Today I want to tell you about a cover that went a little out of the ordinary way for me. I was assigned to do the cover for Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual # 3. The Art Director asked me for 2 sketches. The figure on the cover was going to be a Drow Spider Queen God, and as she could be seen in 2 different forms, they wanted me to do a sketch of both forms before deciding. The forms were either in Drow-form or half spider-form.
I submitted two sketches, number 1 and 2. I was sure they would choose number 2, the Drow-form and was already in the middle of starting it, when I got an email asking not for number 1, not number 2, but a mix between them… Okay, I tried to combine the two and sent them number 3. It was kind of approved if I could open up her arm. Her pose looked too closed off, and I totally agree.
Here comes the part of this job that was kind of nice. I, for one, will not complain. When I asked one of my regular models to pose for this Drow queen she said that she couldn’t. But to compensate she hooked me up with a friend of hers, a Playboy model from Slovenia; Barbara Zatler. She thought the whole thing sounded funny and agreed to pose for me. We shot a bunch of photos with her trying to look mean and imposing, not a very easy thing to do for someone who is used to looking pretty and sexy. I used the photos and created the black and white version you see in number 4. From that stage I did a colour rough (number 5) in green/bluish tones to capture and underground mood. I then proceeded to the final. (number 6)
Well here comes the part I was not prepared for: The art director didn´t like it. Well she liked it but thought the whole image blended too much into the background. In order to fix it I tried adding more saturation to the cloth and I lightened the background. I tried a bunch of stuff, and nothing really worked.
So I submitted a whole different colour rough (number 7). It hit the spot, but for me to try and tweak it digitally was hell. I am not an expert on Photoshop. In the end I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I made a rash decision… I placed the original on my table, grabbed a large brush and dipped the sucker in shocking pink! Before I would think against it I slobbered down a wash of the pink paint all over the picture. “Ha ha…nothing to it. What the hell are you making such a big fuss about, cry-baby?”, might all you digital painters out there say. But I tell you; to take a completely finished acrylic painting that you just spent 14 days on and then cover the whole thing in paint is a heartbreaking action.
So what I had to do was repaint all the image again with washes and then refine the highlights. If you compare the two, number 6 and 8, you will see that only the top of the painting is the same. I stopped my pink brush from going up there. Since it was going to be bluish anyway.
I never had to change so much of a painting before, but I am glad I took the leap and did it the old way. I like pink. I like purple.
I guess what I am trying to say is, I learned a great deal going the hard way. I know now that it can be done and from that day on I was not as nervous when painting. I have in the back of my mind a voice saying “You can change it, it is not permanent, go ahead! You can always cover it up…you did it once.”
Jesper Ejsing was born in Denmark in1973. He first discovered fantasy through the works of Tolkien and got introduced to D&D on Christmas Day, 1986. Skipping through the pages of the rulebooks, he set a goal for the rest of his life: He would become a fantasy artist. He would make a living illustrating things that live only in imagination... one way or the other.
He studied Danish literature and Art History before quitting University for a freelance artist life. The early years as a fulltime illustrator meant drawing anything for money. Soon he weeded out the assignments that weren't historical, and after a while all he did was fantasy art.
When he finally got his first assignment for Dungeons and Dragons it was 20 years since that Christmas when the goal was set. He struck out on a journey, stubbornly, and at times ignorant to the realities of life, and 2 decades of traveling has finally brought him home.
Jesper Ejsing still lives in Copenhagen Denmark, with his 2 sons and wife, Lea. Along with paintings, he has written numerous books. "Jarvis – the Sorcerer's Apprentice" is the only one translated into English.