Salt and Pepper

-Jesper Ejsing

In my studio, I am known for having the terrible tendency to abandon perfectly good drawings and start all over on an image that has nothing wrong with it. If it sounds stupid; well, it is. And it also results in frustration and late deadlines and all kinds of trouble…but artistically it has made me better.

I often sketch very, very loosely in the thumb stage. I look for shapes and rhythm and simplicity. When the pose of a figure an all that is settled I start actually drawing the details and the design of the figures and this is the point where I usually go astray.

First version. 
I actually fully painted this version before starting allover. This is a really good example of an illustration being the first idea drawn out with no analysing or reevaluation what could be better or clearer. Just the first angle and line that comes to mind.

Second version with the sketch pushed with better angles and foreshortening.

Final version

Here is what I look for: I want a figure first of all to be believable. That means the pose has got to be natural and the gesture true to the mood. I think gesture and facial expressions are the key to a good character pose.  If the pose, gesture and expression look right, it sells the believability of a vampire demon wizard with a troglodyte familiar better. If you know what I mean. The design comes later, fitting the dude or dudess with equipment and so on…

After all is sketched I go through the tedious process of transferring it to a board or paper where I draw in the background from my thumb sketch. This is usually the first time I see the full image as it look before I will have to wip out the paint and start adding brushstrokes, so this is also the first time where I actally start thinking about the final painting and how it will look. Up until now I have deliberately tried to trick my brain by deviding the task up into small easy digestable bites. Having all of the elemnts of theprocess in the head at the same time makes it very confussing. But the down site is that I do not get to evaluate the full image rightly until now. And this is always this stage where I abandon my image and start all over.

First thumbnail

This is also the point where I have had the image approved by an artdirector, so having to redo everything is not as easy as pie. I have to stay very close to the approved sketch or make life difficult for everyone ( I prefer to make life difficult to only me and my closest friends and family. Everyone in my nearest presence is affected since my mood is heavily influenced by the abyss of utter failure where I now try to hold the balance and walk the edge )

Second version

I transferred it to the board and when i was about to ink it i noticed that she was not seen from the same angle as the elephant. I redrew the figure directly on the board from a new thumb pose sketch. It turned out to be one of my best magic illustrations.

Final drawing on board
Most of the times the thing that went wrong was me starting to design to early on a figure where the gesture or pose or expression was not dead right. I go on to polish a turd rather than looking and evaluating the sketch. If I haved moved forward to fast and missed the cut feeling check to the foundation of the figure and told myself: “this is good enough, Jesper. Do that crazy armor you had in mind now. The face will fall into place later”, it never does.

IF I go to this stage with a wrong drawing I get that hard voice in my head that says “ you can do better than this. You should have done better than this. This is mediocre…but if that’s okay with you?”

Now here comes the worst part: I do an average of 60 illustrations a year if I also take vacations.  The average living span of a man in my region of the world is 78 and a half year. Lets say my last 6 months is kind of slow, and lets for good measure say I do the full menu. I am 43 now. It leaves me with 35 yeas of painting dragons. It totals at 2100 paintings to go, before I go. So when my mind asks me is mediocre okay with you? I answer, “No the number 2099 is gonna be the best I can be, I only have 2098 left…you see where this self torture is going? None of these are happy thoughts. They give me an unnessesary pressur einmy everyday life. But the times where I have let a mediocre painting go trhoug and I sit there looking at the final thinking I should have pulled myself together and repainted it when I had the thought, I feel ashamed and not proud of that drawing and worst of all not proud of the whole process. I have reached the conclusion I would rather start all over and do something that makes me happy rather than sitting back with the feeling of having wasted mine and the clienst time.

Lets go to the positive part of this. Nuff said about dying now.

What I have learned or gain from this immense self criticism is always to push my drawings for more. I will do anything I can to make sure that I have tried everything possible to make it feel right, and if it doesn’t, I take a new piece of paper and do another one, and another one and so on, until my cut feeling say “hell yeah”. I look for twist and angles in every hand gesture, I try to exsaturade a pose beyond the first idea and even if it looks good, I test if it could look different if I bend it or turn it or mirrior it and so on. I push it, and push it and then I push it just for the sake of pushing it. I have a mirror in front of my desk where I hold up my pencils to see them in reverse to spot if something is amiss.

This thumb was approved but when I was about to sketch it up on board I went back to the sketching stage and pushed the pose some more. 

This is pretty accurately describing my drawing and sketching process. I wish I was better at drawing, I think it would help me through many problems, but I am as good as I am. I wish I was one of those artists that thinks of the image a lot before they draw and then like a kind of printer draws out what they had in mind; well I am not. I wish a lot of things, but bottom line is I am a “Pusher-Man”, I make up for my lack of talent by pushing what I have to the brink. I think it has taught me a lot to do this. It has made me more critical about my own stuff and has helped me to evolve in each and every painting. I know it has kept me from stalling out art-wize and it has helped me to be proud of what I do…I will trade that for almost every struggle on the road .

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