Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Note on What´s Important

By Jesper Ejsing

I was drunk yesterday. Here in Denmark we have a tradition that goes like this: when Christmas time is around the corner, we get all together for Christmas lunches (meaning lots of old-fashioned greasy, meaty dishes and lots of alcohol) Well; this particular lunch happened to be with the guys at the studio, present and old members. Soon I got into a discussion about what is important in doing art as a pro. You know: one of those drunken discussions ending with 2 guys leaning into each-other drooling: “ I love you man”.
But before we got to that part, we talked about our attitude towards the process of creating images. And it got me thinking of what I think is important when I do my thing...
I have one rule. If I do not like a drawing, why would anybody else?
Above anything I try to satisfy myself first... yeah yeah, artistically, I mean.
I am not in this to make money or to just get the work approved. I always want to create the best painting of my life every time I start thumb sketching a new piece.
Needless to say, this raises the bar a bit, and, needless to say, it seldom happens.
But my point is, I try to make it happen. My wife hates when I say it. Usually this scene plays out when I come home from a day of sketching, the painting still in its infancy and the thumb so unclear that it could be anything, but none the less I have a great feeling about it and blurt out: “I think this will be my best painting ever”. That is when my wife sighs, knowing full well that I will be back the next day, moody as hell, tormented with insecurity and self loathing, like a helpless child, at how unable I am to reach that formidable picture I had in my head from the thumb the day before.
It is a bumpy road.
It is rollercoaster of ups and mostly downs, but in the end it is worth the struggle.
When a painting does succeed and when it is better than anything I have ever done before, it is worth every drop of salty tears and thrashed sketches. The feeling you get from taking a step up the ladder of skill or achievement is the best.
But it only happens approximately 3 times a year. Mostly the result is just decent.
Just decent doesn´t teach you anything. It is not worse or better than the last piece. Just decent is OK. But having set out to do The Best Ever, the just decent is a major disappointment.
Still, disappointments make me want to try even harder next time. “
THIS will be the best ever...”
and there we go again.
Here are a couple of paintings that I remember to have given me the feeling of success and grandeur. Some of them might seem like the rest of the fantasy stuff I constantly blotch out like a slow color printer from the 80s´, but to me these are examples of pieces where I dared something new and difficult and got it right, where the process taught me a lot and helped define where I wanted to go as an artist.


  1. Lots of alcohol and awesome art! Great mix! Thanks for the post! I enjoyed it :)

  2. yeah, that feeling's better than anything. the griffin's just spectacular btw.

  3. Hell yea. On all of it. The art especially. Wow. Amen Harry, that griffen is wicked.

    The griffin has been cheap changed by the dragon in fantasy art i think. I Love a good griffin. Keep it up.

  4. great post! gave me a good laugh, relating the the drooling after drinking.
    the work looks amazing! i definitely agree with pleasing yourself first motto; if i don't like it, it doesn't ever really matter to me if someone else does because i didn't please myself first.

    i love the detail in all the pieces! great work!

  5. Thanks for sharing Jesper!

    I wish you could open all the paintings in full res, I'd love to see them all in detail!!

  6. Hello Jesper!
    I'm a fan of you (both as an artist and blog writer). I read other posts of yours and I think you explain the "right artist mood" very clearly.
    It's true that we artists struggle all the time to achieve a brief satisfaction. As you point out, determination is a basic but underestimated key skill for any artist.

  7. Yeah. That's a perfect description of an artists mind.

  8. You fully nailed it! Fantastic post! I love reading your posts they are so entertaining and insightful, thanks for sharing!

    Amazing work, very inspiring.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thanks for sharing your passion.. very inspirational! :) All the best!

  11. Such an awesome selection of work for this post, very inspirational indeed, sir Jesper.

  12. I don't have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with other people who practice the craft, or even arts in general for that matter so it's good to hear that there artists of your professional magnitude out there that are just as moody as me when trying to make something especially better than last time. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    When I drink I feel distant and melancholy. I don't feel necessarily despondent but rather apart from myself in a way that is sometimes enlightening... as if there is some kind of version of me stuck up in the universe looking down and saying to the world,
    "What the hell is this about anyways?"

    The next beer is on me.

  13. Hey Jesper, feels great to read that someone else has pretty much the same thoughts that I do! Except that I'm always very skeptical even on the thumbnail stage.. I think it has to do with, I like the thumbnail and I see the potential, but I won't know if I'll manage to bring out the best of it until I'm almost done. I also recognize beating oneself up even though other people like what you produce. Anyhow, thanks for the insight, and I love those paintings too (of course!).

  14. The piece with the dragon and the wizard is amazing... That's an extremely dynamic and action-packed composition without being the least cliché.

  15. These are so gorgeous.! In the painting of the two goblins in the tree, is the head the same as the head on the harp in this painting by Todd Lockwood? I don't play Magic, but it seems like the two cards are related. :)

  16. yep; it is the harp head. The card destroys and artifact: the harp, in this case.

  17. Basically agree. This office is like climbing a mountain hard. One day you discover you can do almost exactly what I think. Think that's all. But no. Another second mountain. Emotion. Reaches the correct paint little emotion. This explains why artists are exciting but terrible drawers and painters.

  18. Jesper, a few things I'd like to say. First of all, you're quickly becoming one of my very favorite fantasy illustrators. You have a fantastic sense of design and color and all that, but even more then that there's a real sense of...*honesty* to your work. You don't try to hide that these are images made of pencil and paint, with visible sketch lines and characterful brush strokes, unhidden behind overly rendered blended surfaces and effects. I love it.

    More specifically related to what you said in this post, I absolutely love and totally agree with your philosophy of pleasing yourself first with your drawings. And your words about pushing yourself to make your best painting ever, and the fantastic feeling that comes when you actually succeed, are totally true.

    So, not much more to say. Just keep on working and posting, my good man. You have a fan here.

  19. Moai@
    Hey I do try to cove rup sketch lines! But you are right an dI am glad you notice it. I am not going for a slick over rendered look. I want it to be, at least looking like, it was done spontainiously.
    I consentrate on the drawing, clearly my weakest point. I think it is extrely diffucult and the multitude of ways you could go when sketching are often mor ea burden than a freedom. As soon as I get to the painting proces I tend to relax. The choices are really narrowed down by then.


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