Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Here's the opening line where I apologize for being out of touch lately. This second sentence, of course, is where I make a case for my absence with a bunch reasons listed mostly to do with life getting in the way followed by one more reason that has to do with work that I cannot talk about.

Cryptic, right? I know.

Lastly, I sum up with the promise of posting more often in the future before getting on with the intended post. Here goes.

Believe it or not, there's a lot of art to talk about. Some good, some less so. Some recent, some about a year old. Due to relevance, today I'll be talking about the most recent artwork, with subsequent posts discussing the rest in what is likely to be reverse chronological order. Again, due to relevance. But before I get ahead of myself, let's get today's post going.

The piece I'm going to be discussing today is the artwork I did for the Magic card, "Wasteland." Unlike pretty much every other painting I've ever done for Magic, however, this was not artwork done for a mass produced card. No, this painting was done for a single, unique card. A single, unique card that also happens to be quite large. Probably in the neighborhood of two feet wide, in fact. Why so big? Well, it's a prize for a tournament. Specifically, a prize for 2013 Legacy championship being held on Saturday, November 2nd in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For the purposes of this post, I'm not going to try and define any of the Magic-specific terms. It would be folly to bother, really, given that I'd have to look most of them up to begin with. Suffice it to say that there's a tournament of Magic players this coming weekend and that the winner of said tournament gets a trophy. The trophy is the aforementioned large Magic card framed. Instead of printed art, however, there is an original painting instead. My original painting. My original painting of "Wasteland."

Earlier I stated that this was the most recent piece I'd be discussing over the the coming weeks. How recent? Well, it was commissioned shortly after we decided to move from New Jersey to Seattle and I did the sketches while I was in temp housing in July. The painting was done in August and was one of the first two paintings I started and completed in our house after moving in. So, in terms of Magic work that is usually kept under wraps for somewhere around ten months to a year, it's kind of noteworthy that I get to talk about the thing only a couple months after handing it in.

The beginning of this piece was a little weird, really. Knowing that I'd be moving, sometime in  early June I sent Magic's art director an email explaining my timeline and letting him know that my availability would be spotty. The only work I could take would be stuff with pretty loose deadlines, which meant that I expected to not get any commissions. Shortly after, however, he actually called me up (something that never happens) and asked me whether I'd want to do this prize painting. He said that it wouldn't be due until September, and that it needed to be a gray, barren landscape possibly containing crumbling architecture evoking Ravnica (a plane in Magic that is one, giant city). Given that the timeline was so far down the road, I said yes and then turned my attention to the move.

A couple weeks into our time in Seattle's temporary housing, I finally managed to get things settled enough to put together a couple quick sketches. They were done as thumbnails in pencil in my sketchbook and I realized all too late that I didn't have any means of scanning them. So, I took a cell phone photo of both sketches, cleaned them up as best I could in Photoshop and sent them to Wizards.

©Wizards of the Coast
©Wizards of the Coast

As you can see, both sketches are little more than scribbles, but I think they're weirdly clear in what I was going for. The good folks at Wizards agreed and they liked both sketches. The decision of which to actually paint was left up to me with one caveat. If I chose the second (bottom) sketch, I was asked to decrease the elevation of the hills and architecture and flatten the landscape to a degree as it was felt that the verticality didn't quite say "wasteland." I completely understood what they meant, but it didn't matter as I favored the first sketch anyway.

Once my new studio was set up in our new home, I immediately began work on this piece. Progress was swift and before long, I had a completed painting. Here's what it looks like:

©Wizards of the Coast

The painting measures 18" x 13" and is oil on paper on masonite.

Like I said, this piece went quickly. This speed was due mostly to the lack of color. It's essentially a value painting with subtle warm and cool variations. There's a lot of browns and violets in there, some blues and pinks, but the piece isn't really about the color.

At the end of the day, this is a piece that I ended up liking quite a bit. In fact, I'd like to have held onto it a while, honestly. But, it was a piece created with a specific purpose: to be won. This coming weekend, someone will earn the right to take it home and hang it on their wall. I hope they like it as much as I do.