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!


  1. I almost liked the first image of just the sword with the erased art work a black armored hand holding a flaming sword on a white or neutral background what could be more fitting for the name of the card itself.

  2. yeah, I agree :P I really liked the plain white background, though I wonder if that constitutes as an 'alter' or not.. It sure looks really sweet and draws attention to the sword though.

    Not really an art person myself, but I think the flaming sword on such a barren, plain background evokes the 'war and peace' feel very well.. it feels both really war-ish and peaceful at the same time