– By Jesper Ejsing


The Mirror is just bellow the T-rex mouth

1. Use a mirror 

Now I always have a mirror in front of me. It is positioned on an adjustable arm, so I can pull it around at different angles. I use it for hand gestures and hand ref, and to study mouth and details from my own face. I also use it when I hold up figurines and stuff, like a dinosaur, for reference on dragonheads. Most important is it when used together with traditional art. We all by now know how important it is to flip the canvas horizontally while painting digital, to get a fresh look on things and to spot mistakes that the eye cannot spot, because you have been looking at the image too long, Same with the traditional piece. Hold it up in front of the mirror, and even if you cannot paint in this mirrored version, you can still very effectively see it with a fresh pair of eyes.



2. Sketch like crazy


Dance video sketching

I was never one of those who sketch all the time. But I wish I were. I have been trying to get in to it, cos I see the benefit all around me. Younger artist I meet sketch all the time. And I feel embarrassed for not doing it too. I have bought sketchbooks and set up deals with myself constantly; that I should sketch every morning, half an hour. All these warm up sketches never really caught on with me. I started sketching people from dance videos, paused at a random place in the video and sketch a 30 seconds figure, started the video, stopped again and drew again. It was great fun but lasted for a week until I got busy doing some real drawings.

I think I just got to accept that I am not a sketch artist, but boy I wish someone had told me how good it is to practice like that 20 years ago. Maybe someone did, I just did not get it.



3. Challenges

This is kind of a strange advice. But I think that for a long time I stayed too well within my comfort zone and relied to heavily on photo ref to create my images. I know exactly what piece it was that pushed me. I t was my first international cover piece. The commission forced me to tackle three figures and a monster in a setting, something I had always avoided because it was too difficult. I had always made figures seen from bellow on a cliff top to avoid perspective and placement of the figures according to each other and so on. But the specific cover had me jumping out from the artistic cliff and into unknown territory. I finished it and it was better than I had hoped for. The challenge taught me that I should expect more of myself and it got me unafraid of doing big scenes. Now I crave for the opportunity to do multiple figures in fight scenes. If you find that you are doing the same thing over and over, try pushing your boundaries a bit. Set yourself a challenge. Conquering new territory is the best way to become better.

My first real colour cover outside Denmark


4. Surround yourself with other artists

This is pretty easy. I was at a studio together with other artists for 20 years now. The constant influence, inspiration, help and criticism are invaluable. The daily exposure to other ways of painting and drawing is good for you. Perhaps it is just walking by someone else’s table and seeing a great pose of a figure or asking a fellow artist if he can comment on a composition, no matter how big or small the influence, it is a monster help and something I know has been critical for me in the years when I started out as a professional illustrator. One way is also to create an online group of artist with the same interest as you. Just having someone to send art to and get response from is fantastic.



5. Paint for fun

I know too well how it feels when there is no separation between your art and your personality. For many years, and to some degree still, I felt like there was no difference between the “Fantasy artist” and Jesper Ejsing. I lived and breathed fantasy art and was constantly evolving as an artist. If someone had any critisism or correction it was like they were correcting my personality and my whole life. If you have everything tied up into your art it becomes too hard a burden to bare over the years. If every painting equals your success in life as a person, it slowly drains away the fun and the happiness. You start evaluation every piece you do from a win or loose perspective. And I assure you it is going to drain you.

Go out and paint a tree, sit by the rocks at the beach and paint some waves splashing against the shore, do a comic book with your kids or illustrate a story written by a 6 year old. Paint flowers in watercolour for your grand mamma, do nude model classes, paint abstract, change medium. Everything you do on the side that is not done to achieve something or to satisfy a client or to raise you, as an artist is time well spent. For no other reason than to keep having fun painting rather than having it become a job.



6. Collaborate

I started as a colourist in comics. I had to do the colours for artists and people much more skilled at drawing than myself. It has been a real great learning curve. In painting other peoples drawings I got to focus on nothing but colour and value and whatever I could to make the story as clear as possible. In painting on others artwork I learned a lot. I got a hands on experience of how others artist solved things like perspective expressions and composition. And I got to feel it into my fingers putting my fingerprint on the art. I have always tried to continue that in asking artists that I admired and loved if they would ever do collaboration with me. It has been a truly great learning experience seeing something I sketched coming back from Tyler Jacobsen with a perfectly painted face and details in lighting and value that I would never have dreamed of myself…and then have to continue on it.

Even Mehl Amundsen and I


Tyler Jacobsen and I


Steve Prescott and I


7. Do not panic!

When things seems to go wrong, you feel like you are stalling artistically and it reminds you of running in quicksand, it is usually because it is about to become better. Being an illustrator and an artist who always want to evolve and reach the next level, it is crucial that you have the feeling that you are becoming better for each painting. If you look at something you did and feel it is worse than the last one or that you are making mistakes that you used to be able to handle. Just rest assure that it is a feeling we all have. Often I find that in struggling to achieve something new as a painter I always feel worse when the change is about to happen. It is matter of being able to see something from a new perspective. Every step up the ladder of art reveals a new step. There is no top floor. You are not able to see much more than the next couple of steps ahead of you, but keep climbing.