By Jesper Ejsing

This painting is one of the interior illustrations for Dungeons and dragons survival Handbook.
I was asked to show an Elf Bard reaching into a trap for an idol or magical Item. The suspense should be if he would be able to get the Idol without setting off the trap.
I did a couple of thumbs but to be honest they were kind of dumb or too technical.

My final sketch focused more on the reaching in than the trap. Here comes the trouble:
My sketch was approved. It had all it should. Elf, owl-friend, trap idol…you have it. I was in a hurry getting it done and went on to painting it without thinking or even considering if it was a good or bad drawing. As soon as I started painting I realized the format was too small, the drawing sucked and my painting would be mediocre or bad. Since I was leaning into the deadline I ignored all these little warnings and kept on painting till it was done. i was leaning back in my chair looking at the final and first thing that struck me was: ” I hope no one see this in print with my name on it.”

I sucked in a mouthful of air and wrote a mail saying that I would be a little late on the illustration. I didn’t even scan it but threw it away( that is why I cannot show it here), and immediately sketched another take on the exact same pose and setting. Compare the 2 please.

The first one is really not clear on the reaching gesture. It is more like a guy holding forth his and toward something ( a really bad drawn hand). I did like the owl looking the direction of the action as if it is following his movement, so I kept that to the new sketch. The new one was all about the reaching gesture. The eye follows the arm into the picture all from the staff hand to the Idol it is almost as if the figure is pointing us to the area of interest. ( Hey I even have physical arrows pointing toward the focal point)  the neck of the elf is straining, head tilted forward, and the general foreshortening of the figures anatomy is better. These 2 versions are to me the different between, drawing without thinking and putting your mind to it. It made me think that this is the dangerous pit fall I always fall in if I do not push myself. The first drawing is all in all okay, but it lacks the work and conscious sketching and the “getting into the scene” feeling.

I am not one of those artists that just pull great images out of the sleeves, I have to work for it, and work very hard, it seems. And if I relax just a tiny bit, it starts sliding down hill.
I painted the image without any trouble. I felt the drawing was solid and all I had to do was fill the empty areas with colour. I enjoyed doing the bloody handprints and smears from the last time the trap was sprung…