Here is an illustration I did a year ago for Wotc.It is 2 fighters, a girl and a guy, but the guy is a werewolf and is newly transformed. The setting is a tomb. As always I am using acrylics on watercolour board. It measures 50 x 40 cm.
I start out with a bunch of thumbs. Mostly I search for a solid shape or silhouette. In this case I new the 2 figures needed to stand close, so I needed them to overlap in a clear way. One idea was to have the biggest of the 2 kneeling thus making more space to the female. Also this composition I think is more dynamic than having them stand straight next to each other.I was so happy with my thumb that I didn’t rework it as a sketch. All I did was to add a grey tone in computer and cleaning out the rim lights with a digital brush. In my sketches I use graphite powder for grey and an electrical eraser for cleaning the whites. But this thumb was so small that it would have been smudgy.
My Art Director Mari said that the swords was too big. So when shortening them the one resting on the ground was moved to rest on her shoulder. I sketched each figure separately adding the equipment and constantly trying to get the best and most powerful drawing while still keeping my original silhouette from the thumb. When I am happy I transfer them both to the board and draw in the background. The absolute most difficult part was the wolf head.
I used countless references of wolfs and had 2 books on wolfs resting almost on top of the drawing for a whole day, still not being able to nail anything usable. I think the problem in using the photo ref was that it constantly became just a big guy with a wolf head. In my head the face had a human facial expression, and that is one pretty hard thing to search up on goggle or in a book. What finally succeeded was that I used my laptop at home when I was far away from all my ref and my drawing. I sketch a head digitally ( the change of media also had a thing to do with it ) and turned the other way, because at that point I had tried every thing possible facing right. And within minutes I got it right. After transferring to board, I inked the whole thing and add all the grey tones and black.
I scan the grey tone/black and white board and print out a copy. On the print I do my colour rough. This painting was going to be one out of 6 covers in a series so I needed a strong and clear colour theme. I settled on red/purple. The rough I thought was a little over the top, so when moving to painting I decided to tone it down a little to keep it less happy and colourful. It is a werewolf anyway.
I masked out the figures with frisket film and started with the background. I quickly block in all the areas and then start working out the details. It almost looks like the stone pillar is disappearing in the bottom behind the werewolf, but I needed that space under his arm to be very light to be able to read the silhouette.
The face of the girl was a step further in the direction I have been going for the last 2 years. I added freckles and small cuts and greys to make her look dirty and real. The hair was a challenge and I had a girl pose for me and draped her long dark her to fit my sketch. The final is a mix between her hair and that of Pam Anderson’s.
The werewolf was going to be having bits of armour strapped to places on the body as if his transformation had burst apart his equipment. I like the part of the ring mail that hangs in small chains underneath his neck. I promised myself NOT to do the rings individually, since that is just plain stupid and uncalled for, but here I am painting each ring individually. I am glad I did.
One thing that I am particularly happy with is the face of the wolf guy and the small differences in tones and value in his face. I got the exact expression I wanted: Something in-between panting, snarling and just crazy. ( that is what I myself remember best from transforming ).
When doing the legs and the rock he is resting on, I just got tired and feed up with it. I pulled away and went for a walk and when I got back I decided to just leave it at that. I was going to render all kinds of stuff, but I think it is better off with areas not too overworked or detailed. It needs areas where the eye can rest without having to decipher details and elements. That being said I wish I had clarified the area from foot to leg.
If you guys and girls out there have anything to ask or add feel free to do so. I would happily answer all. I have only focused on stuff that I can remember and being all cradled up into my own way of doing things I might have skipped or left out important facts.
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.
Love it! The rocks really are at an optimal point of being 'finished', that walk worked out great 😉
The edge-lighting on the characters looks too strong to not be repeated on the environment (rocks) as well but since it brings so much focus on them, its working a treat.
The green and other nuances on the wolf are great! Surely some of it must be done by glazing?! Do you alter areas of your paintings with glazes a lot, and if … do you use any glazing medium with your acrylics? Thanks!
Looks great as always! Thanks for the step-by-step process, that's incredibly informative and helpful for all of us! Keep up the great work.
I think this is my fave I have seen of yours. The parallel lines and compositional placement are spot on. The colors also (so different from the norm for this type of scene) really bring an originality to it. The focus also is so refined. This is a fantastic piece.
thanks for all these great posts!
how do you transfer to board? Are you printing out your sketch on carbon paper, or just covering the back of your print out with graphite then tracing over the lines on the front? Thanks
You have such a great dimension of layers and light! Thanks for sharing your step by step process.
Thanks for sharing this, Mr. Ejsing. I've loved your artwork for some years now (since I've been acquainted to it) and like seeing your process. I hope you have the time to answer the questions made by the other watchers: they're things I'd like to know too.
Transfering to board.
I smear the backside of a printout with pencil and draw ontop of my line to push it onto th eboard. then I rework the whole drawing before inking it. I try to transfer only the essential to avoid getting borred with teh image. If I have to do teh final drawing on the board it keeps it fresh in my mind. With this figther painting I did all of the background on board with no sketches. that is my ususal approch with figure based illustrations.
I do not use anything but the paint itself. I thin it with water for transparent layers and use it out of the tube for thick. Since I work in layer upon layer I can easily adjust while working. But I often wish there was a medium you coul dput into your acrylics that allowed you to do a Photoshop Color Dodge Brush.
Thanks very much! Tried the glazing medium by Golden and it just doesnt feel 'right'. Water it is.
Awesome!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!
I second that question of Anonymous