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"




Labels: ,