Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mission Compleat

Finished the final Stoneforge Mystic of the commissioned playset Tuesday night:

I'm actually pretty happy with this one, though the photos really don't do it justice. Here's another:

Aw, hell, you'll just have to trust me-- its really eye-catching and gorgeous in person!

For those of you in the cheap seats, here's a recap of the complete set:

And that concludes the largest commission job I've taken to date. Hopefully my client is happy with the results. As always, your comments and criticism are more than welcome.

Hm, now what?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Sword of Body & Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The 2nd Stoneforge of a commissioned "Sword-themed" playset; this one was supposed to represent Body and Mind. The original concept was "her on the right pointing towards the left with the sword, with a wolf and 4 Squawks charging in the direction she's pointing (Red and Green sun in Bkground). My first take went something like this:

I suggested flying monkeys and a bear riding a unicycle as well,
but I guess not all dreams can come true.

One of the first things I noticed was how similar the whole idea was to the art on the Magic card Triumph of the Hordes:

As I set about attempting to arrange the desired elements in the actual canvas size, I began to realize it was going to be almost impossible to get the desired look and feel. Its a lot easier when you get to produce the art in full-size and then crop it down afterwards to shrink onto a Magic card (as with the art above). Actually painting the image in the space you have to work with using minute muscle movements and physical brushes is considerably more challenging. There was simply too much going on, and too little space to show it.

I decided to try a different take on the original concept, and sent off this sketch as a proof of concept.

My gracious patron was amenable to the idea, and compositionally it was spot on.

From start...

... finish. :)

This project is a good example of how important it is an artist to communicate with your client while performing commissions. I've been in regular contact with the soon-to-be-owner of these alters, ensuring the quality of the work I'm producing meets his high standards.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bad Moon

One down, three to go. I'm still not happy with the 'Fire' half of the Sword of Fire and Ice, so I'll probably take another pass at it before shipping the playset off for delivery.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Forging Mystics

I took a commission to alter a playset of Stoneforge Mystics for a good friend of mine. The high number of Mystics being altered at once means I get to really stretch my creative muscle!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Make Alters, Not War

I've been yearning to alter a Sword of War & Peace since before it was even released, but I'm had something of "painter's block" whenever it came to actual ideas for alterations. I really liked the Sword of Body and Mind I did before (inspired by Sandreline!), as it showcased how altering the background of the original art can make a difference in the mood and feeling of the card. With this in mind, I set out into the wilds of the Internet in search of references.

Arid Mesa was my first idea, but it just didn't "feel" right, no matter how I tried to mock it up in Photoshop. It certainly conveyed the notion of Red/White, but it really didn't have anything to do with war or peace.

Sacred Foundry was another idea, but I know my limits when I see them. This piece of digital art is simply beyond my meager talents. I rationalized my decision by adding that it also didn't really have anything to do with the subject matter, either.

Perfect! This little-known plane from the oft-forgotten Planechase Magic set certainly got the idea of chaotic warfare across, and it includes ample oranges and browns, as well. There's no room for peace in the original art, but that could easily be solved by lightning the distant sky and adding a few angel silhouettes-- perhaps overlooking the bloody battle below and graciously healing the bravest and most heroic of souls so that they may continue their crusade.

One of the most common mistakes fledgling alterers make is becoming a bit too enthusiastic and rushing into altering the actual card. It usually pays to be a little cautious, as I have personally seen (and sent) a number of perfectly playable, valuable pieces of property straight into the trashbin because of an overzealous novice. Usually, I'll test my idea out on a few dummy cards, so I can practice with the order of layering and other techniques I'm going to need to pull off the finished piece. Of course, once you're an experienced alterer, you can practically jump in the deep end right from the start, and what you paint, downright fierce like Hadouken.

Yeah, that's not what happened here.
After about a half dozen dummy tests (trust me, I'm only showing you the most interesting of the batch), I decided to throw in the towel. Raymond Swanland is just dat dude, and whatever methods he used to do this amazing piece, I clearly wasn't going to be able to produce a respectable mimicry (at least, not on such a small canvas). Dejectedly, I began to rifle through my binder, looking for another card to alter before I became too frustrated. Which is when I stumbled upon the Lonely Mountain.

How had I never thought of this before!? I am a huge fan of the Ravnica lands (they're my favorite in the entire history of Magic), and this Mountain in particular is perhaps my single favorite. It was perfect for War and Peace-- the image of a burning city being quite evocative and eye-catching, with a very unique angle that fit with the original art and allowed plenty of room for a bevy of angels to be descending from the heavens to the rescue.

The proof of concepts looked promising enough, although I wouldn't blame a potential investor for being rather skeptical at this point about the actual execution, based upon these "blueprints". =P

I'm fairly pleased with the final product. I do feel that some of the wielder's arm is lost in the dark of the bottom of the image, so I might add some more fire around it to make it "pop" out a bit more. The fires themselves look damnably hot, which is always good. I originally envisioned the white sun being in the sky above, but it just looked very weird, a white sun casting so much orangish light-- actually, it just kept looking like the damn Moon or something (which, I suppose, it is, on Mirrodin).

Anyway, I still am drawing a blank on potential Feast & Famine ideas, so if anyone has suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Watch Your Step

I took a commission for two pairs of Mental Missteps on Sunday, which gave me a perfect excuse to do my first fully-altered playset.

I decided to experiment with an "assembly line" approach, since it seemed like the most efficient method.

Success! I was surprised how well each individual card turned out. Split them up into singles and I doubt anyone would be able to tell they weren't painted individually, one at a time.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Hammer time. :)

To Err is Human; To Alter, Divine

Knocked this out yesterday while burning time at the Chester, VA Super-Invitational:

I also did a really impressive Mental Misstep, but scatter-brained me forgot to snap a photo before a zealous observer purchased it on the spot!

A friend's Koth is next on the movie. Feed me, feed me, feed me...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Take a Gamble

You know what I really want?

A Tezzeret's Gambit with Gambit from X-Men in place of Mr. Tidehollow.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Punched this out real fast before work. Its "deceivingly" bad, as I really screwed the pooch on the color blending. I'd like to claim its because I was in a hurry, but really I just learned some important lessons that I can hopefully apply to the remainder of the playset.

On a related note, anyone wanna donate me some Deceiver Exarch's for a good cause? =P

Mystical Teachings

You thought you'd heard the last of me, huh?!

Anyway, punched out a new Stoneforge Mystic because I felt "the itch".

I'm going to be spending the next few days doing a lot of "traditional" extended art alters on popular commons and uncommons in preparation for the Chester, VA Star City Games Super-Invitational (link here!). If you're a fan, drop by Time Capsule's vendor booth and see if you can scoop up one of my works and support a starving artist. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

You've Sprung A Leak!

Or at least, your spell has. Incidentally, this was my very first alter (and it shows).

"Your attack has been rendered harmless. It is, however, quite pretty."

A Farewell to Black Borders

WTS Revised/3rd edition white-bordered Stoneforge Mystic, NM condition. Any takers?

No? Okay, how about one with an extended frame?

Mind Over Body

So the colossal disaster that was my first Stoneforge Mystic's background made me realize I need a lot more practice on backgrounds. So here's a Sword of Body and Mind where my goal was to alter not the focus of the original artwork (the weapon), but rather, the background.

It still needs a bit of touch-up around the hilt and handle, but I doubt I'll come back to this one unless someone offers to buy it or I get really, really bored (hey, I told you all I'm pretty flaky when it comes to this stuff).

On a related note, I'd really like to do up a Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of War and Peace like this, and I currently have a few ideas swimming around in my skull. However, I'm always open to suggestions, so if you think you've got a good idea, comment below!

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Beleren."

The first step I take is taping down the card and erasing every part I'm not interested in keeping. This is accomplished using a white-stock Magic Rub hand eraser (I've never used pink ones, but I imagine there is considerable risk of staining). The card is taped down in a manner which protects the areas I don't wish to accidentally erase (in most cases, the name box and text box):

With enough dedication (and a slight risk of Carpal Tunnel), the entire card can be erased with this tedious (but ultimately rewarding) technique. This makes applying paint layers later-- particularly light colors-- much easier, and lessens the chance that you'll have to 'cake' on paint to hide the original image.

Now its time to draw our image (in this case, the Stoneforge). When dealing with expensive cards (this one, for example, went for $25 at the time of creation), I prefer to practice a few times so I properly centered when the pencil touches the card proper.

Sometimes, I even make a practice run on a dummy card.

Oh, no, not Seize the Initiative! It only had two days till retirement!

Eventually, I reach a point where I am confident enough to lay out the art on the actual card.

Perfect! Well, close enough, at least. Anyway, now its time to start painting. This is where those practice sketches can come in handy, as they allow me to test run tones, shading, and generally how I want the finished work to turn out.

Background comes afterwards.

And then, finally, a little ink to make the image "pop" a bit more.

And voila, there you have it!

The Stone Nuts

Maybe it's just me, but I totally love the gal on Stoneforge Mystic. I also love drawing action pieces, swords, and women. So doing altered "close-ups" of Standard's leading lady seemed like a match made in Heaven.

The first thing I learned when I began my formal art education was to plan ahead. The last thing you want to do is get elbow(finger?)-deep in a piece and realize something's off with the anatomy, design, or composition. Here are some of the many concept sketches I came up with while brainstorming:

I ended up going with the pose in the upper left corner of the last page shown. Up next after the break: How to forge a Mystic using a pen and paintbrush.