Thursday, August 27, 2009

Magic From the Vaults: Exiled

Released on 8/28, this premium box set features my art for "Balance" and other premium cards, 7 others of which feature new illustrations (the rest are reprints with the original art on them). It is available in pretty limited quantities, and if you haven't pre-ordered you may be out of luck soon, as they are already selling for way over MSRP.

While at GenCon, 100 boxes were made available for early purchase each day. People were lining up some 10 hours early to be sure they were one of the 100. I'm not sure why folks would do that, but then again I'm not a Magic player these days anymore.

Prints of the art can be found here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Visualization of a Headache

Recently I was in the middle of working on thumbnails for a project I'm working on. I was about a full-day in on this--I'm very, very slow in the thumbnailing stage. I've shown thumbnails here before, so you know that I typically do them in Painter. So I was doing that, and decided to save my work before having lunch. As the program was saving the multi-layer file, I switched over to check my email. When I looked down a few seconds later at my taskbar, I saw that Painter was no longer there. My stomach dropped.

Painter crashes as often as anything, and when it does it usually just goes *poof*, without a word. However, once every year and a half or so since I got it, it goes *poof* while saving. That's bad. I quickly dug open the file, to be presented with....

This is what a headache looks like

My multi-layered file became this single layer image. Completely corrupted. Toast. A day of work, gone. This has always happened, thankfully, while working in preparatory stages. I don't do a lot of final illustrations digitally--I can't imagine the whimper of hopelessness that would've escaped me had I been a week into a huge digital illustration.

It turns out that I hadn't had many good ideas yet anyway--I was just feeling like I was getting going when this happened. Still, it completely ruined my day. And this is the second computer this has happened on. I also avoid using "Watercolor Layers" because they crash Painter IX (WinXP) so often.

When I got my head back on a couple hours later (it really did mess me up), I grabbed my trusty pad and pencil and got back to work the old-skool way. After having tried a full-digital setup for a short time, bit by bit I'm stepping back from it, using it exclusively for things I can't do traditionally. I can thumbnail traditionally. Maybe I'll continue doing so.

Monday, August 24, 2009

He Speaketh

While at GenCon recently, the good guys at Ninja Mountain Scrolls blasted through the art show interviewing a bunch of us. For those unfamiliar, NMS is a podcast that focuses on the SF/fantasy illustration industry. If you're into this kind of art, or are an aspiring illustrator, you definitely need to be checking out the often lengthy interviews done on a regular basis there. Lots of good advice and behind-the-scenes stuff. I wish podcasts like this (or podcasts, at all) existed 15 years ago when I was starting out, that's for sure. I also wish 2009 me could go back to 1994 me and set me straight! This episode was more rapid-fire, and there's even an interview with yours truly. And I wasn't horrible! As a native Californian, I have to be intentional about removing the word "like" from my spoken vocabulary. I managed this feat admirably.

L: For context, hear the interview

My interview starts at about 54:00 in. You can listen to the rest if you want, but it's full of absolutely terrible artists like Steve Prescott, Wayne Reynolds, Omar know, complete amateurs....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anatomy of a Convention

GenCon 2009, but it could almost be any GenCon.

8/12: Finish packing what couldn't be put in the bags until that morning. I'm relieved: a box with 5 large paintings arrived safely at the inn the day before. Everything on 14x18" board and smaller, including prints, goes in my Eagle Creek backpack, which I take on board the plane. With its detachable sidebag (which has things 9x12" and smaller), combined weight is ~45 pounds. Curse the fact that I paint on masonite. One change of clothing comes with me, the rest in my rollerbag, which also has misc. convention setup items and toiletries. If it gets rerouted to Des Moines, I'm good for a day. Super Shuttle is 1/2-hr late beyond the pickup window, but I've padded my schedule. Bacon Double Cheeseburger meal at Burger King--conventions consist of unapologetically bad meals. I almost go out of my way to eat bad during them. 1hr45 to Indianapolis. Why is the airport so far from the city? $37 cab ride. I iron my clothes and hang them. My usual convention roomie, Ben Thompson, arrives 2 hours later. We walk to Bazbeaux Pizza--first time, may be a regular hit during future GenCons. Haven't seen each other in 10 months, since then he now has a sweet wife and a sweet job at Blizzard. Top of the world for that guy. We sit on the balcony of our inn, he smokes a pipe and we catch up on life 'til midnight. I eat leftover pizza with gluttonous abandon.

8/13: We have 1hr to setup our booths. Shake hands and hug artists I haven't seen since last GenCon. Steven Belledin calls: "Are you wearing the shirt?" I toy with him, but yes I'm wearing a shirt that has on it...Steven Belledin. He reciprocates wearing a shirt that has a picture of me. It's a long story, but his shirt was designed to get more attention. Throughout the day I hear my name muttered from his booth across the way, as people ask about his shirt.

A "best of" You haven't seen 2 of those paintings before. They'll be here in time.

8/14: Having setup, we now have time for Starbucks in the morning. This helps. Friday is furiously busy. Back to my snazzier wardrobe. I dress better during conventions than almost any other time of the year. Don't let the shaven, pressed look fool you. Artist reception, after the show closes for the day. Juried awards are given out. One of mine scores 2nd place for Best Original Artwork. Chris Seaman takes Best in Show. We all bust our butts all year, and I've been happy with my improvement, but Chris squeezed more juice out of his efforts, and he deserves it. Saw his booth before the show this morning and had sincere envy over his "Undead" painting. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's painting.... Give him sincere congratulations, then plot his slow death. Quiet dinner of 4 people at Buca di Beppo, more awesome than a chain restaurant should be. Receive from Chris Moeller his original Selkie art, painted for some Magic packaging, which I traded for "The Swallowed Realms." File that under, "How to make a fellow artist a sucka."

I can't afford to buy art either, but at least I have stuff I can barter for it

8/15: Go from a tall-drip-in-a-grande-cup to grande-drip-in-a-venti-cup. Lots of sketching for people. Richard Garfield stops by to say hi. He's going to see Tsunekazu Ishihara, father of Pokemon, and asks for a favor. Ishihara-san loves Magic: the Gathering. Richard has a blank Magic card. I draw #052: Meowth in the art box.He'll add text and present it as a gift. Stranger things have happened. Wizards of the Coast holds a mixer for its artists, including dinner. I eat steak and tip my hat at Mr. Hasbro in thanks. Most nights end at hotel lounge where alcohol flows freely, and crowds grow large--I don't drink and don't much like large crowds. Eventually, a few of us eject and find quieter location to continue having actual conversation. Others join (not that we're so popular, there are just lots of folks around), we eventually eject again. Probably comes off poorly, but groups of 20 are just too loud. Did I mention I'm nearly 35? Can't party like I used to.

8/16: It's Sunday and I've failed to get up early to run at this convention. This is what happens when I'm not training for a marathon, the fear of which motivates me to get up at 6am to run. And I'm nearly 35. Running gear was there; I left it in the closet, alone and shivering. A couple have been eyeing a very expensive painting of mine all weekend. They come by one last time, and choose to have "The Conversation" with each other in front of my table. I pretend I'm in another room, and don't put a hard sell on. They both want it, but concede that it's outside their budget for now. I understand, and am glad they didn't buy it if it was. Paintings are expensive--I'll be the first to admit it. If one regrets spending the money on it, that's not good. I'd rather someone feel good about the purchase and fully enjoy the painting for years without regret. Been a decent show for me anyway, that would've just helped. A lot. But, still.

8/17: I've learned not to leave Sunday evening--you often have to pack up early from the convention and head straight to the airport. Ben and I meet Belledin and go to the airport way early. 2 Sausage McMuffins w/Egg. Told you I was intentional about bad food. Talk movies, give man-hugs, then go home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ImagineFX Issue 47

A brief mention here, that ImagineFX 47 is soon to be on the newsstands in the USA (subscribers should be receiving them). This UK publication is a great resource for lovers of fantasy art, particularly that which is done in the digital realm. They don't, however, ignore traditional mediums by any stretch, as evidenced by the fact that they have a short profile article on me in this issue. It features the artwork for "Sprite Noble" and "The Swallowed Realms." Thanks to ImagineFX! Show your support by picking up an issue!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Balance prints, in 2 editions

Prints for Balance are now available--a little unfair for everyone not near Indianapolis to not be able to order today. So, go get 'em. They are available in 11x14" and a first: a 13x19" edition is also available for extra bigness. Astute viewers of my website may have noticed they actually went up a day or so ago, I just didn't mention them. Anyways, go get 'em!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Magic 2010 Artist Proofs

Wizards' shipping was super on-the-ball this release, getting me white-backed Artist Proof cards for this set before it even hit the shelves. They have now been added to the website, with the usual option of having original art on the backsides.

Friday, August 07, 2009

From the Vault: Exiled "Balance"

As many folks had guessed, the card in question was indeed Balance. Given the make-up of the set, it was kinda hard for it to be otherwise, still the good folks at Wizards thought it best that I keep it quiet and let people argue about it for awhile, so as to increase the volume of the "I told you so! Booyah!" shouts that would inevitably arise, I suppose. The reproduction on the Wizards site is colored weird due to the polychromatic foil on the card.

In the end, having been given carte blanche to do with her eyes what I wished, I decided that an eye-less Justice, while certainly blind, would just be creepy. And as the art itself was already something I thought would just make a great piece, I felt that detail would not only detract, but be downright off-putting. That's not an adjective an artist wants attached to their art, even when doing horror. Neither did I want blind, glowing eyes. So, I opted to close her eyes, keeping her sightless. However, her eyes underneath the lids are pupil-less and glowing, so much so that the light is spilling out through her eyelids and leaking out the sides. It was a nice effect, at any rate.

At 18x24", this is now the largest Magic piece I've done to date (beating out the prior title-holder, Sway of the Stars, which was 15x25"). It's a nice size to work at, and one which I've worked at extensively since. Due to a mishap at Wizards, the artwork was returned to me early (thank you!) and so I've had this one hanging on my living room wall for a few months. I'll be bringing it to GenCon next week, along with prints in two sizes: 11x14" and 13x19", my first larger-format print. The prints will debut there in limited editions, and be available here when I return.

A nice zoomify-view of it and further details can be viewed here. The original 3 drawings mentioned in the last post are already sold. And oh yes, this illustration was accepted for 2009's upcoming Spectrum 16 art book. More in that in the fall.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

From the Vault: Exiled Sketches

With the imminent preview release of Magic's From the Vault: Exiled, I figured it's time to take the wraps off this piece, which though it appeared on the Wizards website months ago, I refrained from talking about here. For starters, I couldn't post it here with its card name, and even today I still can't reveal that. But, the product will be previewed in a week at GenCon, so it's just about time. People seem to think they have this card figured out. We'll see.

It started, as usual, with thumbnails. There were a few good candidates among these:

These were all done in Painter IX. If you've seen the final piece, you can spot its original thumbnail (#12, as one would read). These aren't laid out in chronological order. As I worked in one big file with lots of layers and kept copying and rearranging them, I've lost all memory of the order these were done in. Some of them featured the main figure full-figure, and then I created some alternate backgrounds, which are mainly efforts at tweaking the value relationships. I picked three to do drawings of (6, 12, 19-22). The last 3 in the series I really loved, as well, however I felt it was too "pretty" for the assignment. Otherwise, I would've definitely included it.

From there, I worked up 3 pencil drawings and produced greyscale value studies, which I then submitted to the Art Director for approval. However, after drawing #6, I didn't think it had the same punch as the thumbnail, and didn't have enough punch on its own to warrant making a greyscale study. I think I started it but abandoned it. Here, then are the two options I gave the AD:

In the assignment, the figure was supposed to have pupil-less glowing eyes, a regularly utilized cliche that usually shows that some trance-like state has been induced during the casting of magic. I've done it a few times, and generally am averse to it these days. You see it in the 2nd, unused study. In the original conception of the 1st study above, you'll notice the figure simply has no eyes. It was a little on the freaky side, and I told the AD that I was not wedded to the idea if he didn't care for it (in the event that he chose it). I didn't have a preference at the time between the two and would've been happy had either been chosen. All things being equal, the larger face usually carries the day--#1 was chosen and I was told to trust my gut on the eyes thing.

So I set off to do the final piece, which we'll see cover next week. If all goes well I'll have the original painting on display at GenCon.