Mar 072014
 

Here’s the line work to four more of my “Goblins Through the Ages” cards for the Pairs Kickstarter.

Gob3+5
#3 is the modern day card who’s kind of a conglomeration of a bunch of the world’s ills these days, but I just think of him as the “Bond villain”.
#5 is a Victorian Occultist or is that starting to get redundant?!

Gob7+10
#7 is some Robin-Hood style goblin.
#10 is the lowly prehistoric Cave-Gobbo.

The Pairs Kickstarter. has a week left to run. If you want one of these decks you better jump onboard as they won’t be available afterwards.

Feb 262014
 

Kickstarter has been a big part of my life this last year.

Exactly a year ago today, The Gathering launched on Kickstarter. The book was greeted enthusiastically and has gotten some glowing reports from the backers who’ve gotten ahold of it. But it’s still not done as the limited edition book and the card set are still wrapping up. Yeah, working on it a year later really wasn’t part of the plan. Them’s the knocks.

At the same time in Feb 2013, The Maze of Games Kickstarter was in full swing. For that book my primary involvement was producing the artwork. The 40+ illustrations created are why Summer 2013 was something I heard about but didn’t really experience. That book should be printed by now and wending its way to the US from overseas.

Well, apparently I just can’t get enough of Kickstarter because I’m currently involved with James Ernest’s new “pub game” Pairs. It’s called a “pub game” because it’s something you can learn in 3 minutes and can join or leave at any time. It’s the ultimate in casual gaming. What impresses me most is its elegance; simplicity without sacrificing strategy. Props to James and his co-designer Paul Peterson.

So, what does this have to do with goblins? Well, the Pairs Kickstarter is adding stretch goals for decks with different artwork, and mine is a goblin deck! Kind of “Goblins through the Ages”! Here’s the Musketeer Goblin and the proposed card-back I designed -

GoblinCards

The Kickstarter reward tiers are for numbers of decks, but not specific ones. A little while after the Kickstarter wraps, backers will receive a survey where they can pick which ones they want from those unlocked by the stretch goals. Mine’s not unlocked yet, so please help back the project reach (at least) $100K and ensure this goblin deck gets made!

Finally, here’s a few sketches of other potential goblin cards – the prehistoric goblin and the cyberpunk goblin!

GoblinSketches

Yeah, could be lots of fun.

Oct 102013
 

You’re probably all too aware by now that this year is Magic’s 20th anniversary. Well, today is my own little Magic-related 20th anniversary:

On Oct 10th, 1993, at Philadelphia Comicfest, I first met Magic art director Jesper Myrfors. I’d actually been trying to catch up with Richard Thomas, art director of White Wolf Games, and when I finally tracked him down he was with Jesper and both of them were happy to take a look through my portfolio.

It’s fair to say that little piece of happenstance was the biggest career-changing event in my life… thus far. Both of the art directors liked my art but it was Jesper who followed through with work. Two weeks later I was painting my first Magic card, by April 94 I was making my second-ever trip to the U.S. to visit Wizards of the Coast. In June 95 I moved to Seattle and worked full time at Wizards on the Magic backstory and met a great deal of new friends (many of whom I still know today), and my lovely Jilli who became my wife in Oct 97.

And all because of my timing at Comicfest 93.

Ah, it all makes me a bit melancholy thinking back on those crazy early days of Magic. There was that crazy rush of something new and unprecedented. Magic tournaments are still fun to attend but the electric buzz of those first few years can’t be beat.

I’ll leave you for now with a look at a couple of the sketch cards I produced for The Gathering Kickstarter.

Sketches20th

Oct 022013
 

In 1994 I created a set of promo pieces timed for Magic: The Gathering’s first anniversary.

Unless you’re one of about a dozen people, these are all completely new to you. To find out why, check out the prologue to this series.

And so, this unveiling rolls around to its conclusion with probably my favorite color in Magic. It’s time for Black!

5Color-Black

This also happens to be my favorite of the six promo pieces. I think one of the biggest reasons is that the figures are more dynamic than in most of the other images. That’s a little down to my card choices but given that Black is at home in the shadows or under a night sky but is populated by a legion of often pale, sometimes bloody and vivid creatures, the image’s strong contrast was never going to be hard to achieve.

I hope the tour through these images has been fun for you. I’m really glad I finally got to share them. My time working for Magic may have passed but I loved the game, helped build the world (somewhat literally as I designed the globe of Dominaria), and I’ll always be grateful to Magic’s first art director, Jesper Myrfors, for giving me a shot and helping bring my artwork to a worldwide audience.

Thank you all for the comments and compliments. It’s been a blast.

Next time: …who knows? Maybe something created more recently than 19 years ago!

The answers to the cards used in this piece are below, followed by a quick FAQ.

Peer into the abyss of Black answers. Oh, and the FAQ.

Sep 282013
 

Here’s the fifth in a series of promo pieces I did for Magic, waaaay back in 1994. They’ve never been seen in public before but it being M:TG’s 20th anniversary it seemed like a good time to share them with you.

If you’re curious why these were never printed, the full story can be found in this prologue post.

Today, the color circle arrives at Blue -

5Color-Blue

Blue magic in 1994 featured a lot of air and water themed spells. In addition it’s the color of pure arcane knowledge, illusions, counterspells, and control (of creatures and time itself). It also felt like Blue Magic would be the color most used in the creation of artifacts, a position enhanced by the fact that Blue sits opposite the natural fecundity of Green.

It’s seems like a wildly random set of spheres of influence. Perhaps the catch-all for ideas that didn’t fit elsewhere. Or perhaps that’s my prejudices showing as Blue was my least favorite color to paint cards for.

Take a shot at guessing all the cards tucked away in this piece. As usual, the answers are below.

All of Blue’s esoteric knowledge lies within.

Sep 242013
 

Here’s the fourth in a series of promo pieces I did for Magic, waaaay back in 1994. They’ve never been seen in public before but I figured now was a great time – being M:TG’s 20th anniversary – to share them with you.

If you’re curious why these were never printed, the full story can be found in this prologue post.

Today, the color circle turns towards White -

5Color-White

Nowadays, White has a broader concept but White in Alpha was very euro-centric with its knights, paladins, medieval castles, the clergy, and the occasional angelic warrior. That’s very much reflected in this piece.

The great big glowing guy in the front wasn’t really the best choice for front and center but he was a powerhouse White card of early Magic and so he had to be given a significant spot. Still, he looks kinda goofy. His cheery countenance is offset by possibly the surliest lion alive; look at that scowl! I think he even has a 5 o’clock shadow. Maybe he’s hung over. All joking aside, I did overdo the lion’s lower jaw. This is a good reminder of how amazingly useful Google image search is for artist reference. It’s easy to forget how sometimes hunting for reference through magazines and books could really derail a tight deadline back in the day.

So, take a shot at identifying all the cards in the image. Remember, there are no cards from sets later than The Dark. The answers are below.

Did divine inspiration strike? Here’s the answers to White.

Sep 202013
 

The story so far: In 1994 I created a series of promo images for Magic: The Gathering. These pieces were meant for flyers timed for the ’94 con season, and the game’s first anniversary.

Unless you’re one of about a dozen people, you’ve never seen them before. To find out why, check out the prologue to this series.

The project was to be six images, one for artifacts, and one for each color of mana.

Today it’s Green.

5Color-Green

Green, being nature, doesn’t struggle with right and wrong. Much like its opposite number – Blue – its essentially amoral. And while Green is life and its other opposite on the color wheel – Black – is death, Green recognizes that death is part of the cycle of life and Black has a little life in it due to various unpleasant biological systems involved in putrefaction. Yum.

Anyway, the planeswalker here shows a little of Green’s Tranquility while the main image focuses on the amoral side.

Have fun locating all of the cards in the image. The answers are posted below.

Next time, we’re onto White.

Click through for all the answers to your thorny questions.

Sep 162013
 

The story so far: In 1994 I created a series of promotional images for Magic: The Gathering. These pieces were meant for flyers timed for the ’94 con season, and the game’s first anniversary.

Unless you’re one of about a dozen people, you’ve never seen them before. To find out why, check out the prologue to this series.

The project was to be six images, one for artifacts, and one for each color of mana.

This time it’s Red.

5Color-BurningRed

Since Red is – among other things – the color of chaos, it seemed fitting that the creatures would be fighting amongst themselves, and of course firing off highly destructive red spells.

This is only the second time I ever painted goblins, the first time being the binder image shown in the prologue. Goblins, of course, have become a staple of Magic and a feature of my own career in the game. Back in ’94 the logical opposite to the goblins seemed to be dwarves, but by 2013 it’s fair to say that dwarves aren’t really a big component of Red and are thoroughly, exponentially, outnumbered by goblins. If I was creating this today, the dwarves probably would have been replaced with another race.

Red is also the color of fire and flame is especially tricky to paint with non-digital media. Generally, you need to get it right first time because the underlying white of the paper is vital to producing sufficient luminosity in the flame. I hadn’t quite learned that lesson yet but that’s the thing with any creative profession; you’ve got to make the mistakes to improve.

Red is also tied in with war and anger and that’s reflected in the planeswalker’s demeanor. I’d keep your distance, he’s not gotten his quadruple shot semi-skim latte this morning…

So, take a shot at naming all the cards in the image. I’m pretty certain that this one is far easier than the Artifacts piece. The answers to the cards in the red image are behind the cut -

Next time, we’ll continue clockwise around the mana circle to Green…

Burning questions? Okay, I’ll stop now, here’s your answers.

Sep 122013
 

In 1994 I created a series of promotional images for Magic: The Gathering. These pieces were meant for flyers timed for the ’94 con season, and the game’s first anniversary.

Unless you’re one of about a dozen people, you’ve never seen them before. To find out why, check out the prologue to this series.

The project was to be six images, one for each color of mana (the cornerstone of power and flavor in M:TG) and one extra for today’s subject – Artifacts.

5Color-Artifice

This is the general layout of all the pieces in the series; a color-themed planeswalker centrally framed and playing Magic cards, surrounded by creatures (and occasionally spells) of the appropriate mana color (or colorless in the case of Artifacts).

In addition to being given carte blanche with what to include in each image, I was also allowed free rein to extrapolate these creatures beyond what we’d seen previously in the confines of the card image window. Knowing that, don’t think of these as official versions of the creatures, just my take on them. Especially since I added a curved abdomen to the Dragon Engine in the hope of mirroring the curve of its neck but ended up just making it look pot-bellied! Win some, lose some…

An interesting wrinkle to all of this was that in ’94 all of the Magic artists still retained the copyright to their images. I think the working logic for this project was that they were free handouts and so didn’t require any special agreements, but if they’d been on retail products, then they’d have had to pay all the applicable artists a royalty. I think. Hey, it’s 19 years ago! I just know that Jesper would have done right by the artists like he always did.

Anyway, have fun trying to spot all of the cards referenced in this project. All six pieces pulled from cards from Alpha through The Dark. Feel free to post guesses here, on Facebook, Twitter or whatever Magic forum led you here. I’ll be curious to see if I’m able to sneak any by you.

Were you able to name all the cards in the artwork? The answers are below.

The next piece I’ll be debuting will be Red. Those of you that’ve read any interviews I’ve given, probably know that Red and Black are my favorite colors in Magic. So, we’re going to start at Red and work our way around the color wheel until we finish up at Black!

Click here to discover all the cards hidden in the image and a Quick FAQ

Sep 092013
 

Set the waaaay back machine to 1994. Many of you will be horrified to be reminded that was 19 years ago. I know I am.

I’d just finished the artwork for Antiquities, Legends and The Dark and the original art director of Magic – Jesper Myrfors – asked me if I’d like to do the cover illustration for the first official Magic: The Gathering card binder. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

The concept was simple: paint a wizard playing Magic and have him surrounded by creatures from all five colors of mana. Okay, easy enough…

Binder94

I wanted the wizard to have no mana bias so I had him playing an artifact. Bonus: it meant I got to paint the Stuffy Doll!

I remember struggling with the piece at the time. I was still pretty new to painting and making all the different elements work together while meeting the deadline was a tough undertaking. Here’s a little trivia about the piece -

  • This was the first and only time I got to paint an angel on an official WotC product.
  • This was the first time I painted goblins.
  • The card backs were the hardest part because I’m fussy about little details like that.

The piece is a fun bit of history for me but it also shows I was still trying to find my feet with painting. Take a look at the wizard’s hands and arms to see the iffy attempt at blending, let alone whatever’s going on with the Serra Angel’s forehead!

To me, the painting’s greatest significance is as the catalyst for a larger project. I’ll get to that in a moment.

After the binder piece, the next job I did for WotC was 26 (!) paintings for the launch set of the Jyhad CCG (later known as Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, or V:TES). Then came Fallen Empires and I remember when I finished Armor Thrull, I was struck with how much I’d improved since those first few paintings only five months previous.

One day, while on the phone with Jesper, (this was before people commonly used email to conduct business. Hell, it was ’98 before I had the internet in my home!) we got to talking about producing a series of flyers for Magic. These would be handouts for use at the major conventions and there’d be five different designs – one for each color of Magic. That soon became six designs as I pointed out that Artifacts deserved a flyer too.

Jesper was very keen on the idea so I set to work on finding and combining some of the coolest creatures and spells from those first few sets of Magic. I’d flown to Seattle and visited WotC only a month earlier so I was privy to the wondrous imagery in the entire Legends set even though it was still a month or two until it was available in stores.

Balancing a composition filled with a dozen or more disparate creatures only unified by their casting cost was no small task. But I loved it. It was a glorious jigsaw puzzle and it was only the very short deadline for such complex paintings that made the assignment so grueling.

Finally when the paintings were complete, I tried to call Jesper because I still didn’t have a contract, but I had to leave voicemail. Time went by and I heard nothing. Eventually I got to talk to Sandra Everingham who I discovered had become the new art director for Magic. Jesper had quit, and unfortunately in all that chaos, no one had been told what I was working on. No one was expecting the work. There was no contract. Magic was clearly doing so well it didn’t need flyers.

I never did get that contract. And I never got paid the $6,000 I was expecting to receive.

Now, to be clear, I don’t hold any grudges over this. Jesper had bigger things on his mind when he quit Magic and WotC in 1994, and no one else even knew the pieces were being made so why would I be annoyed with them?

But this was a cold hard lesson that I abide by to this day: “Always get a contract“. It sits at #2 right behind “Never work for free. Never work on spec. If you don’t value your work, why would anyone else?

Anyway, these six paintings have only been seen by a handful of people. They’ve NEVER been seen on the internet. Until now. Running twice a week starting this Thursday I’ll be debuting one of these pieces and we’ll be starting with that “Color #6″ – Artifacts.

Stayed tuned. And be prepared for a scavenger hunt to find all the cards referenced in these paintings. It’s quite a few.