Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ice Golem vs Barbarian

-By Jesper Ejsing

Pathfinder Barbarian figthing a Warlock and his pet Golem. (60x45 cm acrylic on paper)

This is a cover for a Paizo Books. I was asked to do a nordic ice-themed Warlock controlling an Ice Golem. They are fighting Amiri The barbarian, an Iconic figure from the Pathfinder universe. I made a lot of different thumbs and submitted 5 that I liked. As always when having multiple figures fighting on the same image, it is really hard to have everyone facing the camera. Sarah Robinson liked all of them but chose the one with Amiri, the female hero, having her face visible.

So I started sketching each figure on a different paper. I might have told you why, before, but it bears repetition: By sketching on separate papers, killing your darlings is not that hard. Just take another paper, nothing lost. If I had sketched it all on one I would be tempted to keep a less good figure if the 2 others had turned out great: By separating them I max out my effort on each figure, keeping the pose within the silhouette of the thumb, but going for the best expression I can. The image is divided up into smaller, easier to digest, bites - tasks better overcome by my feeble brain.

When they are all done, I copy paste the 3 sketches on to my thumb using photoshop. The sketch of the barbarian girl really turned out great. She was sketches in 30 cm wide even if she is no bigger than a little finger on the original. I had trouble how the shoulders would turn and how the hand would bent in a striking position, so I had Bodil from my studio, pose with a sword.

Final sketched figures pasted in from scans

When the sketch is done I transfer it to paper via a lightbox. When sketching I tried to take the idea a bit further. The thumb had the golem almost running into a sword thrust, the wizard less engaged to the side. The motion of the Golem looked too static and he come of as standing more than movin. Also I really wanted to be sure that you wouldn't read it so that it looked like the barbarian and the warlock are friends fighting an Ice Monster together. So I changed the thrust to a sweep, having the sword tip taking of the tip of his beard and cleaving the staff while continuing into the belly of the Golem. The golem got a more back turned pose reading a strike that would have crushed her, had she not struck first. Also I moved the Warlock up to the side of the golem and changed his pose so that it mimics the golem. that way, I hope, you read it as if he is controlling the Monster. It is the same reason I did not give the golem eyes. He do not need them since the warlock is seeing for him.

I know that all of these ideas might not be clear at all and perhaps you do not see it the same way, but I had all these thoughts in trying to tell a little story within the battle. A thought that is important if you want to make pictures that goes beyond posing figures acting cool.


  1. Nice! It reads perfectly. The path of the sword is excellent ... nice motion. A bit sad to see the ledge behind her being replaced with a slope. The ledge looked like it gave her extra initiative to fight this fight. The no eyes aspect to the Golem make up for it all, giving him that soulless & mindless ferocity. Powerful!

  2. Man, I don't know how you come up with the costumes you do but they are AWESOME! Very believable and very translatable into real life, although I'm not sure how many ice-dwellers would wander around for very long in a bikini, especially in a battle. (Hey, if Conan can do it... ;-) Maybe she was changing clothes when they attacked.

    I love your including the background processes that lead to your very consistently making great images, "pictures that go beyond posing figures acting cool". Thank you.

  3. Love how dynamic the composition is while the weight of the Golem is holding everything in place. Really great piece!

  4. Everytime I see a Jesper post I have to shout f*** to calm myself down before I can bring myself to read it. Your awesome Jesper! Your work always gives me the kick in the butt i badly need to just finish a painting.

    Thanks for spending your time updating this blog (as well as the other Muddy Color contributors) as a source of daily inspiration. I know from Dan's recent interview that its definitely not easy to take time away and do a post.

  5. Being in the fantasy area for some time now, I really wonder if you can actually make a living out of it. Except for some really rare jobs for the bigger companys, the others all pay as good as nothing.

    This piece turned out great. Thanks for the wip.

    1. Markus
      I never cared about money. My only care was way back when I was starting out. My goal was only to be able to live from drawing. I set my expenses extremely low and as soon as I could support myself I was content. It is some artist bull-shit to say, I know. Since then I have acquired a wife, some kids, a house and a car. But I still try to make it so that money is never the reason I take on a certain job. Some of the jobs I have bee most happy doing are the ones that payed the least.
      But you are right; the fees are not high compared to illustration in advertising or computer games. But it is still not a choice for em. I am a fantasy artist - I cannot do anything else.

  6. I am glad you went with this pose. The other four are just too much male gaze poses/positions.

    With regard to the earlier mention of bikini armour, I can understand the look in this case as Amiri is a barbarian. Would be different if she was a paladin or some other class that would normally wear full plate.

  7. This is SO cool! I have always loved your art, as early as Tegnbordet when I stumbled upon your gallery. It's always so well done and very dynamic and interesting to look at. You're always telling a story.
    I am currently finishing up a cosplay of Amiri and it has really made me appreciate her design. (also the sword is freakishly heavy!)
    if it has any interest at all to see the character come to life as a cosplay, this is my page :)


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