and fauna: drawing. Theoretical books were used for sketches, and when the books got crammed with drawings, the school desk became fair game. Eventually, Jens had to have his private drawing class, for the sake of peace.
"The first class on Friday, that's when you're allowed to draw ..." he recalls his teacher saying.
Jens developed his interest and became an advertising illustrator. He jumped into Stavanger's advertising industry straight after his graduation. For over a decade, he worked for several agencies in the city.
However, the economic and professional optimism of the advertising industry was about to take a turn. When nearly half of the city agencies went bankrupt, Jens also lost his job. He had to find something else to do. After a brief (but disappointingly undramatic) soul-search, it was a pure coincidence that led him in the new direction. A diametrically different direction. He broke his piggy bank, bought a truck and started his own transportation company that he ran for five years. But he didn't give up on his passion. Not completely.
Five years is a long time when all you want to do is draw. Long enough for Jens to acknowledge that drawing and painting was what he wanted to do. This was when a former colleague contacted him.
"He was wondering if I could help him with some sketches. Suddenly, I was back at the drawing table. I drove the truck during the day, drew in the evening, and delivered the sketches on my morning rounds».
His schedule would probably have given the majority of the local health-and-safety managers a heart attack. The combination of driving and drawing, a day job and long night drawing sessions lasted for a while. However, this rhythm gradually became exhausting. Once again Jens chose to go back to the Creative. The Artistic. Or "The Craft," as he calls it. Today he and several other creative entities are located at Støperiet in east-side Stavanger, with many different customers, and a wide variety of assignments in his schedule. Everything from technical and architecture-like sketches for presentations, to illustrations for children's books.
Jens first got in touch with Zoaring through an acquaintance. But it was a pure coincidence that he started working with the scribe-format. His first job was a film for Stavanger Aftenblad, which he remembers well.
"The one for Aftenbladet was quite special. I was fascinated by the final product. It went from the storyboard and my lines, my process, and became a completely new thing. This amazing product. Simply put — it was pretty cool. "
Customers often choose Jens because of his precise lines. The delicate balance between the real and the imaginative. This attention to details is what's typical for both the paintings and his illustrations. He likes to draw and paint for hours. And precisely for this reason, he does not enjoy painting anything abstract. He is looking for substantivity. Texture. Something that brings us back to the prologue.
"Many people talk about being creative, about having a creative profession. But you can be creative as a carpenter, boat builder, yes, craftsman, in the same way as someone who draws or paints. It's about mastering what you do. First, you have to learn the craft, and when you have, you add something of your own. You bring something new to the work. Maybe that's creativity? "
Jens started working at Zoaring as a freelance illustrator in spring 2014. And we look forward to many more years with Flesjå at our drawing rig.