Thursday, August 11, 2011


Where do I begin with this?  How do you go about making new art for a card whose illustration has become iconic enough to have a statue made of it?  This is a card that gets a fair amount of play, and is yet another card that I've been asked to re-imagine that hails from an era predating any of my contributions to Magic, and the implementation of my plan to bring it all down from the inside.

But then I've said too much.

Anyway, here's my commission:

color: red legendary goblin
location: not super important. probably Kamigawa mountains.
Action: kiki-jiki is a legendary goblin shaman that can create short lived fire illusions. maybe adorn him a bit more than the ref. more of those leather wrappings like are on his horns. try to make him interesting. you can show him casting a fire illusion or have one in the shot if you want, or just show him looking as cool as you can.

The reference in question was a larger version of the art as depicted here:

©Wizards of the Coast

The fact that the original image was included is a rare occurrence.  Seriously.  Every time in the past that I've been asked to make new art for an existing card, I have not been given the original.  I suspect that the reason for this is that I was being encouraged to not limit myself.  This time, however, it was obvious that this needed to clearly be Kiki-Jiki.  There had to be connective tissue to our friendly, neighborhood goblin shaman.

So, using the image above as a starting point, I began to ponder what to do with him.  Would there be a fire illusion?  Would that illusion also be a dragon?  How would he be posed?  I did a lot of thumbnail drawings on this one, and I kept coming back to a little thumb of Mr. Jiki smack in the center of the image, charging up, surrounded by flames.  I don't know why, but it seemed the obvious way to go for me.  Some might say too obvious.  But, in my defense, I rarely get to paint red Magic cards and this was the first time I really ever got a chance to tackle fire in any substantial way.  I wanted to really go for it and turn it into a bit of an exercise for myself.

Either way, what I'm not going to show you is my miserable attempts at sketching our friend here.  Nor will you be seeing the sketch I handed in.  Trust me, it's for the best.  It's embarrassing beyond belief and would only lower your opinion of me (if that's possible).  Moving on...

After drawing him up and placing him in a box of the appropriate proportions, I decided he needed something else.  Something in the background.  Sure, fire was cool, but it needed to be pushed a bit further.  I went back to the question of the fire illusion.  Then I looked back at the original card.  The solution, once again, became obvious.  The dragon from the original version would be forming in the flames.  His eyes would be most obvious, but his whiskers would be right in there, as well.  In essence, I chose to depict something that takes place just a moment before what is shown in the original art.  I have him creating the illusion, Pete Venters has him ordering that illusion forward.

©Wizards of the Coast

The original is 12" x 9", oil on hardboard.  As instructed, I gave him more wrappings and hopefully managed the "cool" part.  It's impossible to say whether I came close, as one half of the internet will invariably disagree with the other.  And with great venom, I might add.

Here he is in the card frame:

©Wizards of the Coast

As an aside, this is one of those images that just looks terrible under certain monitor settings.  I kinda had to take a shot in the dark with color correcting it because it's just impossible to please the various settings, web browsers, formats, etc.  Hopefully it doesn't look too bad.


  1. Dude! He looks awesome man. I think you've definitely taken him beyond the next level. I was thinking to myself as I was reading this "how would I approach a rehash like this?" and the solutions weren't nearly as excellent. Love his blue eyes and how they tie in with the blue flames from his antennae.

  2. Thanks, Scott. Doing new art for cards can be an exercise in frustration. You might think you've done a good job, but the fans are always there to smack you in the face and let you know just how displeased they are. 'Course it's more important to make the AD happy, which is what I did.

    Glad you noticed the blue tie-in. The eyes were already blue, which was kind of a nice eye-catcher given my palette. The blue flames on the antennae were just as much about having those flames stand out against a background of flames, as it was about referencing the eyes. It seemed a natural fit.


  3. Definitely a good solution, feels like the viewer is about to be his next victim. I also like that you pushed his carapace/shell so it feels like he could just curl up into an unassuming stone.

  4. Having him standing in the flame is a very cool pose, and the dragon behind him is brilliant.

    I actually saw someone buy your version of Kiki Jiki at the local store last week. I was discussing the new art with the staff member and the buyer, I've not come across any negative opinions but I don't doubt you that the internet as well as the general public are a fickle lot.

  5. Kade,

    There are definitely folks out there who don't like this piece over the original, and there are folks who dislike my work in general. I can respect that. Glad you're not one of them, though.

    The flames were really just an attempt to set my own bar higher and to really go all out on something that is meant to be a flame illustionist. In my mind, on such a piece, there should be no limit to the amount of fire depicted. But that's just my take.


  6. I have to say I did not like this art in card form and much preferred the original, but seeing a larger more detailed version of it has completely changed my opinion, this art is fantastic!

    1. Wow! I appreciate that. I wouldn't have held it against you if you'd still preferred the original. It's totally an eye of the beholder kind of thing. Still, it's mighty kind of you to say. Thanks!


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