Monday, May 11, 2015

Concepting Dragons of Tarkir

A few short weeks after doing the concepting for "Fate Reforged," the team reassembled to take on "Dragons of Tarkir." Returning were Sam Burley, Mark Winters and myself, but this time Mike "Daarken" Lim was also on hand to add his talents. With the extra artist in the mix, we would spend the next three weeks rebuilding the world of Tarkir anew. This time we explored an alternate "present" created when the dragon extinction that resulted in the world seen in "Khans of Tarkir" was prevented, and dragons not only survived but went on to rule the clans. Or something.

Once again, we'd be redesigning the world completely. However, there were a few key differences. Obviously the progression of time was a factor, but so too was man's relationship to dragons. Whereas in "Fate Reforged," dragons and humans were in conflict, by the time "Dragons of Tarkir" takes place, dragons rule the clans and so everything about each culture must reflect that. For example, where once architecture was designed to defend against or elude dragons, now it had to welcome them.

On top of this, there was still a bit of clean up to do on "Fate Reforged." A few things remained to be designed and a few others just needed a bit of spit and polish. In short, there were quite a few boxes to check off, so once again I tried my best to hit the ground running and see what I might come up with.

As with the previous concept push, my first successes were with the Temur clan, which now would be known as Atarka. I honestly don't know what it was about that clan, but they made a lot of sense to me and it was awful nice to have early successes to build on.

One of the early images that came together showing the general themes found in Atarka clothing.
Lots of leather bands into which patches of fur and bunches of grass can be tucked. Most weapons would be created with or contain some elements of obsidian.
Perhaps some folks would further camouflage their silhouettes with packed snow on top of the grass and fur that adorned their armor.

After getting a foothold on the Atarka clan, I went on to do a bit of work on the Silumgar tribe.

I ended up getting to paint a few of these in my second portrait of Silumgar.
A fat executioner. This was criminally fun.

I also did some work on the Ojutai architecture.

The buildings were originally red and white, but that changed after I'd completed it. So I got to complete it again.

Then I took a crack at solidifying the goblin design which was slightly tweaked from previous versions due to an idea tossed out that the continued existence of dragons might have caused temperatures to increase. I don't know if that really became a thing, but the goblins obviously made it in, so...

Atarka goblins. In my head they had darker skin than ended up in the card art. I liked the idea of the dark skin with white fur.
Kolaghan goblins. A bit less furry than in previous iterations. Stupid fun to work on.

I also took a crack at doing some lesser dragons from a couple of different clans.

One of the Atarka brood with an alternate head. Never got to finish this one.
One of the Silumgar brood that actually evolved from an abandoned design of Silumgar himself.

Along the way, I quickly knocked out an image depicting Dromoka's breath weapon.

Of course only a couple months later, I'd see a similar gag used for Smaug in the Hobbit movie. Sigh.

Lastly, I addressed a couple of the big dragons. To begin with, I had to clean up the version of Silumgar that I was unable to complete during the "Fate Reforged" push.

This would later be colorized by Sam Burley and then I went back into it and tweaked it a bit. He contributed a couple of cool ideas that got shot down, which is kind of a bummer. But that's the way these things go sometimes.

Then I did an older version of Atarka.

Another one that Sam Burley ended up colorizing for me.
It was a lot of fun showing her from a different perspective. Such a pretty smile.

Lastly, I took on the younger Silumgar.

This one was all me — even the color.
Another close-up. Too much fun.

Unfortunately, I didn't get through this gig without interruption. I had a low-grade fever off and on for the first couple weeks of the push that eventually brought with it a sore-throat. When my throat began to swell shut, off to the hospital I went. Before I knew it, I was full of steroids and morphine and on my way to recovery, but I lost a couple days along the way (and probably produced a bit less on the more feverish days). Happily, to the surprise of my cohorts, I returned before it was all over and helped bring the push home.

Obviously, I wish I hadn't gotten sick, as I'd like to have contributed even more. But such is life. As it stands, I'm pretty happy with what I did contribute and Wizards seemed pretty content, as well. Either way, it will never cease to amaze me where other artists take these starting points when they go to make the actual card art. I'm always blown away by how my fellow artists bring the concepts to life, and I doubt that wonder will ever go away.

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