Playing RPGs from an early age has shaped the life of this Danish artist…
Jesper Ejsing on the influence of RPGs.
What was your first paid commission.
The first job that I remember getting paid for was an anatomical board illustration for a physiotherapist. I highlighted the muscles in question in red. I was 16 and that kick-started my career. Later that year I started illustrating a magazine for my teacher at high school. I did my first cover at the same time: a ranger in a forest.
What’s the last piece that you finished, and how do the two artworks differ?
There’s 18 years of accumulated skills between the two pieces, but the subject matter is the same. It’s a ranger, painted for Magic: the Gathering. It shows just how little I’ve moved on since my initial start in the world of fantasy art.
Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your art?
I grew up in a suburb in Denmark, I made weapons in the forest with my brother and started playing roleplaying games in the mid-80s. We started illustrating our role-playing characters – I’ve basically made a living out of that.
What, outside of art, has most influenced your artwork?
Just living life, I guess. I think when I was younger I always painted barbarians acting bad-ass and tough, looking mean while slaughtering their enemies. These days I’m more inclined to paint the same barbarian looking with discomfort at a hackedoff head thinking: “Why did you make me kill you”?
I think I’m more interested in portraying a character as a real, believable person than just an archetype. But playing role-playing games is and will always be my main source of inspiration.
What character or scene that you’ve painted do you most identify with?
I always play some kind of fighter or thief, so those guys come natural to me. In scenes I try to capture the feeling of a role-playing fight. I freeze a moment in time when the outcome of the battle is uncertain.
Can you describe the place where you usually create your art?
I’ve got a studio in town. My space has two tables. One is for traditional art and one for digital art. I spend 50 per cent of my working time at each table. The studio has 12 other artists doing either comic books or children’s books.
Do you have an art tool or ritual that you can’t live without?
The good thing about having a studio outside my home is that when I arrive at the studio and sit myself in front of the desk, I’m immediately in work mode. The familiarity of the workspace and the absence of any distractions means I’m able to stay in the ‘art zone’ effortlessly. That, and an espresso Morettino from Sicily.
Is making a living as an artist all you thought it would be?
Yes, and even more. Every day I leave my studio happy and content that I’m fortunate enough to make a living doing drawings of goblins and dragons. What I didn’t anticipate is the huge amount of self-loathing that comes with having all your identity tied up in being an artist.
When I fail at an illustration I fail at life. It’s the whole me that’s failing. Not just that specific piece. At the same time, when it goes well, I’m the only one responsible for all the awesomeness. For me, its a constant elevator that’s moving between heaven and hell.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m putting together a huge coffee table art book with all my best illustrations from the past 15 years. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do.
When I fail at an illustration I fail at life. It’s the whole me that’s failing…
Jesper is a fantasy artist from Denmark. He started his career in comic books as a colourist artist and went on to book covers and Magic: the Gathering. Lately, he’s been working as a concept artist in the gaming industry. You can see more of his art at www.artstation.com/artist/ejsing.
“I focused more on her pain than on her nudity or sexiness.”
rangers On the left is Jesper’s cover from his high-school days, alongside his latest image painted for Magic: the Gathering.