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!

Dereck Turner

30 thoughts on “The Magic Art of Jesper Ejsing

  1. Gabriel G. says:

    My personal favorite of his is Ballynock Cohort

  2. Dru Nature says:

    Holy crap, when you blow these artworks up to full screen I can really appreciate the AMAZING amount of detail and technical prowess Jesper displays. He is a master painter and the colors and depth of intricacy on each section of the artwork is monumental.
    he is so good at putting on 3 dimensional additions to characters and objects, and everything is so well thought out and placed, well lit and beautifully colored. Rings going through rings held together by ropes. Little buckles, beads and buttons everywhere. prolific.

  3. Aaron Fortson says:

    I must say, you've definitely earned your patrons! Your videos are such a pleasure to watch, and are so well done! I've just recently discovered you, and I am hooked! Because of these videos, I have a much deeper appreciation and desire for the art aspect of MTG. Thank you!

  4. Malachy Smith says:

    Khenra Scrapper is one of my more recent favourites

  5. Colin Jones says:

    Jesper Esling was just interviewed by The Command Zone. First off it was really insightful and he's a cool guy. Second off they gave a shoutout to this video – sounds like Jesper Esling was really touched by your video 🙂

  6. Josh Elderkin says:

    might be my favorite

  7. EthanMcKenna says:

    Hey Sam, Great videos man i really love the creative way you go about exploring the artists and their work in this series.
    Jesper is one of my all time favourite artists so this was an absolute pleasure to watch! I have a request for you to cover another one of my favourite artist Even Mehl Amundsen. Much Love!

  8. chaosof99 says:

    I met this artist once at a GP and had him alter a card for me (Acorn Catapult). Not only did he an excellent job with it and was done on the site within two hours, he also was extremely friendly and genuinely curious why I wanted that card (reason being that I run it in a Commander deck alongside the card Repercussions, so I want to gift my opponent creatures and burn them down with Blasphemous Act).

    In any case, this channel is teaching me a lot about MtG and art in general, which I have been kind of oblivious to before. Great job. Please continue making us all a little bit smarter about this game and the art it features.

    Personally I would love you to feature two of my favorite artists in the game at some point, Ron Spencer and Thomas M. Baxa, even if they are no longer being used by the MtG art department (which makes me rather sad).

  9. S P says:

    Any plans to do one of these on Michael Sutfin? He has such a unique style and has illustrated many iconic cards.

  10. Raphael Tolentino says:

    I love these artist analysis videos.

    I always learn so much from the artists' both minor and major decisions on the composition, colors, line weight, etc.

    Thank you for having the passion and the time to do these.

  11. magnus rosenberg says:

    feels good to be a dane

  12. Drop3dlvl3 says:

    My favourite Magic artist by far.

  13. facetubemyassplug says:

    incredible art

  14. Tommy Suhartono says:

    Very Intriguing ! Digging those point so much.
    Also giving me additional knowledge as painter, thanks man !

  15. Bee says:

    You know what is insane.

    You called almost word for word my experience with that first piece of art. The only thing was that I kind of had a vibe that he was smuggling the eggs/amber

  16. Jacob Hauch says:

    I went to a school where Jesper held a lecture at some point. He even left behind several framed and signed illustrations including Boartusk Liege, Aerie Ouphes and Bull Cerodon.

  17. Octopus says:

    Jesper and Reynolds are by far my favorite artists in magic as an illustrator. R.K. Post is up there too.

  18. Dan Lewis says:

    Just wanted to say, I love your videos! Your breakdowns are well thought out and even meticulous. You are producing your own masterpieces while chronicling the Masters and the cards they make.

    It doesn't go unnoticed.

    Um, no homo tho.

  19. Arran Haigh says:

    I come back to this video so often. To me Jesper and his work embodies the high fantasy aspect I love about Magic

  20. Emperor Paulpatine says:

    Hedron crab is my favorite card, this guy is awesome!

  21. iamdio says:

    how on earth I just discovered this video today.. might be one of the best Ejsing's work breakdown I've ever seen. Thumbs up!!

  22. Esteban Župan says:

    So inspiring!!
    Love your videos

  23. Johannes Isphording says:

    Who would have thought that one day I'd be binging videos deconstructing a trading card game. You definitely bring some good stuff to the table that goes above and beyond. Keep your videos coming!

  24. Grace Drinkwine says:

    Now I want to collect cards just for the art.

  25. Hermon the great says:

    That goblin just lost thousands of dollars by just throwing that black lotus in the cannon though.

    Feels bad man.

  26. Jack Weighill says:

    Fun Fact: Ejsing was born in 1973. He would've been 13 in 1986. Dungeons and Dragons wasn't acquired by Wizards of the Coast until 1997

  27. Peter Redmond says:

    Jesper is by far my favorite mtg artist! ☺️

  28. facetubemyassplug says:

    appreciate the effort into getting his name exactly right

  29. xtlx says:

    This channel is so damn good!

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