Seriously, Never Enough Goblins

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Mar 072014

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

#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?!

#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 –


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!


Yeah, could be lots of fun.

Nov 182011

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 –

iPhone Case Designs

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.

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

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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.


Sep 062011

While 99% of the stuff I’m working on at the moment is either not ‘ready for primetime’ or secreted away under an NDA, I continue to dink around with ZBrush, trying to add 3D modelling to my skill set.

You might ask “Why”? Well, having a broader skill base never hurts. Also, sculpting is fascinating to me as I’ve limited myself to 2D works up until now.

And that’s the primary reason for tackling a goblin head; I’ve drawn goblins in Magic for 15 or more years and while I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on how a Venters-style goblin looks (presumably better than anyone else!), it’s fascinating to test the nebulous 3D object I hold in my mind against the hard reality of a 3D sculpture.

It’s been especially interesting seeing how the over-sized nostrils interact with the giant nose and the minimal upper lip. And the ears continue to be a warzone of polygon brutalization to achieve some of the shapes found in the soft tissue.

Goblin Sculpture Stage 2

Anyway, this is not quite the goblin head you saw last time. I encountered some issues that couldn’t be fixed without generating bad polygon distortion so I took it back to the initial Zsphere sculpt and rebuilt. At this point, the sculpture is significantly more developed than the last one you saw, with more shaping and detail. Also, eyes and eyelids have been added and the mouth has been opened a little further to allow for an upcoming display of some damn-ugly teeth.

Prepare your scrolling finger… NOW!

Goblin Sculpture Stage 2

Oh, the other reason for all of this… ZBrush is a blast.

Aug 232011

I’m still grabbing time to try out Zbrush when I can – which isn’t much – and Eric Keller’s book continues to prove to be invaluable for navigating my way through the complex interface.

Well, I just got to try out ZSpheres and ZSketch and the appropriate tutorial is about creating a new dragon and I thought, “Hey, I like a dragon as much as the next artist but I think I want to try something else.” And of course, being me, that ‘something else’ had to be a goblin.

This is about 90 minutes work, so very early stages and a lot of screwing around trying to work out what certain things did. Consider this stage one and hopefully I get to show you a stage two and three later on…

Goblin Sculpture Stage 1

Jul 272011

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.

Goblin Fireslinger Final Art

Here’s the art description –

Goblin Slinger
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 –

Goblin Fireslinger 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.

Baby Blues

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!

Things That Make You Go BOOM

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Jul 042011

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.