Monday, September 14, 2015

The Making of: Brutal Expulsion

Hey guys!

Story time, it think it is valuable in some way because I learned a lot in the making of this piece and I hope you do too as we go through the making of the art for Brutal Expulsion, for Magic: the gathering´s battle for Zendikar.

Before all of this, we recieved an e-mail from the art directors with an image by Jason Rainville, pretty much saying that's how they wanted the Eldrazi to feel like. It was a good piece, it was a great piece, it was genius.

This is the image from Jason's facebook, I was mesmerized with everything, how he played out the values, the light, the creature looked so believable, and don't get me started on the water. This was one of my peeps, it was expected of me to handle the same quality, at least I expected myself to do so. By this point I was content with my work so far but not quite happy and wasn't certaily at the level I wanted to be. I have to clarify that this was a year ago and I've been aplying the same thought ever since, so do expect much better work from me a year from now. (this is also my theory of why Jason is never satisfied with his stuff, JK Jason). Moving on.

Out of the three sketches this was the one approved by Dawn Murin, art director who worked with me in this piece. I was confident up until this point, while dissecting Jason's piece it was quite clear how he got the water to look so good and the sandy stuff, the corruption behind was pretty simple, all were elements you could easily photograph, but where did he get the reference for the dude is still a mistery (now I know he has an enormous amount of practice and knows where the light will bounce off things without having to look at reference). I had a less humanoid looking creature and getting a friend to pose wasn't going to cut it this time, so, I built my own ref. I have no idea how to model in 3D, and I did not have the time to learn before deadline, but I do however know how to model in clay and sculpt, so I did.

(ignore thar blurry thing on the corner)

So there is the model staged all nice and pretty, a few brushstrokes later and some notes from the AD it ended up looking like this. I'm trully grateful with the whole WotC team for their work, they really outdid themselves in BFZ,

Until next time!
- V

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Igniting your Spark – My road into Magic

Hello there, I’ve been asked by several people, several times, how an everyday guy like me wound up working as a Magic, the Gathering illustrator, well, here’s the story:
A little context, I was born in México, 27 years ago, that might not mean much to some but it pretty much means playing life in hard mode.
I have always drawn and I was good at it, all I did in school was draw instead of taking notes… Sound familiar? Well, most of us are like that but to take the leap from that to being a professional working on your dream job requires work, and time…
I went to art school like most people who plan on pursuing a career in the field (duh) but unlike most people I came to hate it, it wasn’t really what I expected, I met some really cool people though. At this point working as a Magic illustrator was beyond my wildest dreams. 2010 rolled in and a good friend of mine suggested we went to comic-con “they did portfolio reviews there”, again, the simple idea of getting comic-con tickets was a wild one but we did it, we set our minds to it but we got Thursday and Sunday badges (it got hellishly harder the subsequent years).
Anyways, we were at comic-con now and I was determined to get a job at Wizards as a M:tG Illustrator, why not, it’s easy “I was the best painter at school”. Well, I was living in a bubble where being the best was nothing compared to San Diego’s best, not by a long shot, when I showed my portfolio to the Wizards AD’s it looked a little like this:

I had a long way ahead, needless to say I did not get the job.
A wise man in youtube told me that in order to succeed you either needed a big-ass carrot to chase or a dog chasing your ass, well, at this point I had both, the prize was big, and I had narrowed myself too much that I had no real-life skills to support me, adulthood and responsibilities were knocking at the door, art is all I had, but I was doing it the wrong way.
Then I got to this point you guys are in, I went asking around every MTG artist I knew how was that THEY got into the business, well, I did not get the answer I was expecting because of course none of them were in my same situation, the truth is that I wasn’t ready for the real answer, art isn’t easy, getting into the industry is HARD, and it’s going to take some work to do. I was halfway then, I had a set goal and knew Wizards were there reviewing art at San Diego, all I had to do now was get better, easy!
I was lucky enough to come across Noah’s endless rambles on the net, an ordinary guy who was my age and was already doing what I wanted to do, that infuriated me but was the right fuel I needed to get better, if he got really good in the span of a year or so then so could I. I read all his posts on how to get good, the amount of time putting into study and practice, the power of observation and how to take from the “old” masters and apply it to your work, there was no cheating here.

First was to specialize in the thing I liked the most, you need to learn one skillset at a time, one by one (that’s why I think multitasking is Bad Stuff).
For him it was environments, for me was figure drawing, characters. I had to get everything right, anatomy, light, colour, movement and everything to make my guys believable, I spent countless hours dissecting other people’s art and practicing. Really, again, practice, there is no way around it.

I started to get some illustration gigs by 2013-2014, but no magic still, I was close though. I graduated my mouse to an Intuos 5 pro and my crappy laptop to a less crappy laptop with my first paycheck, but that was it, I was out of college, unemployed and cut from my dad’s financial support. In 2013 I went back to CCI with a book that looked a little like this:

No Magic though, I did however met art director Mark Winters who wasn’t directing Magic still at that time, I asked him to take a peek at my portfolio and give me some crit. He did, “you’re close”.
It is rare and valuable when someone tells you the exact things you need to do to get better, and he did, "polish that anatomy, get your values right, use the right colours for the right mood you want to convey, avoid tangents, and have your character work his way around the environment in a believable way", that sounded way obvious but I wasn’t doing it, it’s funny how we all know what to do to get there and achieve our goals but it isn’t until someone comes and points it out that we snap and just get it done, “want to lose weight? Proper nutrition + exercise”. Just Do it.

I did it, by the time I went back pestering Mark ten months later he was directing Magic, and I had gotten better, I won me an ImagineFX schoolism class, I chose “Design with colour and light by Nathan Fowkes”, I was ready, well, not to Mark…yet. He gave me an assignment, three pieces to test my skills, he said “Make them as good as you can, take.your.time” I did them in three days. I was hungry, this was the thing I had been waiting for, and this was it, all or none, no screwing around this time. 
By the end the three pieces looked a little like this, and got an acceptance E-mail that I save in my inbox ‘till this day. I am forever thankful to Mark for taking time out of his schedule and helping me out.

And well, you know the rest. I’ve been lucky and blessed to do what I love for a little but over a year now, having met all these wonderful people and mostly to give my part to the game I love, Magic. If I could boil the whole rant to a few lines of advice it would be this, Don’t give up, I see too many people giving up way too early, if you’re stuck change the formula but keep going towards the same goal, and when you do reach it take time to celebrate your accomplishment, be proud but never settle and be ready for more.

- V

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

MTG - Ghirapur Gearcrafter process

Hi Guys!

Last post was crowding the site so I had to relocate here, sorry for the setbacks, without further adue here's the post for the ones who missed it.

The making of Ghirapur Gearcrafter;

This was my very first Magic card to come out ever, this is how I went about it.
I started to work on Magic: Origins and got the description from Art Director Jeremy Jarvis;

Color: Red creature
Location: interior of a Kaladesh foundry
Action: Show a human Kaladesh artificer in a foundry where thopters are crafted. Artificers on Kaladesh are true artist, taking great care to make their works both beautiful and functional. In this shot, show the artificer with an intricate metal exo-skeleton glove. He is holding a crucible of molten metal that he pours into delicate molds of gears and thopter parts. When this card comes into play, he creates a thopter, so the parts in the picture should resemble a decontructed thopter.
Focus: the artificer
Mood: an artist at work"

I knew the piece required to look unique to the world of Kaladesh, Chandra's home plane, that we've never seen before. "He is making a thopter artifact" that made me instantly think of trinket mage, which is sort of a toy maker, I wanted to give this guy the toy maker look. The first sketch was sent back, the older guy did not work, this one had to be young and buff, also, a lot of clothes and robes don't quite work inside a foundry.   

The last one was the winner, I redid the face only, added a sleeveless jacket and worked out on the details.

I was comfortable with a frontal angle and a simple perspective, sometimes simple is better, and to portray characters a bust is enough at times, I think this is working here, my choce of colour was simple; Gold, I wanted a gold BG to contrast with the red card frame and I knew that with all the gold and orange a simple brown and white would make excellent contrast.
I would love your thoughts on this, give me some feedback!

- V