Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monster Slayers

Hey everybody

I really loved Jon Fosters article the other day about thumbs. The whole composition element is something that I take more serious than any other thing in a painting. If my thumb works, I KNOW I can make the painting and the final work. If the basic compositional elements are unclear to me, every step from then on is uphill and the end result is so and so.

Seeing all Jons thumbs has made me muster courage to share my thumbs. I need courage, because I feel my thumbs are most sketchy and sometimes unreadable even too me. Well, it is because even thumbs gets abandoned halfway if they feel wrong.

I have collected all the thumbs I could find for a specific cover painting I did for Mirrorstone.

The art assignment was pretty simple: The antagonist, perhaps with friends, facing a Chimera in a cave.

So my sketching concentrated on 2 kind of images: One where the monster was attacking in an aggressive way and one where the monster was threatening the boy in…well, a threatening way.

In the end I fell in love with 2 thumbs: One where the Chimera is diving and about to land in front of the boy, one leg already at the ground. The other where the whole body of the monster was almost framing him, crouching onto him. I was most confident that I could make the framing thumb work the best. So that one I mailed to the art director Kate Irwin.

I marked the ones that I like and those could all have been nice paintings. It is difficult to say why none of the others were picked. All I can say is that to me it is a matter of feeling if I can see the finished painting when I look at the thumb.

On the other hand. If I am in a bad mood that day almost none of the thumbs I do appeal to me and I sketch and sketch without ever being able to hit something worth proceeding on. When I come back the next day, all happy from espresso, and look at the mess I did yesterday, I can see a whole bunch of them that would have been good. I might even go back to the first one. It is really sometimes a matter of a physiological glass half full or half empty.

I define the thumb a bit more before sending it on to Kate. I add grey-tones digitally to show light and values a bit better.

I sketched the boy on a separate piece of paper then stitched it together in Photoshop, move stuff around to avoid tangents and print it out. Then I transfer the sketch to board and ink it. After the inking I scan it again and print out a value version I use for a color rough.

I remember that after I did the background loosely and rough I got exited and wanted to do the figures, I felt bad about pulling the masking film off and starting on the figures before being completely satisfied with the background but thought “What the hell. I will just go back and refine cliffs afterwards”. But when I pulled it off, the rock shapes looked great and in the end I never touched them again.

The whole painting process was only three days, but the sketching and the transferring and all up until I dipped the first brush into color was about 6 days or so.

I used reference for the goat face and the lion.

This picture is going into spectrum 17.


  1. I like the way you solved the value and colour composition completely in that colour sketch.

  2. Fantastic article. You really show that you can't just poop out something this awesome with out the sweat and dues paid in planning. Thank you.

  3. Nice! really enjoyed reading/seeing your process. I really like doing thumbs and attacking a problem from different angles. I often surprise myself of my stream of thought when trying to convey the message through an illustration.

    More often than not though i get too involved in the pre-painting process and never follow through with the actual painting. I plan everything down to the T and get satisfied with what i have thus far and then a new idea pops in my head and I start/have to plan that one. And the cycle repeats. But I'm getting better and it's really nice to hear/see a painting from start to finish.

    Keep up the good work mate!

  4. "When I come back the next day, all happy from espresso, and look at the mess I did yesterday, I can see a whole bunch of them that would have been good."

    Sometimes I think caffeine is my only savior. As you say, believing in a the success of a piece seems to rely almost entirely on good moods.

  5. Perfect, and your thumbnails are more readable than my mine! Love what you said about coming back the next day perhaps with some caffeine to help see that the glass might have been half full after all.



  6. Great post! I'm curious to know how many other assignments you were working on during this one? When people say that something took a few days to do it's hard to gauge whether all those days were spent solely on one image or multiple images.



  7. Great article! I posted a link to this from my fan page. I really like how your thumbnail sketches are extremely loose and fluid. Most of the times that you see people posting thumbnails, they are almost like finished drawings/paintings.


  8. Thanks for sharing your process! I love reading this kind of blog post.


  9. Mike@

    I only work on one assignment at a time. My mind doesn´t work the way that allows me to jumb from one to another. Also I use acrylics so I do not have to wait for anthing to dry. It is just: "Stay the at the desk and paint".

  10. Jesper,

    You have a way of manipulating acrylics that a lot of artists struggle with, including myself. I'd be thrilled to see what your palette mixing methods look like. What's your opinion of watercolor and gouache?


    P.S. You are awesome.

  11. Joey@
    I do not really have a system. I tend to put black in the top left corner and the rest pooled togther: Blue and green together and th ewarmer ones togther so that when I smear it all around eventually it will stay clean for the longest time. I never went to art school or learned any system. I learned acrylics from a friend who went to Joe Kubert School. He showed me the ropes for one afternoon and that was it. It is 12 years ago so I guess the rest is learning by error.
    I do have onemean slick trick that I will reveal later when writing on technics. Stay tuned.
    Water color and Gouache? Paul Bonner makes it work. It is just not for me.

  12. Jesper,

    Everyone here agrees you are super talented and would never need all that formal training. I'm looking forward to your next post.

    Paul Bonner needs to be careful because there are plenty of artists out there who'd love to highlander him for all his talent. Has anyone talked about getting him on as contributor to this blog?

  13. Joey@
    Found an old clip on youtube where I talk about my palette. It was for a media school student and it is only in danish. But you can see my studio and see the randomness of my colors.

  14. Jesper, I don't speak Danish but its good to see your work space and your palette. Thanks for the link.