Writing about the building of Innistrad is a difficult task. First off, it took place a couple years ago, and my memory has never really been particularly good to begin with and the passage of time really hasn't helped, so I'm finding that there's a lot of sifting necessary to find nuggets worth mentioning. Second, there are aspects of the task that just aren't interesting to write about. There's a real danger of the whole thing devolving into a list in paragraph form of everything I was responsible form — I drew this building, and then I drew this tree, and then I drew this monster, and so forth. That type of thing isn't really interesting to read or write, and so there's a lot of summing up that was done to make it less mind-numbing. While resulting in a tighter narrative, my editing efforts resulted in the omission of some interesting anecdotes due to the fact that they either brought the tale to a screeching halt, or required rather elaborate and eye-rolling segues. Still, I wanted to share some of these things because I thought they added a certain something to the mix. So, despite attempting to avoid a list-like post, I now bring you an actual list.
• The hellhound concept drawings were the very first time I've ever colored something digitally. Sure, to that point I'd done a bunch of digital value studies, but nothing in color. The result of my efforts is quick, dirty and not very polished, but I think it got the point across. I guess the fine folks at Wizards agreed as they didn't ask Daarken to redo it.
• By far my favorite image created during the three weeks came out of an exploration Steve Prescott was doing of treants. For those who just scratched their head and raised an eyebrow, a treant is basically just an ent. You know, those tree guys from Lord of the Rings? Those things. Steve took on the task of trying to create a unique look for them in Innistrad, and came up with a fairly wide variety. The race as a whole was later dropped, but not before Steve did a priceless image which consisted of an upright log that had a pair of sexy, female human legs complete fishnets and high heels sticking out the bottom of it. Obviously it loses something in my description, but it tickled my funnybone and I really hope Steve chooses to share the image on his sketch blog sometime.
• As I believe I've mentioned before, I often watch movies while I work, and my three weeks during the concept push were no exception. The obvious difference being that I wasn't the only member of the audience. Whenever consensus dictated, I'd pop a DVD into the computer and we'd watch something that was in some way pertinent (or not), to the task at hand. Some of the films we watched included but were not limited to: Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Last of the Mohicans (which Steve managed to tarnish for me by pointing out a cloth rock that ripples as Daniel Day Lewis runs past it during the climactic foot chase). While watching these movies, we'd close the door to the room so as to keep from disturbing the rest of the office, and the lack of air circulation that resulted caused the room to heat up to somewhere in the area of a thousand degrees. The sweat was worth the entertainment, though.
• Matt Cavotta was, in fact, the fourth member of the concepting team, though he was trying to do his part remotely from Ohio. Due to his separation, he was completely cut off from the rest of us, and periodically would send sketches in blindly. I attempted several times to get images of our work out to him via email and text message, but none of them ever went through, so I'm sure he felt like he was spinning his wheels. But I think he had other things on his mind, anyway. While working on the world, he was also going through the application and interview process for the staff job he now holds at Wizards. I'm guessing he was more than a little overwhelmed at the time. I know I'd have been.
• One day, Mark Purvis popped his head in to say hello. Mark is a brand manager for Magic and for some reason began talking about Japan as though we'd all been to tournaments there. I believe at the time, only Daarken had, and Steve and I were more than happy to let him know that we hadn't yet been and were absolutely interested. I'm not sure if a direct line can be traced to this chance meeting, our conversation, and my eventual trip to Nagoya (where I'd again meet Mark), but it can't all be a coincidence...can it?
• I consumed a lot of caffeine while working at Wizards. Almost without fail, there was either coffee, tea, or Coke sitting on my desk. I'm not sure why I found it so necessary to keep my caffeine levels so high (maybe it had something to do with the warm room and the late nights painting the Badass: Birth of a Legend cover in my hotel room), but I'd have gotten next to nothing done if it weren't for the constant pick-me-up. Next to the ubiquitous caffeinated beverage was an apple which I took from the front desk of our hotel each morning. These apples were complimentary and I generally took one to supplement the days when my lunch was self-catered (and thus lackluster). The upside, however, was that no matter who provided the lunch, I could always look forward to the free cookies which replaced the apples each evening at the hotel's front desk. Steve, Daarken, and I greedily gorged on these cookies with a great deal of satisfaction after a long day's work, and in preparation of the work that each of us had ahead of us in our respective hotel rooms each night.