The Art of Theros, Part 1
The art is out!
My primer on Theros art will be valuable in case you missed it.
Each section will be separated by artist, and we will be looking into their commissions as compared to each other. We’ll discuss major and minor works along the way and what makes art $400 or $4,000. Let us waste zero time and get into the brushstrokes. Let’s go!
Aaron Miller – 3
He’s been around a while, and if you’re a serious-business Vorthos, you’ll know that he’s part of the ArtPACT group, hustling to help artists on the business side of art-making. He’s good people.
This is his first time getting into Magic, and he hits two rares and an uncommon right off the bat. Not too shabby considering one card will see a lot of play—Chained to the Rocks—and the other card is a potential build-around Modern card—Fabled Hero. Why does that matter? He’ll be signing cards and selling prints of the cards. That matters hugely because a considerably higher percentage of folks will stop by his booth at every convention going forward until, well, ever. It’s a big deal. But . . . he will also get carpal tunnel from signing cards. Hope he institutes a signing fee like some artists and like I suggested after returning from Spectrum Live.
Aaron wrote about his titled “Chained to a Rock” briefly on his webpage.
Notice how he received three black characters. It takes a serious amount of trust to give a first-time person into Magic a non-white guy. He’s coming out swinging and will be at the top for great cards in the future. I guarantee it.
Of these three, I like the Gorgon the best due to the incredible storytelling elements and the more classical feel of depicting marble statues. He works traditionally as well, so I hope these don’t sell immediately so we can see the brushstrokes up close! How can I tell? Look at the back harpy in the Fabled Hero image—check out the wings. See the paint brushstroke variation?
That said, I can see a little Photoshop touching up, but that could be Wizards (as it often is).
Great work, Aaron.
Those’re Mike’s pick for best of.
Adam Paquette – 10
- Lightning Strike
- Peak Eruption
- Sealock Monster
- Vulpine Goliath
Adam’s been really doing some amazing landscapes as of late. He was on the concept team for Theros—you’ll notice he did the first looks of the city-states. Wizards doesn’t take scrubs for that—ever. They’re the serious-business people who define a set. We’ll see more of him as the set goes on. In the future, I’ll be looking into concept art and how it affected the set. One day, we’ll see the style guide. One day!
Two things to look at:
- His environments and landscapes really are powerful—it’s the concept artist in him. Notice his digital medium in creating Griptide by comparing it to Donato Giancola’s mermaid piece. Then, look at his Island. A bit unfair to compare to Donato, a god-wizard among artists, but you’ll see how digital painting looks in an environment: awesome, but can struggle with figures compared to a traditional approach doing the same. It’s often called the “weight” that paint creates in figures in a strong environment. It’s a personal preference but if you’re ever unsure of digital versus traditional, compare it to a great like Donato or Julie Bell, among others, and then see for yourself. It’s quite easy then; look for brushstrokes.
- Scroll down slowly to Aleksi, the next artist, and then scroll back up. Does he look more . . . comfortable with some images? I would definitely tag him in an artist database as environment guy, but if needed, he could help with other things—one could absolutely give them to him, but maybe give him landscapes first, no question.
Aleksi Briclot – 2
Aleksi does great work, but he doesn’t give much to fans for online imagery or sketches or process or really much of anything. If Noah Bradley is an oversharing artist—let’s be serious here—Aleksi is the polar opposite.
Also, yes, in case you forgot or didn’t know, while creating his Lorwyn planeswalkers, he made another one of himself as one. That image later became Tezzeret.
He’s among Magic’s key artists for when something big is needed. He’s quiet in this set, but don’t ignore that; he’ll probably receive a bunch in the future two or a planeswalker. Ahem.
Of his two images in Theros, I like Commune with the Gods better.
It has a great Kamigawa Shrine feel and begs to be zoomed out of to see how big the temple actually is and what is nearby.
Also, I feel the Titan’s composition is a bit derivative of his Chandra’s phoenix.
I’m probably staring a bit too close to it, but the framing is close.
Alex Horley-Orlandelli – 1
Alex has made a ton of Magic cards in the past. Since he works traditionally, he absolutely has a few originals left. You should check them out, especially if you’re a Vintage player. Ahem.
This is the only profile picture I could find of Alex with relative ease. I’m sure he’s online somewhere, but to a casual fan, he’s hard to “see.” His art is everywhere, and his website is great—use it.
I like his asp. It works in the set, and I’m ever-happy when traditional painters illustrate creatures. As I said in my last Theros art article, I’d love to see traditional artists show epic monsters. There’s something about huge paintings of epic scenes that makes me want to purchase them with American currency.
Tournament organizers? He’s a great person to pick up for a Grand Prix or the like due to his large number of cards to be signed and the upside for him to sell original art. It’s a pretty good win-win.
Anthony Palumbo – 3
Here’s some family-tree knowledge for you on Anthony: His brother is David, and his girlfriend is Winona Nelson, both fellow Magic artists. His mother is Julie Bell, and his father is Boris Vallejo. A comparable example would be Archie Manning, with his sons Peyton and Eli as NFL quarterbacks, except their mother would be in the NFL and one of their girlfriends. It’s an absurdly talented artistic family. I’m not saying they’re imaginative realistic art royalty, but it’s pretty close.
That Satyr is just a bizarre facial depiction, considering if it finds a home, it’ll visible a long while. He’ll probably have to sign a ton if he mans a convention booth.
I love the Dragon Mantle, and I want to see the high-resolution version. I think—though I can’t tell with the low-res card—that the dragon “cloak” and interaction with light is quite remarkable. At this size, it looks great. Check it out when it is posted on a random Tumblr. He doesn’t post all his art, and he is selective on what social media he uses.
Brad Rigney – 2
Brad’s been picking up consistent Magic work as of late. He received a ton of commissions for Duels of the Planeswalkers. Check out his DeviantArt page for a ton of cool concept works. His Chandra is quite good as being a depiction of a young woman. That said, he has amazing Spectrum-included works, yes, but he also created Triumph of Ferocity.
- He had an interesting interview not long ago.
- His background on the Planeswalker Pantheon is one of the best behind-the-scenes walkthroughs I’ve ever seen.
His two pieces in Theros has one of the best flavorful depictions—maybe ever—in Hundred-Handed One. There’s a reason Wizards talked about it publicly. Another thing I’ve been noticing with artists: When an amazing artwork is created, it’s often the only one able to be found online or in high resolution. Funny how that works. I don’t blame them; you only want art directors to see the best, but not even posting it on a blog is interesting indeed.
Chase Stone – 6
- Karametra’s Acolyte
- Labyrinth Champion
- Mogis’s Marauder
- Polis Crusher
- Satyr Hedonist
- Sylvan Caryatid
I’ve been pretty critical of Chase’s work in the past.
His Karametra’s Acolyte is a very restrained piece with a great depiction of a woman. I’m just not sure this type of depiction would be made five to ten years ago. Something’s changed with art direction, despite Jeremy being the same dude. (He cut his long hair. I guess?) It’s on the up and up, and this piece is quite good.
His original Satyr Hedonist face—check it below—is so damn creepy no wonder it was changed. That type of effort is really appreciated. Satyrs were douchebags in antiquity—they were drunks and, well, rapists. Great nod to that, but again, Magic is a game that kids play, too, so it was toned down. Were that image to have been made, it wouldn’t have been, by far, the best depiction of his bunch. He’s crossing the threshold into quite amazing. He did a pair of planeswalkers, and I’m sure he’ll do more when applicable. I look forward to future works of his. (His whimsy is also a thing, comparable to the Foglio’s with his Master of Cruelties.)
Chris Rahn – 4
Chris is one of our Magic elite right now. He received four commissions, of which three are mythic rares, and one is a very Standard-playable bounce spell in blue. His paintings now sell on eBay, always as auctions, for over $1,500. His rate is basically a painting commission from Wizards at $850 and instantly $2,000 more. Seems. Good.
I always love downloading images from artists on their sites because you often are able hear what the placeholder name was before the creative team had decided. Nylea was Niobe, and Hythonia was Gorgon Monarch.
Voyage’s End is still available as an original art, but you can only buy it if you have the paper stack for it or a quick finger on eBay. Chris’s art is a big deal and rather incredible in person.
I love his Nylea piece. Its ethereal quality in a traditional medium, oil, is stupidly difficult. Beyond the figure, the perspective warp of the viewer sitting atop a tree looking at the god is silly-impressive.
Christine Choi – 2
That’s a pretty nice Unicorn, but I’m confused about what’s going on in the Annul art. It’s a counterspell that doesn’t look like one. Yes, I know what it’s supposed to be: killing a shrine/god thing, sure. What I question is that this spell will be used a long, long time in longer formats than Standard. It just isn’t immediately recognizable with similar spells. I guess that’s okay . . . Is it?
Christopher Burdett - 2
Chris is known as the monster man, and like Aaron Miller, he finally broke into Magic. Mind you, neither of these artists is an amateur or new to making the arts. They’ve been illustrating for years! Chris has damn near branded the term “rawr” and has made a ton of monsters for various board games and TCGs in the past. He’s among the most entertaining artists you’ll meet. If you see him at a convention, you’ll want to talk to him.
I actually own a cerberus image on paper from him of three dachshunds—true story. I’m having it framed now. If you ever start a Kickstarter to make a game and you need some inventive monsters to create, whether it’s sculptures or images, he’s your guy if it’s monster-related—period.
I love watching his behind-the-scenes blog posts, and that catoblepus is so money. First time a new creature? That’s Chris’s jam. It’s restrained, but the anatomy is tight, and the depiction is believable. He works digitally but makes pencil-toned sketches that are really exceptional. I would kill to see him create more weird Magic monsters. Can you imagine him and Simic? C’mon meow.
Christopher Moeller – 2
I love Christopher Moeller’s art. He always has a few pieces in a set, and they appear to be totally random. Sometimes, it’s a Fox common at 3/3; other times, it’s a planeswalker. Since he works traditionally, I check his local comic book store’s inventory of his art whenever a new set is released. They post art that’s pretty reasonably priced and a delight to work with, having done so personally.
The bad part is that high-resolution images of his art are rare online. Since he makes so much, it all kind of swims together for posting things online. I suppose that’s a curse of being successful and dependable!
Of his two artworks in Theros, his Satyr Piper has a really strong composition to it. He works slightly larger than the standard 8” × 10” or 11” × 13”, and his Piper seemingly has very intentional placement of all the elements: satyr in the air, clouds perfectly placed to make the figure pop out, wall and spears apparent but not fighting for focus, and trees that round out and are additive to the serene top when compared to bottom half. I like this piece. It seems simple, but it’s clean and not complicated. There are the right number of cooks in the kitchen and is the right amount of paint on the image—love it.
Clint Cearly – 5
Clint’s pieces feel really different in this set. He has two knockout-amazing pieces, and the rest are run-of-the-mill quality. I like this. I would rather have artists pick their pitches and swing for the fences on ones they can, devoting more time to really go over the top on some when you are assigned four or more pieces. Receiving four or more pieces for a traditional artist is absurd; you only have so much space to let literal paint dry. For digital-medium folk like Clint, his intention to make the Triton Fortune Hunter amazing is noticed. Messenger’s Speed is the one that was sacrificed. Compare them side-to-side when you open a pack—they appear to be different artists. That happens. We all call things in from time to time.
Hell, the Merfolk could’ve been a planeswalker until you see the perspective birds and the alignment being different than normal planeswalker verticality. Seriously.
Cynthia Sheppard – 2
I loved working with Cynthia back in the day. She’s quite wonderful, and I’m happy to see her continually receiving really difficult commissions. Of her two images, it’s obvious that Wingsteed Rider is the more difficult. Horses are by far the hardest animal to create, and a Pegasus is no different. You can wing a monster’s anatomy or make it up logically as you go, but with horses, that isn’t an option. Ever wonder why nudes of women are easier than of men? Muscles are not smooth, nor are singular lines to make a curve present itself. It takes a lot of painting from reference and cultivated patience with revisions. Horses suck to paint—they just do.
Cynthina? Good job on it. Love the added color on the Pegasus’s face. The toga (robe?) of the scholar is mighty nice, but a figure on a horse that makes sense deserves mention!
Daarken (Mike Lim) – 4
I like Daarken’s Instagram account. It’s been pretty comical as of late, writing flavor text on cards that don’t have them.
All of his images in Theros are strong, but his Portent of Betrayal image is fantastic. It’s really a shame it’s only a Draft-playable common. I love the Triads, sure, but they don’t stand out like the possessed Merfolk. It has a super-common depiction just illustrated incredibly well. The figures don’t fight for the space, and the separation creates depth. The red coloring on the fins helps the depiction to show that “red card” plus “red person” equals the ability. No longer are color connections needed, but in such a small space, getting two figures to interact is hard, and I appreciate its usage here. Don’t believe me? Look at Urza’s block, and see illustrations with two figures yelling at each other or having a battle—it just looks awkward.
Also, Mike Lim’s wife Midori had a double mastectomy to remove breast cancer in 2009. She’s now crowdsourcing funds after some complications with reconstruction. If you’re not the donating type, oddly, I highly suggest you pick up an artist proof or print from his website store.
Dallas Williams – 1
This image was known as “Oracle of Thassa” originally. He already has a blog post up on it. Nice.
I remember sitting in an art-direction meeting saying how this guy looked pretty good. I get “huh” moments every now and then when I see people whom we turned down when they pick up Magic work. At the same time, I tilt my head inquisitively because the portfolio isn’t really Greek-influenced. Jarvis must be a wizard who sees something I don’t. I compare Dallas to Aaron Miller. I’m happy for Dallas—no doubt about it—but are Aaron and Dallas at the same level? A new artist got a shot while an established one was given the same chance in the same set? Huh? I suppose we’ll see over the set if Dallas has more commissions and how it all shakes out. Watch for it.
Dan Scott – 3
Dan was hosed this set. He started out the last block with Firemind’s Foresight and Epic Experiment. He even had Skylasher, a necessary card that can find a home. Even Wildwood Rebirth might find a home in some Commander decks. In Theros, he has three commons, barely playable in any Limited format and unplayable in anything Constructed.
For someone who’s been around a while, when you have multiple cards like this, these amount to fifty artist proofs that will sit a long, long time, and you have to carry that weight to conventions everywhere. Very, very few people will buy prints of these despite Fate Foretold being a great image. And card signings? C’mon. Poor guy. I hope he’s hooked up next set.
Daniel Ljunggren – 1
I like Daniel’s items. They’re clean, to the point, and very different than normal Magic items. I’m not sure if he does a lot of research or if that just comes out. His Dearly Departed image has stuck with me as being very different and very cool. A lot of his images have this . . . digital weight of harmony that connects a subject of a piece to its surroundings. I need to look at this closer, but his images have a very thought-out approach instead of one choice among five sketches. His art feels very planned and plotted instead of pushed and pulled like most Photoshop images can have.
Dave Kendall – 3
Steam Augury is an absolute win for Dave. He had Skullcrack last block, one of those signable, print-selling, artist-proof-pushing pieces that will drive interest. Creating a new Fact or Fiction only helps out Dave’s brand. He received ten pieces over Ravnica block, and I would imagine he’ll receive about the same for Theros. I’m sure we’ll see some more creepy, misty, underworld images on the way, especially if a few marquee scenes are there. I like Steam Augury’s palette, and while I’ll need a high resolution to be sure, is that watercolor? He works traditionally, and it appears so. Also—hint hint—his art prices are pretty reasonable: in the $300–$800 range. Not too shabby!
David Palumbo – 5
David, the younger brother and the creator of Fblthp, also gives us some insight into the original names of the artworks and confirms that Nylea’s first go-through as a name was Niobe.
Medomai the Ageless was Medomai the Wandering Sage.
Nimbus Naiad was Sea Nymph.
Ordeal of Nylea was Labor of Niobe.
Phalanx Leader was Inspiring Leader.
Pyxis of Pandemonium was Fates Box.
What do you think of the changes?
Note to David: Make sure you change the names of the art before you post them, as the copyright owned by Wizards is technically what the name is going forward with prints and such. It’s a minor point, but worth noting.
I like the Phalanx Leader. It could be an image without context and still be awesome in an office. The musculature and light on the glistening muscles are very well done. I’d wait to even eBay it until 300: Rise of an Empire comes out in March.
That’s it for today!
More coming soon!