Eldritch Moon Art

Usually when I am commissioned by Magic the Gathering it is to create new artwork for cards. This was a rare instance when it wasn't for a card. The artwork was for a set teaser and other promotional uses. I always enjoy seeing how our images get animated in the Magic the Gathering trailers. This one was spotted in the Eldritch Moon release : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiehdxHTFR8

Here is the art description I received. 

Action:  The Gatewatch has been overrun by cultists and transformed villagers.  This is a tight shot with the four planeswalkers pressed together by the swarming malformed figures.  They try to defend themselves against reaching arms, slashing weapons and writhing tentacles, but their efforts are useless.  Gideon is sweaty and gritting his teeth in determination.  He attempts to raise his weapon in defense, but his sural arm is pinned down. Nissa and Chandra might have both of their arms raised as if to cast spells, but their arms are being grabbed by cultists. Jace has one hand pressed to his temple while he attempts to cast protective mind magic but it is disrupted by the attack. Without Jace’s mental protection, and with the growing number of enemies around them, panic has set into the Planeswalkers’ faces.  

This is the sketch I submitted:

The "tight shot" wasn't as tight as it needed to be. The people at Magic were hoping to see a little more of Nissa as well.  Here is the approved sketch I later submitted:

The final artwork:

DragonSong Start to Finish

I was given the opportunity to paint new covers to Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall Trilogy last year. There have been many wonderful covers to these novels over the years. The idea this time around was to introduce these classic books to a younger audience. I am very happy the publisher came to me to take on this challenge. Here is a start to finish slideshow of the artwork being created for book 1, DRAGONSONG. Menolly singing to her fire lizards:  Start to Finish: DragonSong

Simon Thorn

I created this middle grade cover a while back and I don't think I showed it around before. Here it is with a couple of the initial sketches as well. I had hoped to paint the silhouette of the boy's head for the final cover but I think there was some concern that it gave away part of the story.

Rules for Thieves

Making a run for it! Cover art to the summer 2017 book by Alexandra Ott called RULES FOR THIEVES published by Simon & Schuster:

Detail of "Rules for Thieves" cover art

The Oaks

Here is an interior spread from the book EDGE OF EXTINCTION. Who doesn't like drawing a treehouse village?

The cover shows us a Spinosaurus trying to eat some kids!

Early on the attacking dinosaur was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. instead of a Spinosaurus.

Edge of Extinction is a middle grade reader book by Laura Martin, published by HarperCollins.

Chandra, Roaring Flame Start to Finish Video

Chandra the Roaring Flame was painted for Magic Origins. I put together a video of all of the iterative saves for the painting from initial sketches to the final piece. I usually approach the sketch phase pretty differently from painting to painting. For this one it was heavy black lines on white with one flat grey tone. Because of this, I ended up with a very graphic solution for her flames. I put a lot of effort into trying to keep as much of that graphic feel in the final painting as possible.

Here it is:



Fablehaven Book 3 of 5: Grip of the Shadow Plague

Here is book number 3 in the Fablehaven series.

Seth encounters the demon Graulus. I thought it would be fun to have Seth's hair blown back by Graulus's roar.

Hugo as the main focal point taking out dark centaurs easily.

The Shadowman lurks behind the kids.

Dark creatures vs. light creatures battle scene. This was the selected sketch, though the final art was streamlined down to just the kids on the back of the centaur plus a of couple dark satyrs. 

Poor Hugo, he gets denied again. The final art:

JANUARY 24, 2014
Fablehaven Book 2 of 5: Rise of the Evening Star

The second Fablehaven book is called Rise of the Evening Star. Here are the four ideas I initially sent to the client. Action seemed to be the key component they were looking for with this series of books. I tried to give them 4 completely different directions.

Here is the finished illustration. Looking at my sketch you will notice that Kendra is not there. In the book she is not in the scene at all. But for the sake of marketing, there she is.  In the story, Kendra is angry that she is not allowed to accompany her brother on a trip out to the swamps of Fablehaven. She protests that the adult's sexist nature is the reason. At least she gets her way on the cover! 

JANUARY 16, 2014
Fablehaven Book 1 of 5

Last year I was asked to illustrate new covers for the popular young adult series called Fablehaven. The story centers around a young girl and her brother as they adventure in a hidden refuge for mystical and legendary creatures.  Here is one of the first sketches I came up with for the project. The two siblings take a ride on the shoulders of a golem made of earth and stone. You'll see in the second iteration of the sketch that I switched the positions of the boy and the girl. Girls seem to be ok with reading a book with a boy featured on the cover, but boys don't seem to be too keen with reading a book with a girl as the focus. So even though Kendra is the star in the book, her brother Seth had to be the star of the cover.  I also backed things out a bit so we can see that Hugo the golem is in motion.

The client was very interested in the Hugo sketch yet it was the following sketch that was ultimately selected. It depicts Seth climbing up to negotiate with the preserve's devious cliff troll, Nero.

Here is the final artwork:


2013 Magic Posts

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

Oloro is an ancient giant who has discovered the secret to eternal life. Oloro has not moved off of his throne in ages. It keeps him alive. I thought I'd share this Commander 2013 card's progress from start to finish. Check out the video link at the bottom.



I was asked in the comments about the sketch to the client. Here it is below. Conceptually it is right in line with the final. The art director was concerned about the fact that the open legs were too prominent in the composition. This particular piece had to have a really quick turnaround so I was glad he flagged me on it early on.  I made a change to the pose to deemphasize the area and then went to the final art.

APRIL 17, 2013
Dragon's Maze: Ral Zarek

Magic the Gathering's DRAGON'S MAZE challenged me to shed my phobia of drawing and painting cityscapes. It would be the key art for the set which raised the stakes even more. I did't want to take the easy way out on this important piece of art. So I dove in recklessly and attempted a bird's eye view of Ral's beloved city in almost every thumbnail. The idea was that the city is so dense that it feels like a labyrinth. I decided to use bridges and walkways to emphasize the maze-like feel. In my original sketch to the magic team, Ral is perched on top of a building adornment looking back at the viewer before he jumps off into the depths of the city. 

The camera angle on Ral ended up being too extreme for all of the different ways the artwork would be applied to advertising and packaging. If he was separated from the background it would look awkward and out of place. I was asked to keep the background but change the perspective on Ral. In order to put Ral in a more traditional point of view it meant that I would have to lessen the high angle on city as well. It is not instantly obvious when you look at the final art, but if you look closely it is noticeable.

My revised scribble:

Here is the final art:

JANUARY 24, 2013
Sunhome Guildmag

Sunhome Guildmage is a magic card to be released with "Gatecrash." Here is a start to finish video of the artwork. 

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord.

Here is a painting created entirely in photoshop for Magic the Gathering's Return to Ravnica set. 

Here is my original digital sketch. The approach I took with this piece began with a few thumbnails using light grey scribbling strokes. I spent some time experimenting with the different thumbnails by mirroring the images and laying them on top of themselves and each other at varying opacities hoping to see something in the tangle of lines. Once I started to see something in the mess, I blew it up to a higher resolution and used a thiner black brush on top of the low contrast thumbnail to bring forms out of the scribbles.  

The resulting sketch was Jarad riding on top of an insect-like creature as if it is mobile throne. Unfortunately he was too relaxed looking. It just didn't fit the intended personality. He also need to be emaciated looking instead of the muscle bound Jarad I had here.

I captured the emaciated body type with this next sketch but I thought the pose was too close to the one Svetlin Velinov had already done for the character.

Here is the final direction. Time to paint.

The final artwork:

Duel of the Planeswalkers Avatars

Duel of the Planeswalkers Avatars
Not too long ago, I was asked to create a cycle of Planeswalker-esque avatars for the Duels of the Planeswalker 2013 video game. So one black, one white, one blue, one green, and one red. It was pretty open ended and I jumped at the chance to work on it. 

I love the thought of intelligent sea beings so that was the direction I knew I'd have to take the blue avatar in. Why not come up with my own half crustacean, half fish merfolk? Here he is:

Aside from choosing from any of the existing races in the M:TG multiverse I was also free to come up with a new race. That is what I hoped to do with the white avatar. Maybe a race that lived their life high in the mountain tops, almost up in the clouds. I had the basic design of her rolling around in my head for awhile but I hadn't found a use for it yet. Here she is:

Yeva, Nature's Herald

Yeva, Nature's Herald
Yeva was probably one of my top three favorite magic cards to paint in the last year. In my mind she is the leader of her clan. As a sign of solidarity she had her face scared starting at the corners of her eyes. It is as if her tear ducts had been carved out.

Designing the barding on the bear was a unique challenge I wasn't expecting. At first I tried to hang a lot of cloth from the animal as well covering much more of it's face with leather armor. The problem was that bears are just too cute and they are much more human-like than a horse is. It looked goofy and a little anthropomorphized. The ears were really killing me... Too much attention was being brought to those rounds fuzzy ears. I decided to back it off and go a simple a possible. 

Resurrection (End of Nations)

Resurrection (End of Nations)
I have been working on a bunch of character designs for a game called End of Nations. The artwork has been functioning as both character concept art and well as final illustrations for marketing. They will probably be used in-game as well in some way. As usual I have an idea of how I want a character to look in my head but I don't have access to any models that look anything like it. Oh well. Actually this photoshoot went surprisingly well. As a result it was painted pretty fast in comparison to the others. The model's face might not have matched that closely but he had more muscle definition and a darker skin tone than myself which was really helpful. When it comes to faces, a lot of the time I feel like I am sculpting. Slowly pushing features around until I get the desired result. I try to remind myself to avoid getting into a trial and error mode though. That can drain a lot of time. The model happened to have a military background so he had the exact style of pants and boots that this character was going to be wearing. That was a bonus I wasn't expecting. 

Tamiyo Concept Art and Video

Here is the concept art I had mentioned for Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. When I sit down to illustrate a brand new character I usually take some time to design the character in this fashion. I find that laying out ideas for the costuming on a neutral and symmetrical pose very helpful. I am able to ignore a lot of the nagging problems that present themselves in a composed illustration. If I commit to a composition early on and then design the character around that intended composition and environment, there is more of a risk that design choices I make only work well in that pose. When the character has to be illustrated again, the design deficiencies become apparent. When working on the concepts I do keep in the back of my mind how the costuming might most likely be oriented and posed in the final illustration. This way the the interesting points of the costume can be emphasized. Since this an important character in the Magic universe the costume has to work from multiple angles. It isn't the only illustration she will appear in (at least hopefully). Tamiyo's design came together pretty quickly. Here are 3 iterations she went through. The changes were relatively minor. I have also posted a start to finish video for the illustration. I flip the canvas a lot when I work. I usually take that out of the videos but I left it in for this one. I hope no ones gets nauseous watching it. 

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
New Planeswalker! Tamiyo, the Moon Sage taking down multiple inquisitive notes at one time. Tamiyo had to feel both like a noble scholar and an explorer. I edited her garb a few times to let a bit more of the explorer in. Originally, she had more of a restrictive wrap. I will get together some of the concept art I created for her in one of my next posts.

Duel Decks - Venser

Duel Decks - Venser
Here is the other half of Venser vs. Koth. I hadn't posted his finished art yet. Underneath the finished art is a link to a video following the artwork from start to finish. The environment and most of his pose were laid out pretty quickly in this one. What took me a while was figuring out how to get his arms and magic effect to work within the constraints of Planeswalker art. Since these characters get cut out of their background pretty often, it made an all encompassing magic effect awkward. I toyed around with having his hood up as well.

Follow the link below for hi-res start to finish video of Venser:

Ral Zarek

Ral Zarek
This is Ral Zarek, a new Magic the Gathering character I was given the pleasure to design. I had fun attempting to give him a young and cocky swagger.

Duel Decks - Venser vs. Koth

Duel Decks - Venser vs. Koth
Here is an unused sketch of Venser the Sojourner. The idea was that he was zipping in from a teleportation. 

Trouille-La-Mort: Le coeur de la momie

Trouille-La-Mort: Le coeur de la momie
Scream Street: Heart of the Mummy

Here is the 3rd cover of the french translated young adult book series I have been working on. Mummies, huge spiders, werewolves and vampires all on one cover :)