Monday, May 22, 2017

Pretty Pictures Failing

-By Jesper Ejsing

These days I am hired frequently as a concept artist. I am not a concept artist, but see myself as an illustrator, but I have always been very fascinated by concept art and the mere fact that I could do illustrations without having to fine render it all to perfection made me jump into this business happily and without hesitation.

I have been thinking lately about my concept art - "Don´t do that, Jesper. Don´t think, just draw". The voice in my head starts arguing again. But this time he is wrong. I have been thinking lately about what I am doing wrong and I thing it is NOT thinking enough!

When I am asked to do a concept art push for a new world being it a game or a new setting for Magic teh Gathering or something similar, it is my job to come up with a visual homogeneous vision of a race or a tribe or a landscape and so on. At first "Yeah! I can do whatever I want. But the more I draw the more I feel like it is all just a mess of elements I have stolen from real life references or historical costumes. It lacks the visual shape language that makes it unique. As an example think of Tim Burtons universes. They all have his tell tale spiral. Or Moebius Starwatcher series. As soon as you see the tall hats and the bright pastel colors, you recognize it right away. They all have a unique form and shape that is incorporated in the whole world they create.

Searching for that visual cue, is the most important thing in concept art. I see that now. I did not before. What I did was trying to make pretty pictures. Like I do when I am asked to paint illustrations.

In these examples from 3 years ago I was doing a small selection of Gypsy Characters for Dungeons and Dragons. The assignment was really simple. Draw a bunch of different professions of gypsies.

Looking back I wish I had focused more on the visual cue that would tie them together. Instead I concentrated on portraying characters - like I was going to play these guys as a role playing character. That is also fine. I know, But from a concept art point of view they are just pretty pictures and not adding to a homogeneous world. They are separate figure drawings. Nothing ties them together. Do not get me wrong. I like the illustrations. I just wanna be more Moebius and less "Men at Arms"


  1. Man, it must be tough being Jesper Ejsing! ;-)

    You obviously had higher expectations, but in all honesty ... to me these people look like citizens of one single city or town. A town not quite in a desert setting, but arid, with a vibrant economy of trade. It is their individualism that ties them strongly to the gypsy theme. Personally think you did a great job!

  2. Lacking a theme? They all seem to have a pet, lots of loose and draped clothing, quite a few tassles, and the footloose attitude one would expect of a gypsy. The common visual motif doesn't necessarily have to be something so obvious as a shared symbol, so I'd say you've actually accomplished that visual cue to a good degree even if you weren't consciously searching for that at the time.

  3. i think you nailed this Jesper, maybe you felt like you didnt define the motif to tie them all in early on, but looking at the body of work its obvious your mind and hand was designing characters to be in the same culture and environment, it seems like what your saying is you wasnt conscious of the decision, which i can understand but it still turned out to specification and you know now what to do next time too

  4. I can see your predicament. Gypsies are an ethnic group. Most of your characters are white and their attire does not seem to stem or be built upon actual gypsie culture. Not enough to be instantly recognizable, at least. I would say that for the Most part phisically, and materially these characters inhabit some mid 16th century italian city and are of european descent. Save for the women, the rest do not por portray work that would indicate any gypsie trade, díd gypsies Hunt? Would they become rangers? Or wizards? What pets would they own? Wolves? They live on the fringe and use their cunning..

  5. Want to think like a concept artist? Watch the sh#t out All Feng Zhus vids on YouTube, or spent your savings and take one year at his school :)

  6. Who doesn't want to be Moebius, eh? It's refreshing to see the struggle is real with pros like you all as well. It's like it makes you all more human. Thanks for sharing.

  7. The character playing the lute bears SUCH a resemblance to my husband that it's uncanny. The only difference is, my mister 'plays' a wooden shovel as a ploughboy at the So-Cal Ren Faire. (See:

    Is there some way I can get a copy or a print of that image? It's magnificent. Or maybe even discuss a version with a shovel rather than a lute? :D Let's chat!



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