The Maze of Games – an interactive puzzle novel written by Mike Selinker and illustrated by me – has just launched on Kickstarter!
Click the image below to head to the Kickstarter page!
A quick update today.The first of the Kickstarter projects I’m involved with will be going live on Monday, Jan 28th!
It’s a puzzle book and a novel, or as the book’s author, Mike Selinker, puts it a “solve your own adventure” book.
And it’s called The Maze of Games.
And your first full-sized look at the Gatekeeper…
See you Monday!
As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes a piece of artwork I’m really proud of is lost to obscurity due to being attached to a common card. It doesn’t even have to be a junk common. Sometimes just being a regular common is enough for the artwork to fall off most players’ radars.
One such piece is Lys Alana Huntmaster from the Lorwyn set. Apparently this card was well received among players sporting elf decks of the time but the art never drew any significant interest.
The artists aren’t told the rarity of the cards they’re assigned anymore, but oftentimes – and with a little experience born of writing every Magic card art description for three years – I can make a pretty good guess. Why is this important? Well, if common cards are the red-headed stepchildren of CCGs, then it makes sense to focus your best efforts on the rare cards as that’s the art players will remember.
With that in mind, I try to make the art that’s destined for a rarer card more esoteric, more gnarly, more detailed or just plain more weird. I think if you’ve got two goblin cards and one’s a common and one’s a rare, regardless of the art description, the common goblin shouldn’t be too far from the average goblin depicted in the style guide, while the rare goblin should be a character, a paragon, an eccentric or a movie star, something that stands out from the herd.
Here’s the art description for the assignment:
Color: Green Creature
Location: Lys Alana, a large elvish ‘city’ in the Gilt-Leaf Wood. The Gilt-Leaf Wood is the forest considered most beautiful by the elves. The trees have a sap that elegantly coats the spaces between the bark, and when the sun hits it just right, it seems to be golden and shimmers as if gilded.
Action: Show an elvish noble who’s the city’s ‘master of the hunt.’ He has two striped dogs with him like the one in the styleguide. He’s blowing a ceremonial horn to call other elves to the hunt.
Focus: the elvish huntmaster
Mood: aristocratic, shrewd, elegant
So he’s an elf noble who holds a position of some seniority within this large elvish city? Totally sounds like at least uncommon material to me. If the art description had suggested he was any more important, I would have chosen rare. With that in mind, I start designing an elf who’s very upright and composed, one who has that quiet confidence that assurance of command can bring.
Here’s my first few attempts at the elf’s head;
At first I was thinking of having the Huntmaster looking off into the distance, overseeing whatever task he was set to, but I soon came around to the idea of him making eye-contact with the viewer to drive home the confidence I wanted to convey. If I remember correctly, the Lorwyn elves weren’t the friendliest bunch which is why #2 is sporting a faint cruel smirk. #3 amps that up a bit to outright distaste. You may have noticed I’ve ejected the idea of him actually blowing the horn. Why? Well, the focus & mood entries in the art description are about how imposing this elf is, not about the activity of blowing a horn. You try to look elegant blowing hard on a wind instrument!
I’d nailed down the figure’s stance earlier and now came time to dress the elf. Lorwyn was a world of eternal midsummer so clothing tended to be sparse or open and airy.
Below is an initial sketch, followed by a figure sketch done digitally that would allow me to apply a variety of separate layers of outfits; the modern-day equivalent of a paper doll.
Wow, those elves were thin. Next are a couple of stabs at the outfit. The second option seemed promising so I made several more iterations of the clothed figure…
Looking back at these sketches now, I see that with the final version I pruned the design, removing some visual clutter – such as the knife wrapped around the leg – to aid legibility at final card size. For much the same reason, some of the other details became larger, such as the leaf drapery (shown in black) hanging off the cloak as it crosses his upper torso.
Here’s a closer look at the final drawing of the Huntmaster:
As you can see, his clothing is covered in stylized leaf and vine designs, with the ocasional bladed quality to their shape. Leaves are woven into his hair and form a faux beard too (that was a concept from the style guide I really liked) and even the pommel of his sword is shaped into a leaf design. Twigs are bound into the buttons of his gloves as a small show of ostentation rather than anything symbolic, or so my memory tells me. Finally, the horn is given exaggerated organic curves and bears a passing resemblance to a wyrm.
I’m not sure why I straightened the angle of his head. Perhaps I thought the tilt seemed a little coy and I wanted a more defiant look. Some decisions are pretty subjective and any other day I might have decided differently.
Next time, we’ll get into the actual painting of the gilded forest, and you can see just how easy it is to lose your mind with digital stippling.
To be continued…
I have a longer post about GP San Diego that I’m working on, but in the meantime I thought I’d share with you the two cases I designed for mine and my wife’s phones –
The images aren’t stickers they’re actually imbedded into the cases and are nice and solid. We got these done at Uncommon and they did a great job.
The one on the left is based off the designs I did for my wife’s site, Gothic Charm School. The one on the right is a tweaked version of my Skirk Marauder image. No, I can’t make the Skirk one available for purchase as it’s copyrighted to WotC, but one for my personal use is just fine.
So, would you be interested in a phone case with some of my fantasy art? I certainly think it’s a cool new way for people to enjoy my art. Let me know.
It’s Halloween, so time for a couple of suitably unpleasant pictures that – bonus! – you’ve probably never seen before.
These images were both called ‘Doom’ and were destined for promo chips for the short lived game Clout which unfortunately folded before enough people could realize the game was so much more than Pogs and that even though some manual dexterity was required, the tactical aspects of the game were surprisingly meaty.
First of all, the one that really speaks to my claustrophobia. This has the unofficial title of ‘Crushing Doom’…
Brr. Still makes me wince.
This next one might as well just have the unofficial title of “Ouch!”
Or maybe “That’ll Leave a Mark”.
I find that damage that cuts along lines you don’t expect are always more unpleasant to our jaded slasher-movie-going tastes. That’s why rather than a clean separation of the head the energy slices through the back of the skull, and more importantly along the length of the jaw.
This second piece was also my chance to use acrylic washes working wet on wet to create the energy blast. The green paint was applied first, then washed away and re-applied, rinse, repeat, until the color’s density was sufficient and nicely saturated but the edges were still soft. After leaving it overnight to ensure the green was fully dry the purple was added in washes to maintain the soft blurred edges that sell the gaseous quality of the effect. Perhaps it’s a dragon’s breath weapon?
Working to get a good transition between such opposing colors as green and purple is always tricky because if the purple bleeds too far into the green, no matter what you do it’ll leave a trace and dull the green. I was mostly lucky and it looks like the only issue I had was in the lower right corner.
That’s it for now. Hopefully I haven’t ruined your appetite for all that leftover Halloween candy.
Waaaaay back in the dawn of time, well, early for Magic the Gathering but the rest of us know it as 1993… okay, that really does seem like a long time ago now. Damn.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah, in October 1993 on my very first trip to the United States I accidentally met Jesper Myrfors, art director for Wizards of the Coast, at Philadelphia Comic Fest. A month later I was working on my first Magic cards.
Due to a peculiar set of circumstances, Antiquities, Legends and The Dark were all being assigned at the same time but had a staggered deadline a scant few months ahead of the card sets hitting the shelves. This was seat-of-the-pants set production. I feel sorry for the editors and whoever was working pre-press. Actually, the latter was likely Tom Wånerstrand who’s a great person so I guess it didn’t do him too much damage. Probably. But he does smile a LOT. Hmm…
Okay, apparently my brain is set to “off topic” today. Anyway, during early November of 1993 I worked on my six pictures for Antiquities. COP: Artifacts was my favorite for play value – I mean, how cool was it to do the one missing COP? – but my favorite image belonged to Gaea’s Avenger.
The power was nothing special, but this was my first rare card (or ‘Uncommon 1′ but let’s not get into that) and it was my first card where the creature was demanding your attention. The finger pointing out of frame is kind of an accusation or threat aimed at your opponent. This was a trick I’d do a few times in the future, though most notably with the Demon Token from Mirrodin.
I got to revisit Gaea’s Avenger three times in other pieces. Once in Drawn Together from Unhinged, once in a promotional image that’s never been seen by the public – but that will change sometime in the future – and once for the Duelist Magazine.
Here’s the Duelist piece which was painted in 1995. No idea what article it was for but you might notice that I’m up to my old tricks of tucking my signature into the image again.
Remember that equation “Goblins + (Fire and/or Explosions) = Hilarity!”? Yeah, still holds true.
Here’s my one new piece of art in Magic’s 2012 core set – the Goblin Fireslinger.
Here’s the art description –
Location: Arid mountain region, perhaps near a goblin camp or cave
Action: Show a goblin swinging a some kind of goblin sling weapon, in which is a red-hot sling-stone. He looks viciously at the viewer, as if he’s about to bean us in the head with that stone.
Focus: The goblin slinger
Mood: An irritating little bugger!
And here’s the sketch. Sometimes I hand in black & white sketches, but sometimes I like to go with a color one, especially if the lighting is important to the image. Here’s that sketch -
I imagine the goblin is on the opposite side of a narrow ravine filled with molten lava. The rock formations at the extreme lower left and lower right are rock bridges and the goblin is doing a fine job of protecting them both. However, it looks like at the moment of this image he’s decided to take the fight to the viewer and is beginning to launch himself across the ravine for a little ‘face-time’. And by face-time, I mean ‘face meets burning rock’.
As you can see, most of the goblin drawing is unchanged from sketch to final. His coloring underwent a big transformation because the hot lighting (from the unseen molten lava) was strengthened. This meant the green of the goblin felt more and more out of place with the ambient light in the image so his skin tone was shifted to yellow with warm brown shadows. Because all color is perceived relative to its surroundings, your brain tells you the final version of the goblin is more green that he actually is. Color is a tricksy evil swine sometimes. Ask any artist.
And talking of color, take a good look at his eyes. The center of his pupils are a brilliant blue.
This might indicate the color of whatever he’s looking at reflected there but it’s really me using the strikingly out of place color to make his eyes more piercing, and that little bit extra crazy.
Oh, and bonus points if you noticed the ear on his swinging side is shortened and capped with a singed stump. Hey, swinging burning rocks ain’t easy and every goblin learns it one way or another!
It’s 4th of July and here in Seattle there’s been people letting off fireworks in the dead of night for about three days now. Oh, the joy.
Me, I’m not a fan of publicly available fireworks. I much prefer the local authorities to put on a show and leave it in the hands of (presumably) professionals. You usually get a more impressive display and a lower injury rate. I was unfortunately once witness to a bottle rocket’s bottle tipping just before take off and firing the rocket into a crowd of spectators and I’ve never really felt the same way about fireworks ever again.
Anyway, whatever shenanigans you’re up to, stay safe. Goblins, on the other hand, should be encouraged to play with fire at all times. Remember this very important formula;
Goblins + (Fire and/or Explosions) = Hilarity!
I’d now like to demonstrate with samples from just one set – 2003′s Scourge;
Goblins with burning rock projectiles = Fun!
Goblin War Strike.
Goblins with pillar of fiery doom = Comedy gold.
Pyrostatic Pillar, which had the working title of Bug Zapper.
Whether they’re having a ball raining incendiaries down upon their enemies or running for their lives, nothing goes better with hot flaming death than a whole bunch of goblins. It’s true. I looked it up.
And finally, please try not to stab anyone’s eye out with a sparkler! Unless it’s an actual goblin, then that’s probably okay. Probably. Just remember, if you feel like picking a fight with a goblin, you better be ready to fight a dozen more. At least.
I always imagine pieces of fantasy artwork as windows into another world. Given that, I find an artist’s signature that is very visible, even dominating, to be very jarring and disruptive when attempting to soak in a scene.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no right way to do these things. Some people’s signatures are practically a work of art unto themselves. Others, are vivid stamps of ownership. That’s just not to my taste.
In most of my pieces I keep my signature subtle, using colors from within the image and only rarely placing them against strongly contrasting colors. There are some Magic pieces where the only way you would ever see the signature would be to hold the original painting; the signature is minutely different in color to its background.
And then there are the occasions where I make the signature part of the decor, or an integral part of the image.
After the five previous sneak peeks of my pieces for the upcoming Transmet Art Book, I discovered a number of people thought the final images were going to remain black & white.
Not so! Here’s a portion of the left half of my double page image from the book…
You’re getting just a portion of the page for two reasons –
1) Because I’d like to save the full image for those of you who bought the book.
2) The full image is OMG NSFW! Seriously.
If you’ve read Transmetropolitan, you may recognize that this is the younger version of Spider from several years before issue #1. The other person is his wife, better known brusquely as The Wife. Their relationship could be described as ‘troubled’ in much the same way as the void of space could be described as ‘nippy’.
This image is entirely conjecture extrapolated from a few scraps of info from the comic book, but that’s what made it so much fun. I knew a lot of artists were going to be focusing on events or people from within the timespan of the series, so I decided to set mine outside of that period. That might give you a clue as to the nature of the other half of my double page image.
I had a blast with these pieces and it was great returning to comic book work after all these years. Also, having read the Transmet series a number of times I took a little bit of fiendish joy filling the images with Easter eggs.
And somewhere in my double page spread, I hid one of the hallmark three-eyed smiley face symbols. It won’t be easy to find. Have fun hunting for it, the book should be with you soon. I’m looking forward to getting my copy!