Just recently revealed last week is the full set of images for the new Magic: The Gathering set: "Dragons of Tarkir".
My contribution was for a white card called "Enduring Victory".
The difficult aspect of this image was showing the dragon and hero in their respective scales to each other, while having each obvious enough to be seen at the tiny card-game image size. I initially explored some thumbnail roughs to try and describe the action in a number of ways:
After settling on what I thought were the 3 best directions, I added some basic tonal values to them and tried to visualize what worked best at card size:
I chose this direction as it felt the most direct. The "victory" aspect is the most obvious as well, with the battle being pretty much decided at this point, with a clear winner. I also liked how the spikes on the dragon's head acted as nice pointing devices circling around the hero.
The final painting is 16X20", oils on panel. Original currently not for sale.
This past weekend, Blizzard announced the new Hearthstone expansion: Blackrock Mountain! The first boss that you'll be able to battle will be Coren Direbrew. Can't wait to hear the voice they gave him in the game.
There is a trend and dialogue among a section of my art community that believes in and supports personal work above client-commissioned work. I have stated my current lack of interest in personal work in dialogue with certain people but I feel I have been misunderstood, so I would like to clarify my thoughts on the place personal work can and likely will have in all of our art careers.
The nuance I want to clarify is that I actually think artists producing personal work is inevitable. This inevitability will manifest itself in a number of ways, including the discovery of personal themes, stories and influences that you will eventually feel the need to put on paper. Also, there is an inevitability of being passed by fast-moving trends in the commercial world and needing a new (personal, self-initiated) forum to continue your craft and vision. The internet is full of 25 year-old artists producing a dazzling volume of spectacular and innovative art on a daily basis. A survey of older artists will likely show a slower pace to the creation of more simple or subtle content. I have always been aware of a natural cycle in the life of the artist: You can commonly see if you survey the works of old painters how the paintings of their energetic youth are full of detail and "perfection", while later works get looser and more self-assured. The older artist has less to prove to others and more to satisfy for themselves. The rewards of fame and public adulation are less important than enjoying satisfying work and the experience creating it.
The reason that I am currently most committed to client work is that I think there are the most demands, deadlines, standards and learning opportunities. This is not to say that you can't challenge yourself with your own projects, but there is a danger that you may fall into a trap of doing what comes easily, naturally or comfortably. Your limitations may soon find excuse to be called a "series", and you may end up producing hobbyist art for a niche.
I have worked with some great art directors who act as teachers. Exposure to other voices and critique is essential for learning. There is a danger that a non-fully-formed artist, embarking on their personal vision will self-excuse aspects of their art "because it's their vision".
I wish that those who value personal work above client work would evaluate the art on its merits alone. Some abstract or personal "vision" may be a complex expression of some eternal truth... or it might just be lazy work without enough comparable cues, making it difficult to evaluate and criticize for lack of criteria.
Another cause of growth is the production of a continuous volume of work. Client work and dealing with a prepared assignment and parameters allows you to constantly start and finish new work, taking away the stunting effects of indecision.
To reiterate the point of personal work being inevitable, I can see tolerance and energy for client work will likely dwindle as low pay-rates, the dearth of desirable assignments and tiring demands make one's self-directed art more alluring. The issue is not whether to concentrate on personal or client work, the issue is when. There is a necessary gauntlet of assignments, experiences and challenges that will build your skills for future use; so that your inevitable personal art will have more substance and less limitations. With these things in place, your personal art voice will actually be stronger, and you will have the skills and depth of knowledge to be fully satisfied with your work.
My post here is not to dissuade anyone from working on personal projects, its more to highlight the arc our careers may take and to maximize the benefits of each stage. A young artist needs to challenge themselves to the highest technical degree possible and maximize the part of their life that has the most energy and tolerance for growth-inducing painful labour. Client work can be great for fulfilling that role.
Here is my latest oil painted Magic card art for the new set. "Temur Sabretooth", 12X16" oil on panel.
As with all my work, the process is as follows:
Rub charcoal on the back of a printout/drawing and trace down to a panel. Go over the lines with raw umber paint to make sure they don't get wiped off and can be seen thru the next stages.
Establish some basic color washes in acrylic so that my one-layer painting has solidity to the surface, with no white poking thru. Also allows me to paint part-by-part, knowing that each area will fit into the whole color structure.
Render the background somewhat to establish the area around the focal point. Working back to front.
Final photo of the artwork taken with proper camera setup and color adjusted to match the original.
Just out is the new expansion for the World of Warcraft online card game "Hearthstone".
I did the card below, oil on panel, 11X14"
I also found a frame to match the oval format that the cards are played in the game.
This might seem like a minor work but the game has 20 million players and there are only a handful of artists doing original paintings for the game. One of my goals is to work on projects that have a large fanbase and demand, so this fits the bill, plus it was fun to paint.