Monday, October 20, 2008


I thought I'd put one last Shadowmoor block piece up before moving on, Medicine Runner (Swift Dawnhand to me). I like the tone of this card and they way the lighting turned out, maybe because it didn't run away with itself. Looking back, it possibly did on some of the other cards, they look a bit busy colour wise....I guess it's subjective. It was one of the last cards I did for the set (I think) so maybe that's why. I finished this one off at the Wizards offices actually, while I was helping concept out Alara. Used to working from home alone it was a bit strange to be doing work in public, so to speak. I had various people dropping past to see what I was doing in the office so early, most of them liked the rendering of the tree in the foreground...I like how stark the image is, there's very little fuss to it so it feels very quiet.

Here's the sketch (talk about vague) and then my pencils and the finish. You can see that i changed the arm from the sketch to the finish, I think i did that to isolate the medicine bag a little more as it needed to be one of the "important" things in the image.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I got my comp. copies of the Forgotten Realms Players Guide through and thought I'd share some of the finer details in the pieces.
They were commissioned as 1/3 pages but it looks like they ran out of room for them and they got reduced more than I thought they they turned out a little darker than I thought anticipated so a lot of cool little details were lost. I continued with a new way of working on these that I'd started on some of the WoW cards Ive done. Inspired by the detail mentalist himself, Clint Langley, I borrowed his method of 'painting with photographs' (stop me if I'm getting too technical). I don't use them as raw as Clint does, his can almost be collage like, as I still prefer to retain a more traditional feel to the pieces, I try to get a more painterly effect on them so I do a bit more, well, over painting.

It's a really fun way to work as it introduces texture quite quickly and introduces ideas for detail, like the magic sextant thingy that the corsair piece has (below her buckle). It started out as a bit of obscure detail from a museum exhibit and only ended up there by accident (notice the squid pommels on the swords :).

In this Drow pieces I was perhaps guilty of getting lost in spider details (how the hell was that spider necklace ever going to show up in print??) I was really happy with the eyes on the hand crossbow though.

The Doomguide piece is awash with metal textures I've found on my travels, and again details in the photographs suggested details in the finish I would never have thought (you can see in the sketch things are a bit more basic).

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I got to sign quite a few swamps and forests from Shadowmoor at Kobe and thought it would be nice to show it in it's complete landscape format. When I went looking for it I was surprised by how much I liked the sketch, it's very moody and I think it works well all by itself.

The finish is a lot more colourful, mostly to help establish the ott magic/spooky wood effect that Wizards wanted this set to have. It's also a lot brighter with more contrast to help it work better at it's intended size. This was one of those pieces that's colour palette changed over and over before I was happy (easy'ish when you use photoshop). I lied the idea of using pink for a swamp card though.

I'm not sure why I handed in such a detailed sketch for this piece, I think I was happy to get some basic lands to do and had plenty of time so went to town on it. It's not that I don't do descent pencils for my finishes I just tend to see sketches as rough ideas as opposed to something that's just about to go to finish (like many artists do), I find it helps to keep things moving if there's any changes needed fro the art director side. In fact I'll try to show that process in a bit more detail next time I post something up.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Getting to go to Japan also gave me the opportunity to add to my ever expanding texture library. I'm increasingly using more digital textures in my pieces, not so much in Magic, but quite extensively in my World of Warcraft and D&D work. Every trip or day out I have now usually doubles up into a texture finding expidition, but far from detracting from my 'me' time I find that it gets you looking at stuff you wouldn't have considered otherwise. At the signing in Japan, the 3rd annual "Only Choppers" event was in one of the neighbouring halls...well it's not every day you get to go to a Japanese Chopper expo.

so after looking at all the cool bikes (and having a very tasty hand made cheeseburger), because I'm looking for textures I end up with a bunch more photos that look like this;

I'll use these mainly for armour probably, lots of cool stuff in there for that, but half the details on the bikes I would have never noticed unless i was actively looking for and at textures. I guess it's my modern equivelant of the still life...

(I could bore you with the fact that 'Chippy' comes from a push bike I owned as a kid and that it was smallest in a range made by Raleigh, the biggest being the classic Chopper...but I wont )

Extra Dimensions

Hopefully things have calmed down enough work wise that i might actually be able to get some more stuff up here. Anyway, It's one of the cool perks of doing Magic that I occasionally get invited to events to sign cards. Kobe Japan has to rank as one of the most exotic Ive been to and the most fun. The event was particularly busy for Jim Murray and me, pretty much wall to wall signing and sketching from start to finish.

One of the coolest thing about going to Kobe Japan for a Magic signing were the little gifts that some people gave us for signing cards. The coolest amongst these were these 3-d cards that were given to both Jim and me (Jim's were of his cards...)

Here's the Tormentor's Pupil up close ....check out the mental detail in there... :-O

and in this shot you can see all the layers...guess they're not tournament legal now though.

So the talented men themselves? I'm going to dare to try and get their names on here (many apologies if I get them wrong) Ohkubo Seishirou san, Masanobu Kondoiu san and Yunsuke Yamamoto san.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I got back from a signing in Japan on Monday and Ive been straight back into work since then. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on things next week and make a couple of blog thing I should mention (because it's sitting right in fron of me) is that i picked up KOW Yokoyama's sketch book while I was there and it's well worth checking out. I don't know much about the whole Ma.K. scene but it's one I'm keen to have more of a look at. Here's a couple of links if you're not aware of the stuff.

the wiki entry

a model site

and the book i bought

Monday, July 21, 2008

Genghis Khan

Phew, it's been a hectic couple of weeks, so the Blog went to the wall a bit. I came up for air out of the work swamp at the weekend and Elaine and me went to see 'Mongol' at the local art cinema. We didn't know anything about this film as we've been a bit out of the loop, what with being in new country and all, but we were sold on the poster alone- man with two big swords. The film didn't disappoint, beautiful scenery, great combat sequences and a treasure trove of reference for me when it comes out on DVD. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I loved doing maps when I played D&D. Most of them never saw the light of day as my gaming groups were never what you would call 'dedicated', but then nor was I. While i was trawling for stuff on my hard drive that might be usefull for the dungeon tiles I came across this one.

I did it mainly for fun and to keep me busy while I was waiting for work to come in. For some reason I had it in my portfolio the last time I was out at WOTC (I think because I just copied everything that looked colourfull into a folder to show to art directors...professional) and I ended up getting comissioned for some battlemaps on the strength of it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dungeon Tiles (3)

The first thing i did with the Dungeon tiles, was ignore any notions of research or preparation and just went ahead and made some. "Madness!". Not so, my reasoning was that a good place to start would be to see how they're used, as that's they're primary purpose (looking nice is secondary). I didn't go as far as to use them in a game, at the moment I'm just thinking of the process of printing the tiles and setting them up.
So these are my very first stab at the set. I wasn't going to post them, as strictly they're a 'tool' and not a finish or even a sketch (I suppose you could call them a 'sketch of use' or something), but I thought it would be fun to put up what I would do with no research just so I can compare it with the end result when i finish. I decided on a straight section of corridor and a 'T' junction, even ignoring my plan of the tiles I wanted to produce, and came up with this...

There's not much to say about the actual design of them. From my experience with the maps for D&D, I knew that I wanted to include shadows to create depth, and 'clutter' (little bits of stone and cracks on the floor) to create a bit of noise and interest. More importantly though is what I learned from printing them up, cutting them free, and placing them. Well I didn't learn very much to be honest, nothing ground breaking anyway, but it's all important -
-need to be printed onto thick card, or mounted on foam board (or similar)
-need cutting guides at either end (and at corners) to match up the tiles (not a big concern but would be nice)
- the ones I've made for this are very dull, not much better than a grid, there's not a lot of story in them.
-because they're line drawings they'll photocopy nicely (I only realised this when i had a printed piece of paper in my hand. Printer ink is expensive, so this is great news)
-the line work I've used is very timid, and therefor confusing, I should think about being bolder.

I'm sure I've probably learned a lot more without realising it, but that will only come about as I start to design more tiles. It's a good start though. here's the version that are ready for print, if you want to make a very boring dungeon (remember not to scale them on the printer, like I did first go...)

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The Overbeing piece that was used for the Orb of Eventide at the magic site is in the visual spoiler list now, so I had a look to see what I had for it and figured it was worth popping up. I can't find the initial brief, but I remember it had to be someone worshiping a giant forest spirit thing, and she had giant owl(s) with her.

It was pretty straight run this piece, the only hick-up I had was in the initial sketch. The giant owl I put in was, well, too giant, and ended up making her look like she was small and had wings. Mostly my sketch was a bit pedestrian and confusing (or it failed on all counts ;) Here's what was said.

[Overbeing] Chippy
Some scale issues here, though.
The huge single owl is kinda making her look small... And also like she can fly, which she cant.
Both of those things need to be mitigated a bit.
Filling the frame with her also will contribute to scale.
I would also like to see her pushed even a bit further from human proportions.

So in the next pass I kept the main pose of the characters and started to think of how I could light her from the inside, like she radiated some sort of godly energy, and I struck on the idea that maybe her soul was visible as some sort of flower, and then I used her body to protect it, creating a living wooden rib cage. All a bit far out, but the idea broke me away from the human form and I now had something powerful to work with on the Overbeing other than the owls. This was the revised sketch that was approved.

When i went to final I wanted to take the Overbeing even further away from the material world, so I enlarged her robes helping her to look more regal and aloof, but more importantly it hid her leg. This detached her from the ground and the material world a bit ore. Other than that it was pretty much just rendering and playing with the tonal composition again for the lighting. I think the worshiper looked better in the sketch, as they gave the event more animation, like the Overbeing has just appeared in all its splendour and the worshiper was being pushed back by the awesomeness of it. The worshiper in the final, looks a little too blaze, as if they speak to the Overbeing all the time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tetris (dungeon tiles 2)

The first thing to do with the Dungeon tile idea was to start working out what shape the tiles were going to be. Using my tried and tested methods, I figured I would start drawing out little sections of corridor until I got bored, or I had enough ideas to fill my 12 slots. However, as I was drawing them I realised they looked like Tetris pieces, and I noticed that there were only so many shapes you could make with so many squares (I'm sharp like that). So after playing Tetris for like and hour, I started working out what you can do with a set number of squares,
1. - you cant do much with, 2. -nothing here either (there's rules here I'm taking for granted, like each square has to connect up along a side), but when you get to 3. things start to get interesting (I use interesting in it's loosest form, it was interesting to me) and with 4. and 5. things get quite complicated (...). So I sketched out all the variations I could think of for sets of 1,2,3, 4 and 5 squares. Which looked like this.
There were 25 of them (I didn't think of the 'dead end' until near the end) and that was above my budget of 12 tiles. I was starting to think I would only go up to the 4 set when I remembered that some of the combinations were the mirror of each other, so all I would have to do was point out that the tiles could be printed 'mirrored' and you would get the rest of the combinations. And so that let me pretty much pick all the interesting combinations and a few varying lengths of straight corridor. While I was doing that I was thinking about the whole maze thing and thought I needed a dead end in there as well, so I made the executive decision to increase the budget to 13 (since I'm the art director on this, it was pretty easy to wangle, which is not normally the case). Apt that the dead end is 13 eh?
So my Dungeon tile set now looks like this

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dungeon Tiles

I wanted to do something on here that wasn't me just bleating on
about finished work that I've noticed has been published. A while back I did some maps for D&D 4e, which I believe (sometimes these things change) will show up in Pyramid of Shadows. I had a brilliant time with them and while doing them I had a lot of flash backs to old dungeon tile packs I bought as a kid, and I had the germ of an idea to do some simple ones for people to download and use for their games, on t'internet like. So that's what I'll be starting here, it's a simple game component but it will also let me talk a bit about the design process, which is always fun to do.
So lets start with a brief (this, I know is going to come back to haunt me, over and over again).

Dungeon tiles -I wont explain this bit, if your bothering to read this you know what they are, what they're going to be used for and who's going to use them. I will set it that they'll be on a grid of 1" squares and lets also say here that the first ones will be corridor pieces and we want enough to be able to build a pretty comprehensive maze type setting, lets sayyyyy 12 pieces.

Style -Style or 'form', I believe follows function, so apart from the obvious (they're depicting a dungeon for use with miniatures in an rpg) what other things do i have to take into consideration. Well, I want them to be easy to download and print out. More importantly I also want them to be easy for me to do, I don't want to have to spend days on these at a time. So I'm going to set the restriction that they have to be B/W line (I could probably get away with grey scale, but I fancy making things even tighter for myself design wise). This will make the file size smaller, the scale of the work more manageable, and the finishes easy for people to printout (you wont need a colour printer). I also want them to have a desert feel to them, and I want them to be from an abandoned city.

That's a good enough start I reckon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I try to keep my reference books to a bare minimum these days. I find anatomy books useful and I have a few, but generally I prefer to take reference photos, usually of myself or some other unwilling subject I've forced into an awkward pose (10 minutes before they're about to leave for work). If i need something specific, I used to use google images, but these days I usually head to Flickr. I also shy away from "art" books now too, I have a few prize ones that would be impossible to replace, but at some point I realised that 90% of them were gathering dust, and most of them were purchased just so i had something to buy....consumerism, tsk, so i sold them.
So on that note, I picked up DK's Weapon at the weekend. It's strange, but it's inevitably the books you hum and ha over in shop that become indispensable when you get them home. This is a great visual encyclopedia of weapons, perfect for the budding fantasy artiste like myself. I'll be picking up Soldier at some point too (or Warrior as it's known here) for the clothing and armour, probably when it comes out in the compact edition (because like everything I want to buy in Australia, it's about double the price I would pay in the UK).

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I saw this over at Kotaku, and thought it was worth passing along.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Colour of Magic

It might start to look like i go cruising the magic web site just to see if there's any of my work up's partly true, but this one, used for the Orb od Eventide was pointed out to me by Mr Allsop. I had to blink when I saw it, I had forgotten just how colourful I made these pieces and it got me to thinking about how I express magic.
I was a big fan of the Terry Pratchett's discworld books when i was younger and they heavily influenced how I thought about fantasy, he has a great imagination for the 'what if' (what if light was one of the slowest things in the universe...) and a love of making the intangible, tangible. Reading his books he explained magic had some form of colour, and maybe it had some sort of substance, that you could hold it (carefully I would imagine , and probably with some sort of special gloves ). That notion stuck with me.
Magic the Gathering extends very neatly into this world view, especially for me as an artist. I'm having to visualy represent magic quite a lot within it, and the magic is broken up into different colours, that usualy have to be reflected in the feel of the art. This worked especially well in the post apocalyptic block of magic, Time Spiral . In this return to the now ravished, disintegrating, depiction of Dominaria, magic (or mana) was to be depicted as quite rare and precious. This was natural for me to express by simply removing most of the colour from my work and concentrating it in any magical effect (if any) that might be going on within the piece.
So when I was invited to work on the Shadowmoor I noticed that this was a kind of fairy world, a world, in my mind at least, constructed entirely of magic. So I was able to take all this colour I'd been saving up from Time Spiral set, and let it rip into most of the pieces i did for Shadowmoor. The results were, well, colourful. Here's a direct comparison of a Time Spiral piece “Voidmage Husher” and below that a Shadowmoor one “Advice from the Fae".

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I thought I'd put up another of the wallpapers I spotted over at the Magic web site, Shapeshifter's Marrow. This one was originally entitled "mirror image" and they wanted to have two dragons fighting, one red and one blue, the blue one was the "mirror" and I was to show that it was made of blue mana (energy). Actually here's the initial brief.

This was the second time I've been asked to paint straight up dragons, so I was pretty excited about the piece, and I had a great time thinking up ideas for what the fight might look like, heres a couple of the initial ideas, followed by the final sketch I submitted to Wizards. The final sketch is quite straightforward compared to some of the ideas I had, mainly because it keeps the image simple (this is going to be just over an inch wide when printed) and also i didn't think my abilities would stand the test of the more complex wing wraparounds.

One of the things I've tried to get into the habit of doing is building maquettes to study lighting, and that's what I ended up doing here. I have to say looking back on them now that I could have lit it much better, it's pretty pedestrian and i didn't give myself much to play with here. I should really try and rig up a little lighting booth and maybe get a couple of light sources in it...anyway, that's a project for another day.

This is the final I submitted, and it was sent straight back. All the punch of the original sketch was gone and Jeremy wanted me to get that back in. This is a real problem I have, which I'm getting to grips with now, I get hung up on the rendering of a piece and consequently the dynamism of it suffers. It's something that I'll talk about at a later point.
So I went back to the sketch and looked to see what was in there, bu not in the final. Really it's just the punch of the lighting, so it was easily fixed, along with the wings which Jeremy felt were too ethereal.

Looking back on it now, I would have loved to do the wrap around wing fight, but this one holds up the brief.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Like most people, I have a bunch of links in my bookmarks that I check every morning while I scoff my oats and banana. Right now I'm loving the Gurney Journey, it's one of the ones I read last as I like to to be mulling over whatever he's talked about in that entry as i begin to start work. He's a very industrious disciplined guy, and my vague hope is that some of it will rub off on me, as I'm the complete opposite.
My wishful thinking aside it's a great resource or pick me up for any artist.

Oh, I should add that among other things James Gurney is responsible for the modern classic Dinotopia

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The wallpaper archive at the Wotc site is a great place for seeing Magic art nice and big. While looking through there for inspiration, I noticed that my Rootcutters piece was up (always a nice pat on the back to get :). It wasn't called that when I painted it though, which is why sometimes it's hard to remember your own card list, because you usually know them all by different names. Anyway, I remembered that I still had the sketch and some colour thumbs for that on my hard drive so i thought I'd put them up here.

The sketch, for me, was really solid, normally my sketches for magic are pretty vague. I'm always thankful to Jeremy Jarvis for letting these wishy washy sketches go through, as it makes the whole process a lot less like a commission, and more like the development of an idea, allowing me to not feel overly constrained in the finished work, but like I say, this one was pretty tight.

The other thing I still have saved for this piece are some colour thumbs. I do these when I'm not sure where a piece is going colour/composition wise. I just grab a copy of the whole image, shrink it down and then make a bunch of copies of it. Then i just play about until I find something that's beginning to work. Even on the computer i find I can start to treat the finished piece as"precious" and be unwilling to experiment, so this helps break that. Reducing the size of the image forces me to work on the over all composition, as i have a tendency to get hung up on details too much (and it also helps with lag). Doing multiple versions means i can compare and contrast the experiments.

And here's the finished piece. I have to say there's a lot in the pencils I wish I'd got into the finish, I really loved that tail in the sketch.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's a Dungeons and Dragons ride...

I picked up the PHB book for D&D 4e (or Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition as it's less commonly known) last weekend on its release. So far it looks great, the R&D team have been very bold with their decisions and created something that i think is a genuine step forward for the game.
I think being a slave to continuity is bad for our industry, it became the albatross of U.S. comics, and it's great to see D&D (or WoTC) put it to the side, and do something genuinely fresh, fun, and most importantly imaginative. We've only been dabbling with character creation so far so I'll let you know how we get on as we play our first games.

I should add that Wayne's covers look great, and Ralph's interiors are epic :) they've done some great work on these books.

I stumbled on this great overview of 4e when I was looking for other peoples reviews of the core books. But you have to remember people who review stuff have an agenda...including me ;)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

art and games

So I'm going to start putting out some of my work onto the net and the sketches/processes behind them. I say process, but it will be probably be less instructional, and more of an autopsy.
I might also include some stuff about events, games and the industry I'm involved with (role playing games and card games...yay ...and sometimes computer games :)