The Magic Art of Jesper Ejsing

The Magic Art of Jesper Ejsing


This is Seeds of Renewal from Commander 2016. At first glance, the painting looks like any old elf, hunched over in any old forest, at the center of any old fantasy world. But to appreciate the subtlety and mastery here, we must first become familiar with the portfolio of Jesper Ejsing. Born in Denmark in 1973, Jesper Ejsing is a fantasy illustrator working in both digital and traditional media. On Christmas Day, at the age of 13, he found himself flipping through the rules book of Dungeons and Dragons for the first time, a moment that would solidify his lifelong pursuit of art henceforth. Twenty years and hundreds of freelance paintings later, the company that galvanized his imagination as a kid would now become his client. It was first the role-playing game that motivated him to draw. Ejsing wanted to depict the battles he and his buddies were reenacting on the tabletop; he could see the instances so clearly in his head. Dragons pillaging cities, witches ambushed by rogue rangers, ice giants fulfilling their vendettas. Being so absorbed in the fantasy gave Jesper the framework that is fundamental for creating art of this genre. He is just as much a geek as all of us, and this is why his paintings have such character and charm. Lorwyn inaugurated Ejsing into Magic. He credits his Danish origins for his big break into the game. The European, fairy-tale landscape of the block merged seamlessly with the folklore Jesper grew up with. These seven cards would set the precedent for Ejsing’s work ethic and the evolution of his style. The majority of Jesper’s commissions are for figures and characters: he doesn’t do many landscapes. Of his 95 cards to date, 65 of them are creatures. Like Kev Walker, Ejsing loves uniform color wash and hazy atmospheres as the backdrops for his figures, and like Wayne Reynolds, his characters sport a very stylized, exaggerated look. His beasts are bulky, disproportionate, gargantuan. His elves are pencil-thin, slender, and poky. His goblins are gangly, famished, leathery. Jesper’s color palette is crafted with subdued, pastel, earthy tones, and his employment of blues and purples expertly contrast the grays and browns surrounding them. He calls red and violet schemes his “safe haven and happy place.” What makes Ejsing so unique, though, comes down to two crucial components. Know these, and you’ll spot his work from across the EDH table in an instant. The first: his obsession with the focal point. The philosophy that guides every single one of his paintings is found in the mechanics of the eye. Let me show you what I mean. In this upcoming flurry of paintings, take note of where your eye goes first. So, how does this work? Let’s take Goblin Charbelcher for example. Looking at this painting for the first time, your eye immediately darts straight to the goblin’s face and his barrel-bucket hat. Next, it drifts to the animated bunch of objects being flung behind him, then down to the source, which is the goblin’s shovel, then follows the movement through his meaty knuckles and onto his pointy elbow. Finally, it comes full circle back to his face. This time, you notice the goblin’s flappy ears and unusually mangled teeth. You hear a faint snickering. The mood sets in: this guy is up to no good. This circular movement is no accident: Jesper architects your experience from the start. Ejsing starts with a face, or in the case of a battle scene, the central point of action. This is what he will detail most. In his own words: “…The further out from the center, the less contrast, value, and detail level you need.” Charbelcher’s face is what is most detailed, and as such, you hardly notice the cannon and wheels buried into the background, which really isn’t detailed at all. The further away from the point of action we get, the looser the brush strokes become. And remember his love for red and violet? This contrast directs the eye so we can follow Jesper’s story. But the story isn’t finished, and this leads me to the second crucial aspect of his style. The longer we look, the more time we spend exploring the painting, the more enriching the story becomes. We go back to the items suspended in motion and notice an all-too familiar flower. That’s a Black Lotus! And that’s a Storm Crow! And they’re fodder for that hidden cannon, which was the subject of the original Mirrodin artwork. And what’s sticking out of the sand is none other than a Ratchet Bomb. See, Ejsing controls the direction of the viewer’s experience, but also rewards you for breaking away from his pre-constructed flow of movement. Because of that childhood influence of role-playing games, he will always include the trinkets and weapons and luggage that accompanies the characters of his campaigns. It seems paradoxical, but the most whimsical and charming details of his paintings lie precisely in the less-detailed areas, rewarding the viewers who go off the trail to seek them out. Knowing this, let’s go back to Seeds of Renewal and look at everything once again. We look first at the elf’s face and notice something peculiar: those are not normal elf ears. This guy has the ears of the doe, and yes, he is a guy! Notice the bushy eyebrows, the flat chest, the slender arms and heavy hands. And what is he holding? What first appeared as generic globes of magic are now, at second glance, actually amber eggs housing a snake and a spider. A tiny vial attached to his hip means this elf is caring for these eggs, and moving away from the focal point, into the ripples, we find a shovel. Aha! The elf is digging, unearthing those two creatures he once buried, giving them air to hatch. And a double regrowth, of course, is exactly what the card does. Jesper Ejsing is part of a collective of artists writing blogs under the Muddy Colors hub. He writes about his process and gives keen insight into the creation of his work. Like I mentioned before, this man’s work ethic is unyielding. He will try everything until the only response to the sketch in front of him is “hell yeah!”, even if that means scrapping hours of work. Apart from his art, the man is candid, warm, and pretty damn hilarious. Read his posts and you’ll see what I mean. And henceforth, with the release of new Magic sets, I encourage you to read the stories he paints into the cards. Remember: stones and ripples. Thanks for watching. I must admit that Jesper became my favorite Magic artist from researching this video. I’ve always been an admirer of his art but learning more about him, has been such a blast. Anyway, shout out to my Patrons, because of them I could afford to upgrade some equipment and buy this sweet new mic, so hopefully you enjoyed the improvement in quality. and speaking of which, become a Patron! Because we’re sending out signed copies of Seeds of Renewal this month, alongside another card. And yeah, become a Patron, help support my work, get in the credits of the video, get signed cards. It helps out a lot! Even $1 a month helps support what I do. So, yeah, do it! Thank you! I appreciate it, thanks for watching, guys. I’ll see you in two weeks. Cheers!