Friday, October 13, 2017
MTGinktober bustles into Day 13, "Teeming," starring Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen and an algen-load of elves in deep shadow! This coincidentally makes our second Johannes Voss-themed piece this year--I've been consciously trying not to default to casting all his stars, but his stuff is just that great!
Indeed, "Teeming" was a really tricky theme. I even had to look up the word to see if I could conjure some inspiration from the formal definition. I didn't want to do something with insects, and again, trying to think outside of the box a little, I began thinking of a slightly more poetic sense of the word. So, my thoughts turned to a forest teeming with something...not bugs, but what about like creepy crawly vines and writhing leaves? Is there a nature-mage who might be good for that? Nissa! But I already drew her last year...could we just repeat character? Nissa seemed like a great choice.
Well, regardless I had a vision of a "power" shot of a nature-themed character commanding the surrounding natural elements so that those things were felt overwhelming to camera. At some point, this image synced up with the Vossfather's depiction of Dwynen, which I (re?)discovered actually had a promo version by Steven Belledin, too (the SB version was great for a clearer view of the bow, crown, and outfit, whereas the JV version was my emotional inspiration), which took me to the concept of a forest teeming with creepy elves watching everything below.
As daunting as the impending crowd scene might feel for having to give them both attitudinal power yet non-foreground-upstaging restraint, most pressing on my mind was that I couldn't wait to draw that sheer arrogance and disgust on Dwynen's face. Tinfoilingly, Wizards of the Coast just had to give the arch-xenophobic character commission to the German guy, huh? Jokes, people, jokes! Gosh!
Fun Facts: To save time, I lamentably had to pull punches and just silhouette the background elves a bit clunkily. Ideally, I would have liked give at least the closer ones visible detail, with the further back ones shrouded completely. I settled for having their eyes pop with negative space.
One of my favorite parts of a drawing is handling the hands, and I started this piece with a radically different hand gesture. I originally had Dwynen arrogantly twirling the arrow, but that didn't seem to be working with the space I had on the right, so I decided to just have her holding it in an intimidating fashion--so in the same way a tough-guy swordsman might put his weapon to his throat to spook his prey, I wanted to try something similar, with her pressing the arrowhead to her own throat, which would call for a different gesture. So just in case I wanted to go back, I save-stated with a photo of my original hand gesture, snapped another reference of me holding a pencil-like brush thing I use to dust away eraser crud, and redrew the hand.
This original hand pose photo (see the last image of today's post) is also an excellent peek into where these drawings all start--you noodle around with a rough pose, toss in a general idea of a background, and then you go in and lay on the details--I don't jump straight to what you see in the final. This is something I didn't realize when I was starting out, and this Inktober has especially taught me the importance of following the process so you don't panic or lose too much time on dead-end details. I find the hardest part of a drawing is getting the pose and gestures down, but after that, adding details--plastering on the character's distinctive features and costuming--are kinda the easy/enjoyable part (sometimes getting the perspective of special costumes gets frustrating of course, but that's not usually the bulk of the difficulty of an drawing). So that photo represents the first phase being completed (minus the reworked hand), wherein I sigh in relief because it means we've got everything generally down, and it's now time to give the piece its personality--the detail work.
Easter Eggs: As is tradition for all Johannes Voss fan art, we include the "German B" swooshy ß thing in the piece--once on Dwynen's satchel and once in the viney trim on her left arm. There's also a Ghibli kodama, a reference to the Algen's love of teh animu. I don't know if it'd be better to have a mix of elves and kodama populating the background or just the one Waldo-ish kodama just hanging out.
Anyway, this was a real joy to do, I hope I didn't mess up too much on this homage to one of the best pieces from Origins and an instant Algenclassic, that of a curiously bulky 3/4?! elf with a bizarrely wacky name, which, I should note, they screwed up in Japanese...
MTGinktober crashes into Day 12, "Shattered," starring Feldon of the Third Path and Loran! There are two spellings of Feldon's wife's name, but I'll use that of her namesake, official story, "Loran's Smile."
This was a neat change of pace. I wanted to do something more symbolic, in my unending quest not to do the level-one, or more "immediate," card/concept. I already did a beat-up artifact for last year's "Broken," so for this somewhat similar prompt (a trait I've noticed creeping up into this year's prompts), I went with a more metaphorical approach.
Magic is infamous for trying to imbue its cards with story, and Feldon's card is one of the only cards to evoke an actual emotional response from me when I first saw it previewed. Even without knowing the full story, the card itself was enough to communicate or at least inspire a compelling story.
Oddly, the first and only other card that I felt actually choked-up-emotional about was Darksteel Relic. Peculiar that the most emotional cards are artifact themed. That card got me because of how minuscule it is--the last remnant Mirrans have is this tiny, basically meaningless, useless yet permanent shard of their former great existence. There's pride in its permanence, but it's such a feeble representation of what they once had, and ultimately it says more about the utter domination they fell to.
Fun Facts: Since I wanted this piece to feel extra glassy, I decided to make Loran feel like a stained glass construction that was ironically warmer than the human the art is actually about. Continuing the irony, the human would be the thing that was fracturing apart. To give Loran a more artistic, non-human quality, I went with a Leyendecker/Mucha "art nouveau" style, with heavy emphasis on outline. A special quirk for this piece, I drew Feldon in full, snapped a reference photo, and then went over it with the shards, inspired by the Etherington Bros.' fantastic glass-break guide. Also, since I need 31 pages of good paper this month, I'm burning through some old sketchbooks I've had laying around (one's already done!), so not all the pages of this current skethcbook are pristine--there was this inkblot on the page, so I devised the designy treatment to cover up for it!
You might notice in the photos, some water damage has tinged the bottom of most pages yellow, and there's also some intense warping to the paper that makes even scans not so great, since portions of the page recede from the scanner's surface. I try to limit the digital post production strictly just to boosting the brightness and levels and clearing away the permagunk that gathers along the edges of my traditional pages, as well as stubborn pencil/eraser scars, but I do make an exception to try to patch up the places where paper warping messed up the image capture, such as reconstructing Loran's face a bit.
Easter Eggs: Loran's holding the Golgothian Sylex that brought upon the Ice Age, Feldon's holding Feldon's Cane, and they are standing in front of the Ice Age expansion symbol since their relationship is so tightly involved in that looming development. Not sure if it's quite an "Easter Egg," but I made sure to put on a smile on that face. For Loran's outfit, I used the visual language of one of my favorite parts of Feldon's art--the semi-circular window framing.
MTGinktober jogs to Day 11, "Run," starring Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Azami, Lady of Scrolls doing a little cross-country training in the forest!
The scenarios I was considering were either an election debate or rally speech style piece of some creature "running" against another or a jocky/athletic creature coaching a nerdy/out of shape creature in a cross-country running sort of situation. I almost went with Mirri training Opal-Eye, and still wonder if that would have sold the gag better. It was fun and exhausting getting Azami's facial expression down because I involuntarily make the same expression that I'm drawing, so I physically also got into that "winded" emotional space.
I chose Azusa for the athletic role since she's a green creature and out and about in the forest, and Azami for the out-of-shape role, since I figure she'd be more into sitting and reading than working out. So it felt reasonable that Azusa might have concern for Azami's health and invite her for a little weekend jog, and then Azami gets more challenge than she bargained for and regularly has to remind Azusa she's can't really keep up with her coach. Azusa is entirely optimistic and supportive during the session, she just honestly forgets it's hard for others to keep up with her normal pace (even though she does think she's taking it a little easier on Azami...)
Fun Facts: The tough decision point after casting this piece was the costuming. I didn't think using their actual costumes would work, or be as funny, so I decided to dress Azusa more naturally athletic, and Azami in a more preppy, ironically unprepared style, meanwhile still maintaining their classic hairstyles and hair ornaments. I tried to make Azami look slightly out of fashion, with those long '80s-style socks and a collared, private-school-style gym uniform, as if she can only muster workout clothes from when it was mandatory in her school days. Meanwhile Azusa has a track jacket and modern, sporty duds. I probably should have kept the sweatbands just to Azami, since that seems like the nerdier thing to do.
Easter Eggs: Azusa's green mana symbol is styled like the Addidas logo, but I had to admit defeat in not being able to come up with a corresponding word to go under it to completely sell the spoof. They are running in a Champions of Kamigawa-era Rob Alexander Forest. I inked the background primarily with my fudepen, which gave it a nice, washed-out, and overall softer feel to contrast the sharpness of the figures, though the paper is warped, hence some blurring in the scan where the paper just curls a bit from the scanner surface.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
MTGinktober towers forth to Day 10, "Gigantic," starring Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and William "Huey" Jensen, and guest starring the squirrel from the Urza's Legacy version of Might of Oaks!
Rather than draw some literally yuge creature from Magic's history, I wanted just to do a regular old portrait of William Jensen since he's famously quite tall and just recently with his Worlds 2017 win, he's also now considered definitively one of the top 5 greatest players of all time. His interviews in Enter the Battlefield have also always been quite interesting to me, so this felt like a great spot for a picture of him. But then again a plain portrait started feeling a little uninspired.
Thinking back to BFM's classic use of gigantic creatures as trinkets to show scale, I decided to do something similar. So I used the biggest raw creature, the 15/15 Emrakul, as a pocketpal. I considered something involving Sphinx's Revelation from his signature Blue-White take-forever-but-inevitably-win deck from the Return to Ravnica days, but that didn't feel like it communicated scale quite as well rather than the Emrakul/Squirrel route. For added yumor, I added the Might of Oaks reference in the background to show how even that giant thing gets dwarfed. This was also a bit of a one-up on the last subject I used Might of Oaks with, but that's another story!
Fun Facts: I seem to draw something Peach Garden Oath-related every Inktober. 2015 was Owen T and 2016 was the mini-portraits of the PGO.
Easter Eggs: Just behind the Might of Oaks reference is a reference to John Avon's "Green Mountain" from Mirage.
I was nervous making this drawing not only because portraits are always tough--and particularly challenging for this portrait was that he's much more in shape in recent years, but my reference photos were mainly from when he looked a bit different, so it was a challenging back-and-forth between outdated and updated features--but also because MTGinktober gets more eyeballs than I normally get, so rather than just drawing for whomever happens to be passing by, it feels like I am putting on a high-wire show for (specifically) Magic fans, with no safety net. And I'm pretty sure this one's a splat.
MTGinktober pontificates on about Day 9, "Screech," starring Thrull Parasite, Orzhov Pontiff, and Shrieking Grotesque (one of my all-time favorite Limited cards)!
This felt like a perfect spot for our old "Noisy" art from last year, but in light of that, I challenged myself to try to go as different from that as I could. So rather than an intense, dare I say overloaded image, I went with a restrained, close-up portrait of a guy who uses his amplified voice for bad purposes (presumably) and two familiars who are complicit in their noisiness.
Fun Facts: My original goal was to draw Shrieking Grotesque primarily, and just a generic pudgy Orzhov figure sitting Jabba-like in the background, but ironically the focuses ended up basically reversing in the final. Researching this piece was such a treat--I loved checking out D. Alexander Gregory's old Orzhov style guide art again, he has such a cool style, as does the Orzhov guild, carrying over to the more recent incarnation in Return to Ravnica block. And not just the (non-Pontiff) guild aesthetic, but also the gargoyle design. I was most excited to draw the screaming statue's mouth above all else, even taking the opportunity to try out some quasi-Kirby Krackle.
Easter Eggs: I used reference of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for the guy's face. He had just the features I was picturing, since we don't have many close-ups to work with in-game. I loved cutting loose with the eyebrows and the, um, jowels.
This felt like a nice change of pace, as I haven't done a calm portraity piece yet, and giving it some extra final polish for the site was a nice and relaxing cool-down after a day of more frantic drawing.
Monday, October 9, 2017
MTGinktober pods about Day 8, "Crooked," starring Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran; Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician; Isamaru, Hound of Konda; Odric, Master Tactician; and Pianna, Nomad Captain!
It might not be super apparent, but this is actually a heavy reference to the Crooked Media core crew of podcasters. So we have a gang of three tactical minds (and a potentially noisy dooga) podcasting with a special guest strategist/activist. I chose Agrus Kos for Tommy Vietor since he's kinda a vet, in that he worked in a military-ish capacity in national security; Ib for Jon Lovett since he's the "jokester" of the group; and Odric for Jon Favreau since he's kinda the fearless leader type. Isamaru is obviously Pundit, who is known to bark at inopportune moments. Special note, Isamaru is yawning, a play on his growling depiction in his card, but it's up to the viewer to decide if he's making any sound, just depends on what you think of Pundit. I wanted to include Dan Pfeiffer but knew I couldn't fit all four in plus a guest in a 24-hour piece. I'll make it up to him later, though.
Fun Facts: I had already cast Pianna as the "guest" since she (I found out she was a she in research--after all these years! I've always loved how cool this art by D. Alexander Gregory is [which should have been a tip off, come to think of it, since he usually just got female commissions] but I never could tell exactly what was going on in the art--and there's no bigger image available so I still had to guess on a lot of the details here, like how the helmet[?] works!) seemed like she'd be a great person to have on a podcast where they interview leaders about what they're doing in the field. As a nomad captain, she'd be in a leadership position and be out and about in the field, too, so that lined up great. I wanted to have Yahenni, Undying Partisan as either Jon Lovett or as the guest in a punny reference to how they always say (particularly Jon Favreau) how they're just a bunch of partisans, which I appreciate since so many media personalities won't just come out and say so, but nominally dance around impartiality. Based on Ib's and Odric's epithets, I briefly considered making all the podcasters some tactician, but didn't feel there were good enough candidates.
Also, my favorite part of this is that the mic-like devices are not actually plugged into anything or look to be recording at all, so how do they work? Magic!
Easter Eggs: A lot of fun little references in this one, aside from the casting described earlier. First, the composition comes from the Pod Save America interview with Hillary Clinton LAW '73, the background is from their new and recently unveiled studio, and the posters are references to their shows Pod Save the People (Beeble) with DeRay, Pod Save America (Amonkhet), and Pod Save the World (Multiverse). You can even find the familiar head of George Washington replaced with that of the canonically decapitated Urza.
I know this particular piece is only going to work with a super thin slice of people who both know Magic and Crooked Media well, but man, no ragrets, this was a good time.
MTGinktober toddles toward Day 7, "Shy," starring Magic's number one cutie-patootie power couple Gilder Bairn and Little Girl--if only one of them would work up the nerve to talk to the other!
Fun Facts: I set this in an Shadowmoor-style forest because my original idea was to put it in like a middle school hallway, but that didn't really feel Magicy enough. Since I wanted to really sell there being some external pressure on them beyond just their natural timidity towards each other (see Barney's bucket-fidgeting digits and Shirly scrunching her dress), I wanted a school dance-style poster in the wide space between them, which I modeled after the famous Enchantment Under the Sea Dance poster from Back to the Future.
Easter Eggs: To bring the poster back to Magic, I made it reference Friday Night Magic as an "Enchanted Evening," so it's vaguely a romantically-themed FNM event. I only thought afterward during my traditional post-piece-posting teethbrushing that I could have gone with "Enchantment Under the CMC" or "Enchantment Under the CC," though on balance perhaps the potential confusion (Converted Mana Cost and Casting Cost) would risk the gag. The mushrooms on the tree were a reference to my old Nissa piece, since I had a feeling that this piece would also be a breakthrough entry.
This was perhaps the most fun piece to make so far this MTGinktober--from the concepting to the research to the drawing to the inking, even to seeing the reaction online, just wire-to-wire thrills. And it's been my most successful piece on Twitter to date! And it featured the debut of my fudepen this year! I'll leave it to others to determine which of these three news items is the most exciting.
Friday, October 6, 2017
MTGinktober freewheels into Day 6, "Sword," starring mythic common, Topan Freeblade, dressed to kill with nothing less than her very own Sword of Light and Shadow and Sword of Fire and Ice!
I didn't enjoy Magic Origins too much because people jammed it way too often just to open ~10,000 yen Jaces (I opened two, and lost both to the group's stupid raredraft policy), and I even got the mondo combo with Willbreaker for a mind control at will (broken). But mostly, Origins always felt like I did the right thing, drafted the archetypes correctly, but the opponent would always just come away with a win out of nowhere or things just wouldn't break my way. This isn't to make excuses, I'm just telling you it was frustrating because it felt like I didn't get rewarded for doing what the designers wanted me to do. Also, bad memories of the playgroup I had to deal with at the time.
However mixed my feelings on Origins Draft, boy did I love smashing face with Topan Freeblade. I might have had three in one deck as my record. If you land her turn two, man, you feel unbeatable. I'd almost always play black-white, so she'd often have some killspells to get her through at any point in the game, and she just takes over once she gets renowned. So great. I knew I wanted to have her be our star for "Sword."
Fun Facts: My favorite color is black, so I was thrilled to have opened a Sword of Light and Shadow back in the Darksteel days, but I referenced the sadly more pleasant-looking Modern Masters versions of the swords here. I say sadly because the originals were done by Mark Zug, ordinarily one of the unbeatable Magic artists. The rather exhausted ox in the field is none other than the one and only Pillarfield Ox. He's kind of a running joke, but I have fond memories of him in M14, which as I recall was the suuuuuuper slow format, where it just came down to who got their flyers online and/or through more frequently. You could bank on this big booty blocker to all but assure you were locking down the ground.
Easter Eggs: I hid "tired" in the grass because man, oh man, was I wiped out while drawing this. Since Topan Freeblade's original artist is the legendary Johannes Voss, I hid the little German B (ß) things as her armor designs.
This is a rare peek at thumbnails. My original idea was her just gunning for at the camera with her swords, tri-sworded like Zolo from One Piece, and she'd also have Sword of Kaldra. AND she'd be fighting (indicated by the shadow on the gound) a nezumi with a Manriki-Gusari. I realized I was both drained and tight on time, so I knew I couldn't draw this and make deadline, or even just a sort of basement shot of her and her collection of famous Magic swords, so I went for less on background and more on wistful mood.
The story I came up with here is that she's bored being away from battle, and is thinking fondly but melancholicly of her weaker battlepals who fell for not being as martially gifted as her. She just wants to get back off the farm and onto the battlefield. She's seen a lot and they say time off in the plains is what she needs, but...that can't be right.
MTGinktober jankily jaunts onward to Day 5, "Long," starring jank and dragon alike--that is, long-haired Sivitri Scarzam and long-necked Kokusho, the Evening Star!
That first legend is obscure, so bonus points if you could pin it down. I randomly saw it in a post on Reddit about favorite unappreciated legends or something and wanted to see if I could work such a weird looking creature into a future piece. I didn't realize the very next prompt would work so well--originally I had just wanted my old homie Koks to have a scale human like Big from last year, so I thought about her sitting on the part of him closest to camera so he could really shoot up into the sky in the background.
As I was drawing her, I realized she had some really long (and poofy) hair, so that added an extra layer of relevance to her, as I justified her based on her flavor text, which talks about how she's a noted dragon tamer. The challenge with her was to tweak her costuming so it wasn't so revealing. I turned it into a tunic of some sort with metallic portions.
For even more fun, I wanted to do something special for Kokusho's spirit objects. Rather than just blorbs of gassy light, I went with ghastlies from Pokemon! And if you look at what the closest one is looking at, he's aghast at an ink smear! What a rookie mistake!
Anyway, this piece really did a number on my hand, but still I wish I could have had more time to put more care into the scales. Nevertheless, it was fun merging influences of the classic and Iconic Masters versions of a creature I have fond memories of playing back when I first really started getting into Magic, back in Champions of Kamigawa block.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
MTGinktober pegleggedly saunters to Day 4, "Underwater," starring Kari Zev, Skyship Raider goofing around while diving for some treasure. In my commitment not to do the obvious thing, rather than use Ixalanian pirates, I went with the quasi-OG, that is, the first high profile pirate in recent years (and the giveaway that the next set would have a poop deck full of pirates).
This was a fun one because it involved drawing upside down, which throws you for a loop when figuring out lighting--you get so used to lighting as you always do that you go on auto pilot, but then you suddenly realize it's supposed to be upside down, so now you're shading the wrong side! But I mean, what kinda amateur falls for that, though, right?
Fun Facts: I originally envisioned this being Kari Zev poking her head underwater to greet Jori En, but alas, I knew I wouldn't have enough time to fit her in with commensurate quality as Karz, so we had to give her the ol' cutterino. My next impulse was to have her monkey bud playing with her, but again, had to pull the trigger on the faster option, and that scheme had to sleep with the Harambes.
Easter Eggs: We got a friendly little Goldfish just bizzing his own mindness, and speaking of gold, that curious curio sports a familiar Fiblthpian face. There's also a hidden message on one of her coin button things...!
MTGinktober slithers onward to Day 3, "Poison," starring Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons.
I feel the scan got the snakes a little too dark, mainly the one on her right arm, but here's the best digital camera shot I could get.
This was a fun one for the goofy pose. I don't follow the story too, too closely, but from reading snippets for research, it said something like she has a peculiar sense of humor, so I thought it'd be quirky to have her biting her own hand like the fabled asp of Cleopatra. Get it? Because snakes and poisons are her bag.
Isn't it weird how she has little, regular snakes, but also giant anthropomorphized snakes bodyguarding right next to her? Speaking of which, the headdress backing was really, really frustrating and difficult to draw...hopefully we got in the neighborhood!
Fun Facts: The title card was illustrated by Tyler Jacobson, one of my absolute favorite currently-active artists on Magic.
Easter Eggs: That isn't just any bauble, bubba, that's a veritable Vial of Poison, son!