Oct 312011

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’…

Crushing Doom.

Brr. Still makes me wince.

This next one might as well just have the unofficial title of “Ouch!”

Burning Doom.

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.

Oct 272011

… to the second year of the blog – which is finally underway, hey, it was a big deadline! – and to doors which, well you know how it goes; one closes and another one opens.

Or, should you prefer, there’s this toast…

Orcish Settlers.

Orcish Settlers (from 1997’s Weatherlight) was one of those brain-fart ideas for a picture.

Back in ’96 I was leading the team in charge of card-naming and flavortext and I was solely responsible for all the cards’ art descriptions. When this card lost its working title and became ‘Orcish Settlers’ this image jumped fully realized into my brain and I asked if I could be assigned the piece.

Obviously, it’s the goblinoid version of American Gothic by Grant Wood. The orcs’ clothing mirror the original’s and were significantly pushing the envelope on how anachronistic the piece could be within the world of Magic the Gathering. The house was a bigger problem as it would tear that same envelope into confetti.

So, I burnt the house down. And it gave a nice fiery background for a red mana card which was an added bonus. And the card’s power ended up destroying lands, so double bonus!

That just left me with explaining why the house was ablaze. One burnt piece of toast and a guilty look later and I had my punchline.

Still amazed I got away with it, though.

Oct 072011

Presuming the internet hasn’t crashed under the weight of people trying to order the new iPhone, I thought I’d just mention this blog turns one year old today.


Nope, no idea where the time went. Admittedly, 2011 has been a hellish year for us and many of our friends. Hopefully 2012 will treat everyone better (well, except the bankers) and hopefully we manage to get to 2013 without the world going and doing something stupid, like ending.

Looking back on the blog;

Well, the website didn’t get much done to it. Unsurprisingly, the blog effectively is the website and may be for some time to come. I should probably get a redirect set up.

I never got a chance to work on that Baron Sengir repaint. It kind of fell at the first hurdle as it was meant to just be an overpaint of an unused calendar piece but it didn’t take long to see the compositional problems in the image. That left me with only one option which was to start a completely new image. Hopefully I’ll get to try that soon but paying work still has to get first priority.

Speaking of which, I’ve managed to dig up enough time to clear through 90% of my card signing backlog. Hopefully everything will mail out this weekend.

I’m still thinking about doing a limited edition painting via Kickstarter. Finding time to actually do a cost-analysis on it is proving to be the major hurdle currently.

I finally completed the pdf list of all my Magic art that’s for sale. You can find my contact info on the right sidebar if you’d like a copy.

Looking ahead;

There’s a couple of Warcraft pieces to share. I eventually need to complete the big Yawgmoth Demon WIP multi-part article. I also have an armload of other goblin images most of you have probably never seen.

But until then… Booyah! Skirk Marauder sketch!

Skirk Marauder Sketch

The Skirk Marauder is still one of my favorite goblin paintings due to the sheer malicious glee and hint of sadism in his eye!

And with that, on to year two…

3D Goblin – Stage 3

 Sketch  Comments Off on 3D Goblin – Stage 3
Oct 052011

I had to put the goblin sculpture aside a few weeks ago due to a new project making my schedule a little fuller than I’d originally planned. This is how far I got after a grand total of approximately eight hours work…

Goblin Sculpture Stage 3

We’re at stage 3. The significant geometry of the goblin’s head and shoulders has been done. Here’s a laundry list of the changes:

  • The brows got a little more furrowed.The nose got longer and the nostrils deeper. The flared outer parts of the nostrils got tidied up and better integrated with the face.
  • The lips and jaw had the planar brush lightly applied to them. For the lips this had the effect of creating a stronger edge to the lip line, better delineating the change from lips to surrounding flesh. For the jaw, this was a subtler change, removing a little of the curvature in the flesh, unifying the angles and giving the suggestion of bone along the jaw line.This is particularly noticeable in the middle image above.
  • The ears received a few tweaks in front and a significant amount of trimming in the back. At a certain angle (one I commonly use in goblin paintings) the upper rear of the ears had proven to be too chunky. By creating gentle slopes from the top and bottom rear of the ears that thickened toward the center I created the slimmer profile of ears I was used to but with a solid connection to the head that made it believable that the giant ears could be supported on the head rather than tear off under their own weight (ouch)!
  • The skin around the eyes was changed to compliment the alterations around the nostrils and bridge of the nose.
  • The skin of the cheeks that is forced upward due to the goblin’s smile was better blended with the upper lip. The previous version was a little too pronounced making the cheeks feel more like a significant protrusion than just cheeks pushed up and out in a smile.
  • The mouth was hollowed out more in preparation for the addition of teeth, gums and tongue. That’ll be stage four!

Yeah, even though at first glance the changes may appear to be minimal, there’s actually a lot of tweaks going on.

And there’s at least one more detail pass to do before moving on to a texture pass. Just look at this close-up to see that I’m still working on a relatively low resolution sculpt. The polygons are easy to spot.

Goblin Sculpture Close-Up

Finally, here’s a color test I tried out. This is just a proof of concept; a rough pass to see how a colored version might look. The eyes are especially bad at the moment as I’ve yet to learn how to use more than one material in a sculpt. The eyes obviously need to be more reflective as they’re currently quite dead which makes them bloody creepy, but not in a good way!

Goblin Sculpture Color Test

Oct 032011

Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker (from Champions of Kamigawa) was originally assigned to me as ‘Goblin Illusionist’.

The card seemed a little out of the ordinary given that the art description asked for a capable magic-wielding goblin, as opposed to the multitude of goblins that use magic with the surgical precision of a trebuchet and usually end up getting nailed by their own devices.

The art description called for the goblin to summon a powerful illusory creature to fight at his side. Not wanting to overplay my hand, I chose one of the Kamigawa setting’s ogres which looked like real brutes (that’s a compliment) in the style guide, but fell short of being a genuinely big league monster.

Here’s the initial sketch, featuring Kiki leaping into action and commanding his creature to attack some off-screen enemy. The ogre is outlined in flame which was also a request of the art description, presumably as a hallmark of Kiki Jiki’s magic. However, it’s equally likely that someone was just uptight about the idea of red magic creating illusions and this effect was the compromise.

Kiki Jiki, First Sketch

The feedback on the sketch was somewhat unexpected. They liked the goblin (or Akki as they were known in Kamigawa) but wanted the illusory creature to be bigger. Much bigger. Like a dragon. And when pressed, exactly like a dragon actually.

Clearly, this goblin had just received a promotion.

It’s not every day that the desired change to a Magic card amounts to “MOAR DRAGON”. Given the goblin’s unusual arcane prowess I’d already come to suspect that this card was a Rare, but after the requested revision, I was certain of it. Indeed, it might even be a power card. Yes, even if the art director doesn’t fill you in on the rarity, sometimes the way the art description is written or what elements are included can give you a pretty strong guess at the rarity of your card assignment.

Magic can be pretty tight-lipped about rarity these days. Sure, those rarities can change during the set’s development cycle but an initial idea of the rarity actually helps me make design decisions. But more about that in a later article…

Here’s an overlay, with a faint outline of Kiki which I built the dragon around.

Kiki Jiki, Now with Dragon!

This revision proved to be really beneficial for the image. The looped form of the dragon creates a nice sweep that leads your eye from the vicinity of Kiki Jiki’s trailing feet to the tip of the finger of his pointing hand. This helps with that sensation of movement through the piece and just makes the whole composition stronger. The ogre, whose form necessitated him being placed more to the side of Kiki, would have resulted in a much weaker image.

So, here’s the final painting of one of the most famous goblin cards I’ve done. It’s kind of ironic that the Akki were about the least goblin-like rendition of the goblin creature type in the history of Magic.

Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker Final Art

Also, Akki were devilishly difficult to get right as the contours of their head and shoulders were hard to keep track of. They would have benefited from a 3D rendition themselves.

In a way that happened, as Kiki Jiki (plus dragon) was made into a statue that was released around 2005. That makes Kiki one of three of my pieces that have been made into sculptures. The other two were Baron Sengir – an unpainted statue about seven inches high manufactured for the Japanese market around 1995 – and the Demon Token – which was made into an itty-bitty sculpt on top of a life counter.

Still, there’s a certain ‘traditional’ green-skin gobbo digital sculpture that I’m itching to show you more of in the very near future.