Friday, September 17, 2010

The Grand Architect

So, here's a new piece from the upcoming Magic: The Gathering set, Scars of Mirrodin.  It's title is "Grand Architect" and depicts a vedalken guy giving some sort of speech or another.  Speeches, as far as I'm concerned, are difficult to depict.  They tend to be dull and not very engaging.  But, I took a stab at it, and tried to make it interesting.

So here's our blue, four-armed vedalken guy,  giving his speech:

©Wizards of the Coast

Pretty straightforward stuff, if you ask me.  I tried an alternate version where the guy was seen from head on, which created a bilaterally symmetrical piece but was pretty bored with the results (I looked but couldn't find that version).  So, I went with the 3/4 view so as to get some of the crowd on the far side and deepen the space.  Bob Ross always told his audience that it's our world and we can do anything we want with it.  So, in my version of things, it's theater in the round or some such.

When I handed the sketch in the only criticisms were that the figure might not read so well when shrunken to card size.  I was asked to crop in a little for clarity's sake.  Not a problem.

So I do the painting and this is how it comes out:

©Wizards of the Coast

Again, pretty straightforward.  Oh yeah, I guess it's a good time to point out the Mirrodin is a world entirely made of metal.  So, that's why all the metal.  The roof of this hall I imagined to be sort of liquid and rippling.  I also thought they needed exit lights over all the doors.  You know, in case all that metal caught fire and they needed to get out quick.  Oh, and if you look closely, there are even dust particles catching the light (though I'm not sure how much dust there'd be in a world completely comprised of metal).

Anyway, they approved it, slapped it into a card frame, and it'll be available soon.  This is what it looks like:

©Wizards of the Coast
Pretty simple.  So we're done, right?  Well, not exactly.  See, they asked me to crop in and I wasn't in love with the tighter version of things.  I liked a little more breathing room.  So, I painted the entire sketch and cropped in digitally.  I also employed some photoshop wizardry to bring the heads in the foreground up higher in the frame.  This is the full piece as painted:

©Wizards of the Coast
The weird thing is that I'm not really sure I like the full version anymore.  The cropped version makes the piece more about the speaker.  He feels a little lost in the full version.  While there are cool tidbits in the full version that didn't make the other (like the reflections of the crowd in his podium), it ends up feeling colder, and less intimate.  Don't get me wrong, I have problems with the cropped version, as well.  But I think it's possible that the right way to go would have been somewhere between the two.

I guess I'll take that into account the next time I have to paint a speech.


  1. Just a note, for those of you who even read these things:

    This is only the second piece ever on which I've done substantial digital work. There's no actual digital painting being done, but rather the cutting out and rearranging of different aspects of the piece.

    The first piece, though published, will likely never appear on this blog or anywhere else I have control over.

  2. Damn, man. This turned out great. I think this is very engaging, I love the use of light. Beautiful piece, as expected from you, sir. haha

  3. Is there any high resolution version of this piece available?

  4. No. I don't share high-res files. Especially for those pieces whose copyright I don't even own. And definitely not to anyone who would remain anonymous.

    For more information, I invite you to read this:


I welcome all comments, questions, and discussion so long as you keep it civil.