Thursday, July 14, 2011

Revisiting Reprints: Forest

Given that Magic 2012 has been spoiled, I wanted to take the time to look back at some of the pieces I've done in the past that have been reprinted in this most recent core set.  All of these cards have been included in at least one set previously and all of them precede this blog by at least a year.

Today, I'm going to take a look at the only basic land image I've ever done, Forest.  For the uninitiated, let me try to explain the whole "basic land" concept.  In the game of Magic, there are five colors (Red, White, Green, Blue and Black (and yes, I know that black is not a color)), each of which derive their power from the land specific to that color.  So, Black magic gains power from swamps.  Red magic gets its power from mountains.  Blue from islands.  White from plains.  And Green from forests.

With me so far?

So, since power is derived from land, there are cards in the game that simply have pictures of these various land types.  The only one of these I've ever painted is a forest.

I think that covers things.

Anyway, of all the Magic paintings I've ever done, this was one of the fastest to ever come together for me.  It was assigned alongside two other paintings that I will talk about in the coming days, Deathmark and Stampeding Rhino, and the whole job really seemed to click for me.

Let's look at some art, shall we?  First the sketch:

©Wizards of the Coast

This is one of the most straightforward sketches I've ever done.  Simple graphite of a piece of typing paper.  It's 11x8.5 inches, and went on to become this:

©Wizards of the Coast

The image measures 11" x 8" on a piece of illustration board that is 13" x 9", it's done in oils and was painted in 2008.  It debuted in Magic 2010 (which premiered in 2009), and has since been reprinted in Magic 2011, Magic 2012, the Commander set, as well as the Duel Decks: Garruk vs. Liliana set.

Over the 27 years or so that Magic has been around, there have been a lot of forests painted.  Some have been highly stylized, others quite realistic.  Some have chosen to do helicopter shots of vast forested expanses, while others have gone the route I did by putting the viewer amidst the trees as though they were actually right there.

The key to me for this piece was mood.  I wanted it to be a straightforward forest that people the world over can identify with, but at the same time I wanted it to be a little brooding, and a little fay.  To me, a forest in the game of Magic needed to feel... well, magical.  Whether or not I achieved that is, of course, debatable, but I think I did manage to make the forest feel pretty special.

In regards to this piece I have often been asked where I got my inspiration.  Was there an actual forest I was looking at?  A specific photograph?  The answer is simple.  I was looking at a lot of photographs, and drawing (no pun intended) from my memories of forests I'd been in throughout my life.  I took into account my memories of the forested patches of my Grandmother's farm (where, as a boy I saw a wild rabbit for the first time as it scurried away from me after I'd startled it), the Gettysburg battlefield (a place that I have visited several times and a location I steal from all the time), the forest around Lake George in northern New York state (where my wife and I have spent time together), the forested sections of Neshaminy State Park (where my Father and I used to walk until our feet were sore), the Ramble in New York's Central Park (the only place in Manhattan that you can forget you're in Manhattan), and the list goes on.  Suffice it to say that I tried to conjure the feel of all those places and cram that feeling into a painting.

Oddly, this is the most personal painting I've done for Magic, and I guess it's no coincidence that it's a painting of something that has a real-life counterpart.  To be honest, I don't really identify with tall blue guys with four arms delivering inspiring speeches or decrepit metallic creatures standing about ominously.  I have to fake identifying with those things as an actor must fake being a lawyer or a doctor.  Sure, you can identify with the mood or any thematic elements, but the literal characters involved aren't necessarily ones in whose shoes I can easily imagine myself.  Forest, on the other hand, is something I can absolutely identify with and has thus far been the easiest piece to inject a little bit of myself into without having to manipulate or dilute it first.


  1. That really is a gorgeous image. And I echo what you said about the ramble. It's a lil wonderland in of nature in an urban waste. Great post!

  2. Thanks, man. The Ramble was easily my favorite part of the city as a whole. Kind of like how it's said that the view from the Eiffel Tower is the best view of Paris because it's the only place you can see all of Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Or something.



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