By Jesper Ejsing
This is one of those dream jobs that once in a while drops down your hat. By a series of coincidental events, I found out that the guys who have one of the biggest companies in the world that produce protective sleeves for magic cards, happens to be the same guys I played roleplaying games with in my home town when I was young. I approached them and said that it was downright stupid that I hadn't made a single dragon illustration for them ever, and they could only agree. At the same time I was starting to do some collaborations with the ever so wonderful artist Even Mehl Amundsen, and him and I was looking for some projects where we could test our work process together and find out a way we could work together. He lived in LA at that time, and I was still in Copenhagen but over dropbox we could share files and work at the same time.
I suggested the company with the sleeves, Arcane Tinmen, that they should let me and Even design some dragons for the display boxes, and all of a sudden we were fully deployed into recreating a whole lot of dragons. I gotta tell you. Having almost free hands to do lots o dragon illustration is really really a fun day at work .
So; we did 3 thumbs each and had the guys choose. The first one we did was one of mine, the screaming roaring dragon face bottom middle. But they also choose one of Evens, so none of us had hard feelings.
I added some colors roughly and didn't like it. The red was too classic, so I chanced it to purple/yellow, then passed the file over to Even. Since he worked from LA it was a matter of him painting on it while I slept and visa versa. When I got up the next morning he had fixed all my errors and added tons of details I would never have thought of. We talked over skype about what we should do.
When I looked at the anatomy I thought this is not right," said Even. "Nothing works like this, these horns are all wrong and the way the form and bent and comes out of the face is not possible...but it looks so damn cool". So what he did, was look at what I had thrown together and found a way that it could work without breaking the silhouette or dynamics of the original sketch. The file went back and forth a couple of times. It was always fun to get it back and while you were rendering details here and there you noticed cool details and strokes that you did not remember doing or cleaning up areas that the other had left unsolved. In the end I learned a lot from Even about working more efficient and simple on this picture and also to appreciate the groundwork of drawing it right from the beginning (Not my favorite thing. I usually stab and scratch at a drawing until I have a suggestion of something and then starts painting. Evens more controlled way, takes a lot of the frustration out of painting. I can really learn something from that ).
I would recommend any artist to start or try a collaboration. It is something you can learn so much from, since it is happening all in one picture. It is not you trying to copy someone else's work it is your painting being worked on. Seeing the choices directly on the image by another artist is a super way to learn.
We have made about 10 dragon pieces this way so far, that I will be happy to share further down the road.