Tuesday, October 31, 2017
MTGinktober covers up for Day 31, "Mask," starring Sakashima the Imposter, hobbling along in his new position as Kamigawa's chief regional Happy Mask Salesman!
I wanted to draw Nissa for this one, actually. I had this concept of doing an homage to that famous scene in Ghost in the Shell where the cyborg's head/face splits open--I wanted to draw that but with a Magic character. Drawing Nissa as the star was my cold calculation on how to make it more appealing (and slightly more disturbing). The hook was that this was more of a robotic mask. That was my leading idea until I convinced myself that was the easy way out--it's a female character, a Planeswalker, one of the most popular of the main Magic cast, a reference to a popular movie...this whole "selling out" thing has really been eating at me. This would have felt really hollow. I should have done it.
The only other idea seriously competing with this one was my absolute first idea, a reference to Skeletal Grimace, where Nissa was pulling off the skin of her face to reveal a cackling skeleton. That felt just a little too disturbing, such that it might turn people off, so I favored the GITS idea. I had also considered another Kaya and Koth piece with them reenacting the famous The Dark Knight Returns shot of a hulking Batman and lithe Robin jumping in unison and wearing similar masks, but I wasn't sold on the concept, considering I already teamed them last year, so it's like, what the only black characters can only exist together? That felt cheap and dumb, but I don't know if I was overthinking it. I've done repeat teams this year (and imagine I"ll do so again eventually), but they were thematically linked. The only link here would be that they were black, and that felt exploitative.
So anyway, my back-up plan all throughout these waffling debates was doing a take on Sakashima with a bunch of homages in the masks as our final send-off to this year in Inktober. Even better, fusing him with the Happy Mask Salesman from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. So, since I couldn't convince myself that any of the above mentioned ideas were the way to go, we settled on this admittedly unimpressive concept. This was an underwhelming finale, for sure. I knew it would be: it's a not-necessarily attractive character, it's a dude, and it's perilously close to the original art's composition, so it represented multiple levels of mediocrity. I knew the previous Liliana piece would do well, but felt that good old, self-sabotaging urge pressuring me not to employ Nissa again because it just felt too easy and I felt cheap enough this year.
Fun Facts: During research, I rediscovered that there are actually two official interpretations of Sakashima out there. Just like with Stuffy Doll, Udon Crew also made a go at this creature for Magic Online, so I ended up using the original's body and the avatar's face since it was considerably clearer to read than the card version.
Easter Eggs: So we already know it's overall an homage to the Happy Mask Salesman, whose face has become the mask Sakashima holds in his hand, which the shapeshifter created right after he murdered the maskmonger to get this gig. The mask in the back at top, facing away from camera is Zero. Appropriately enough for this coerced piece, right next to Z is the infamous Dragon Mask of legend--they say Magic was forced to use this art under pressure from the art director. To the right is Uba Mask and to Uba's right, just peeking out from behind the backpack is Vicky Vasquez, who is overlapped by Illusionary Mask. Further left is the Happy Mask Salesman's Mario mask of course, followed by Ivory Mask, which seems to have Cho-Manno's fountain in it, I discovered. On the bottom of the Imposter's pack is Mortivore and the old Phyrexian mask, which is most often seen as a logo or costume detail among Phyrexia-aligned creatures and most famously on display as the Apocalypse expansion symbol. Between those two is Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker. And rounding out the collection at the bottom of Sakashima's sleeve, replacing his student's mask, is the mask of The Blue Spirit from Avatar. I noticed Sakashima's masks all have little seals on their foreheads with cryptic characters on them, which seemed like an important detail, so I used each one to spell out my name in Japanese as well as piecemeal convey the date information.
Monday, October 30, 2017
MTGinktober discovers itself at Day 30, "Found," starring Liliana, the Last Hope rediscovering her long-lost pushpin pal, Stuffy Doll!
Liliana was only five so she was understandably upset that everyone was paying attention to this freshly four-year-old interloper instead of her, just because it was his birthday--she would alternate between screaming, holding her breath, and knocking over the decorations that had been so carefully prepared by the grownups. But this was the first year Josu was really able to understand why everyone was showering him with attention on this particular day. He loved his sister very much and saw how angry she was about something today and that made him sad.
He decided to make her a doll that she could always be angry at--that would make her happy! While the grownups chatted and leisurely cleaned up after Liliana's latest riot, Josu raided the grownups' cloakroom to shred some sleeves and skim some stuffing from the clothing he found stored there. His tiny, little fingers could only fashion a crude little poppet out of these makeshift materials, but he made sure to decorate it with the especially colorful paints that one of the grownups had left in his coat while their owner, the dark visitor in extravagant robes, who was supposed to be cheerily painting faces at this very moment, was instead busy helping clean up toppled decor and grumbling with his peers the way grownups always mutter amongst themselves after a loud confrontation with a child.
That grave-voiced grownup, who seemed to float when he walked, wore rich robes that matched the coat currently being pilfered, and Josu noticed they both smelled of some bitter, smoky scent. They called him the Fancy Man. He had been just about ready to begin painting the excited, queued children's faces when Liliana's most recent eruption occurred. The afternoon party ground to a halt and the Fancy Man loudly declared while pointing a furious, accusatory finger, that this little girl's continuous, rude behavior has ruined the fun for everyone. No face paints! Thank you, most kindly!
At the end of that bitter finger's aim, Liliana instantly become the center of the multiverse as all the other kids turned to scowl at her in unison. Most of the kids were Liliana's age, so they knew how magical the Fancy Man's face-painting was, and had been waiting all year for his visit and their one chance to become their favorite legends, even if it was just pretend.
Liliana's normally pale skin was burning red, and she stormed off to her room in tears, "It isn't fair!"
By nightfall, after the party had died down and all the visitors and parents departed, Josu was told once again to stay away from his sister so that she could remain alone and undisturbed to think about how she chose to behave today. "Yes, ma'am."
With his forehead kissed and himself now alone, neatly tucked in bed and assured the coast was clear, he dashed off to grab his bag before sneaking out the window to climb up to Liliana's room one level up. She always left her window cracked at night so she could watch the moon rise and guide her to sleep, so Josu could easily hear soft sobs and gentle stomach growls well before he popped his head in to greet his sister. "Hi, Liliana!"
Liliana almost betrayed her excitement to have a visitor for the first time in what seemed like forever in a child's perception of time, but she turned away into her blankets in forced disgust, "HMM!" At this age, Josu could only recognize simply that his sister was angry. But she was always angry. He hopped onto her bed from the window and swung his pack to rest between them.
In an instinctive, hushed voice they always used to keep the particularly spank-prone grownups from knowing they were awake past their bedtime, Liliana hissed, "Go awa--"RRRrrrrr. Her stomach couldn't keep up the act.
"I brought you this," Josu whispered, unpacking a few chunks of cake and a couple sweetknacks he had wrapped up earlier. "Do you want to share?"
Liliana wolfed down the entire assortment. "Yeth."
"That's ok, I had some earlier in the party. Did you like the party?"
Liliana squinted her eyes, munching all the while, trying to calculate what this brat was up to.
"Me, too!" He chirped. "There was balloons and sweetknack and the Fancy Man was doing tricks! Remember?"
Still munching. More squinting.
"And everyone said, 'Happy Birthday, Josu!"--you know, like all at the same time?--and it was amazing! It made me feel so happy and good! And the food, too! It made me feel so, so happy, like super happy, though! So I think you should feel happy and good also, so I think it should be your happy birthday, too! So I got you food and I made you this! Boom!" Josu pulled from his bag the crude, little doll he had made, placed it between himself and his sister, and beamed with a smile, "Happy birthday, Liliana!"
The silly, little doll with its fancy, fancy colors disappeared the rest of the room as Liliana found herself transfixed by its button gaze. Her name echoed in her ears as the figurine gradually enveloped the entirety of her vision. By now it was almost as if the doll itself were chanting her name. It was whispering her name, wasn't it?
"Liliana!" Josu snapped her out of the reverie. "So isn't that great? Whenever you get mad, you can be mad at this doll! I tried punching him and yelling at him and he doesn't care and it's totally cool! Try it!"
A smile broke upon Liliana as she considered the possibilities. Every violent, angry thought she housed could focus in on this dumb, little doll and it was ok. You can't get in trouble for hating a doll. In one motion, wiping from her mouth some of the remnants--saliva and all--of her frantically devoured dinner, she wound her hand back just over her opposite shoulder and then backhanded the doll's stupid face with all her might! "Ha!" she blurted out, but instantly covered her mouth with both hands to stop the laughter from escaping any further. Josu did the same, sharing in the delight of torturing their helpless, mutual acquaintance. Stifling nighttime laughter, especially with a co-conspirator, always made laughing that much more challenging to suppress.
Josu gasped, "Liliana!" And pointed to her hand. She discovered she had a small cut where she had hit the doll. She must have nicked it on one of the doll's stray corners where different materials met at a sharp angle. But she just smiled and continued endeavoring to muffle her laughter in the growing moonlight.
"Hey, Josu, I think he's hungry, too! Omm nom-nom-nom nomm!" She rubbed the drops of blood along with tiny crumbs of cake from hand into the doll's mouth. The moon was full and near its peak through her window. "Happy birthday, Stuffy!"
"Oh, me, too! We have to say it together, just like at the party!" Josu slammed his hand into the doll until a small cut emerged, and then he rubbed his blood into the doll's mouth just like his big sister did. "Mmmm! So yummy! Thank you, Josu!" he squeaked. Liliana couldn't be smiling wider. "Ok, ready?" Josu giddily whispered to her.
Liliana excitedly grabbed Josu's hands, creating a ring around the doll sitting lifeless between them, and their arms bounced in sync as they counted, "1...2..3..."
The full moon shone through the very top of the window, gleaming upon the doll's dead eyes and its fancy, glowing paint.
"Happy birthday, Stuffy!"
Fun Facts: The story in strictly this illustration is that Liliana's going through her old attic and memories, and encounters her old plushie pal. For my depiction of Stuffy Doll, I borrowed the skull-like pins from his debut card in Time Spiral, but mostly modeled him after his Magic Online incarnation.
Easter Eggs: Junk is the old slang for Abzan's color scheme (GWB), though the reference started as "jank" in the pencils, a nod to the underpowered or inefficient cards that I tend to enjoy. To sell that this is Liliana exploring her old attic, you can see a tennis racket in the pencils of this piece, but I audibled into a Staff of Nin, a busted rare that Planeswalker-like, single-staffedly took me to one of my very first 3-0 Drafts in Japan. Since the attic is a place to store old, useless stuff, I included a box called "Hopes" in reference to her card name, but also for more poetic reasons. The other thing in Liliana's toybox is a Mirari, wonder how that got in there, pretty lucky, if you ask me. The attic is actually a slice of Triskaidekaphobia, and features 13 plants of wood and 13 knots in the wood. And get this, I just noticed, if you add the digits of TriskaDeezies's multiverse ID (409891) you get 31...which is 13 backwaaaaards!!
MTGinktober comes together for Day 29, "United," starring Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, who together affirmatively declare their Drafting strategy: "No Wyvern, no Kithkins!"
As I've noted before, there are a couple "wish list" concepts I want to draw that I keep in mind and wait for the perfect prompt to come along so I can implement it. The number one thing I wanted to draw this year was a spoof of The Professional, or is it called Leon?, a movie everyone loves but which I've never actually seen (I don't see very many movies). So when "United" came up, I thought of drawing something showcasing like a team dynamic, which got me to my old movie spoof idea, but the eternal question: who to cast...are there any partners in Magic with drastic size differences and with a father-daughter sort of relationship? Who knows, but I went with Ajani and Elspeth. It was double delicious that this Ajani has the actual word "mentor" in his card name, and as far as I gather, they were in a somewhat teacher-learner relationship with familial undertones.
I was absolutely torn on how to spoof the movie. Thinking back to our movie parody last year, the Vess siblings and Garruk goofing on My Neighbor Totoro, I felt obligated to do a famous, iconic scene rather than just modern-clad our heroes in an original pose. So my base options were to do a movie poster send-up if such an iconic image exists, or do a more iconic scene from the movie. It came down to doing either the iconic shot of them walking down the street with the potted plant versus the famous scene of them training a gun on something off camera. I went with the latter, and am pretty sure I punted that decision tree, since, upon reflection while writing this, I can only but deem the street scene "iconic" while the gun scene is merely "famous."
Fun Facts: This piece presented all kinds of decisions on how to reconcile two vastly disparate source materials. Do you dress them strictly as the movie characters and risk overpowering their Magicness? Do you dress them as Magic characters and risk muddying the reference? Do you keep a key, but anachronistic prop like the gun or settle for a more relevant proxy? I met the costuming somewhat halfway by including both sources, and gave Magic the go-ahead on the weapon, swapping out the gun for Godsend, the very weapon Elspeth uses in the Theros story. I had to craft the spear considerably stubbier to fit on my reduced size page, even in landscape mode (I ran out of pages on my bigger-sized sketchbooks as of Day 25 "Ship!").
Easter Eggs: I decided to keep them basically dressed in their respective Magic duds, but kept only minimal nods to their cinematic counterparts. Ajani has Leon's beanie and iconic glasses, Elspeth has Mathilda's knit cap. I obviously modeled her face after Natalie Portman's, but we kinda relied on the sheer size difference between them to echo the movie's age difference, but it's supposed to be at least ballpark current in-game ages. Though I guess, isn't the point that Natalie Portman's chacter desses a little older than her age might suggest? Either way, I would presume either character would be wearing the same armor as adult Elspeth anyway. The background is pretty much what you see in that famous still from the movie, though I added the date, 1029 and 2017, as well as 1337 as numbers on the directory placard.
Friday, October 27, 2017
MTGinktober descends upon Day 28, "Fall," starring Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief; Domri Rade; and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts all of whom be posing and zhushing and blue-steeling up tha joint!
Ok, this piece came about just because I wanted to dress Magic characters in fall fashions, which is easily among my top four kinds of seasonal fashions. We've crossplayed a character before, when we had Nahiri dressed as Toph from Avatar, but this time our mission was clear--this time, we're modern-cladding them.
Fun Facts: I scoured my bookmarks' fall fashion tag for, my gosh, dozens and dozens of outfits, and my reference document, which I prepare as research for each piece, was overflowing with costume ideas, last count was 37 candidate costumes. Sadly, only three could make the cut, and deez were dem. Super, super hard to trim down the options to just these, and it felt much like struggling to cut that 24th or 61st card, times 34...!
Easter Eggs: I carved my signature into the pumpkin, how about that! Also, Drana has a black mana accessory on her hair, Domri has the Gruul symbol on his beanie, and Teysa has an Orzhova brand sweater under her fabulously fuzzy jacket.
This one was quite a treat to do, and I hope to do this trick again some time with some of the other outfits we had to cut. I definitely see Domri and Teysa as little fashionistas...wonder who else we can deck out...
MTGinktober ascends to Day 27, "Climb," starring Stoneforge Mystic and Goblin Guide, two not quite legendary adventurers who should know better but definitely don't!
We all know Goblin Guide is terrible at guiding, much like most of his goblinial compatriots are famously bad at their jobs, but what if the fabled Stoneforge Mystic--who was so adept she got banned (and probably would have otherwise been reprinted along with the Gobfather in a Modern Masters set)--what if she was in fact awful at her job too? Inept, yet confident females is one of my favorite tropes--earnest females in authority positions that mean well, but are ultimately just as clumsy and clownish as legendary goofs like Chris Farley and Will Ferrell--I'm thinking of comedy monsters like Lucille Ball, Cheri Oteri, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler. What appeals to me is the fearlessness of looking dumb, while still playing it totally straight, like the audience is the one who is out of the loop. Team Rocket's dynamic played a role in these characterizations, too, where Jessie and James (and Meowth) are kinda equal partners, but Jessie is kinda regarded as the unofficial leader and although they kinda take her as the smarter one, they're all just as dumb as each other. I love that energy of try-hards who just barely make it by. So that masterful stupidity is what I strive for in pieces like this. That's why Toni has a deadly serious expression, yet everything about the piece reeks of a plan falling apart.
Between Goblin Guide and Stoneforge Mystic, Stoneforge is the "brains" of the bunch who plans their missions and calls the shots, and Goblin Guide is sorta the maps/navigation expert and the muscle. But in reality, they're both just as stupid and only get buy on sheer luck, so things always seem to work out for them despite their best, bungled efforts. While they think they have earth-manipulation powers, their real magic is controlling luck, but they are too dumb to realize it! This shot is Toni issuing an order to explore, completely unaware they're all tangled up in their own ropework. Goblin Guide is trying to look like he knows what he's doing so he's pointing to his forehead and shading a direction he things they should go--he's trying to mirror Toni's pose, but has the gestures on the wrong hands.
Fun Facts: The concept I had was to have a disorienting image that looks slightly off until you realize that you're looking at it upside down! So I wanted to play with gravity here, and in one of my original concept sketches, I even had the idea of putting characters walking on the ground, which would look like they were neatly floating in the sky. I was thinking of how ho-hum the goblins in Mogg Flunkies look on patrol duty, so I wanted to capture that energy but with a potentially all-Algen artwork if we had fellow climbers Chasm Guide expertly jetting around "below" our inept heroes. I really didn't want to include Munda, Ambush Leader, though...just a little too burly for me. Anyway, I scrapped the idea of guest stars for clarity and time, though you can spot their roughs in one of my thumbnail concepts.
Easter Eggs: I merged all three current versions of Goblin guide here. The general curled up pose and floppy ears and fingers come from the OG Zendikar printing; the pants and climbing gear come from the Modern Masters version; and the bags, scrolls, and rope bracers come from the GP promo version. Stoneforge merges her two current versions (also a Zendikar and GP Promo joint, oddly enough) so basically the top half of the stylization comes from Algenpflegerito's way and the bottom half comes from the original. The background is Florian de Gesincourt's mountainous Island from Khans of Tarkir. Again, as is tradition with Algen art, I included the "swooshy, German B" ß thing, which is planted on the (blank!) map.
MTGinktober peeps into Day 26, "Squeak," starring Saheeli Rai, Brazen Scourge, and a Thopter token, all sharing quite a quiet moment, though not quite sharing the same idea!
The concept for this piece hit me quite suddenly after reading the prompt, so much so that I had to sketch it down immediately, which you can see in the thumbnail sketch, this post's bottom-most image. The idea was to have a Gremlin riding on Saheeli's head Pikachu-style, and they would both be reaching out to a damaged Thopter. I had the image of Saheeli sticking out her tongue out of concentration while repairing the token with her mecha-magic. I like how instantly goofy a stuck-out tongue makes a face.
But since the Gremlin is on her head matching her outreached pose, I thought it'd be funny to mimic her expression, too. So out plopped his tongue and it had the unintended effect of detailing his motivation, which I hadn't planned--rather than just match her posing, his motive became obvious: he wanted to eat the injured Thopter, meanwhile Saheeli wanted to repair it! Sweet, sweet synergy.
Fun Facts: This is our second visit to Kaladesh, but last time we only had the patchwork world-design of Origins to work from. This time around, with Kaladesh block in the books, I was able to assemble more references for the background, and relied heavily on Ceremonious Rejection's windy roads and numerous dark arches.
Easter Eggs: I didn't use Adam Paquette's Thopter design entirely, as I wanted to make it look like he had sad patterns where his eyes might be, using strategic swirl placement as well as defeated, sloped shoulders and wings.
This was meant to be a quiet little piece, but it ended up being pretty popular on the daily sites, so go figure!
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
MTGinktober meetcutes Day 25, "Ship," starring Precinct Captain and its corresponding token! That sounds kinda racist or something but it isn't! Magic vocab!
I knew when getting this prompt I wanted to do the narrative definition of ship--or "shipping," to be more accurate--but definitely not do any of the conventional MTG shipping of like the main five or whatever. I thought about doing a sequel for Tibor and Lumia, but we already established they were getting a divorce and they were already officially together anyway, so that's kind of against the spirit of shipping. Shipping, I feel, has to be speculative, not official. So at some point it struck me that there's this connection between Precinct Captain and his token, so that felt like a great relationship to explore.
Granted, it would probably be highly frowned upon for a captain to be involved with even a peer, let alone a subordinate (which I presume is the case here, since he's specifically a statted-out captain, and the vibe is he's summoning a less capable vanilla creature, which means it's presumably not as accomplished, so we reasonably deduce it's a lower-ranked soldier). But, since this is shipping, it's all about speculation, so we're just going to pretend they are of equal rank.
With that, my story is that they meet at the Ravnica 254th Precinct Corps orientation party. Dressed up in his formal cadet uniform, he's nervous since he doesn't know anybody, but she's outgoing and takes the initiative to strike up a fast friendship, after which they snap that photo. Yes, they have photos...just go with it.
Next, off at training at camp, she gets caught in a sudden downpour unprepared. He had packed an umbrella for that training session just in case because of that morning's weather intel, so she has to implore him (not really, he'd do anything for her) to share shelter under his umbrella. This photo is her apologizing profusely for inconveniencing him and thanking him for the help. He sheepishly brushes off all credit to the umbrella, with a gentle advisory to heed the weather intel next time. She gives him a hug and inadvertently gets him all wet, too, but he doesn't really mind.
On Rec Day, a recreational festival marking the half-way point of camp, they naturally hang out and find their way to the festival's photobooth, where they take the obligatory series of buddy pics.
Lastly is a photo of them at the Corps graduation ceremony, where they are in their full uniforms at long last!
Under the photos is at top is a to-do list, including notes to buy milk and eggs, but the other document, at bottom, is a letter that says:
[Just] wanted to let you know that they transferred me to Kamig[awa. I] don't know how long I'll hav[e to] be stationed out there, but may[be] it would be best if we kind[a] went our own ways. It wouldn['t make] sense living in the past[, right?]A keen eye will see some splotches above the letter where tears recently were, but have since evaporated into nothing but the impression of a permanent mark.
Fun Facts: After completing one of my sketchbooks, I was scrambling for a new (old) volume to clear of useless old drawings so I could finish the Inktober run on "nice" paper. I found this old, completed sketchbook, counted out how many remaining illustrations I needed to make, and erased out that many pages. Then when inking this piece, I noticed the G-Pen would randomly bleed, even aside from the edges, where I expected it to, based on old memories from when I first dove into this sketchbook. So after finishing the first panel in the upper left, I completed everything else in Sakura Microns, which I usually reserve for straight lines and touch-ups. This made for a nostalgic trip to my Herald days, where I only had microns to work with and my lines felt so much chunkier. Anyway, since I couldn't use the G-Pen in this book safely, I decided to abandon it, so this is the only MTGinktober '17 drawing in that sketchbook, and I erased all those other pages for nothing! Granted they were my six weakest pages, but still, such needless destruction. I will have to go back and refill them with lower-stakes drawings.
More trivia, I included snaps of an alternate thumbnail take I was considering, since I wasn't sure I'd be able to do the nostalgia-trip treatment in time. This would have starred likely Wee Dragonauts, since I was eager to give them their own proper illustration. I say "likely" because I wasn't 100% convinced it'd be ok to repeat a card in the same year...I was thinking maybe this would be a good spot for Vendilion Clique, another bucket-lister. This composition was focused on a third character slyly inquiring into the situation between a bashful couple of close friends in full denial mode. It woulda been a cute/charming piece. I have this image of two Dragonaut partners who are kinda like Jessie and James from Team Rocket, where they're super comfortable with each other and there's all kinds of questions and speculation flying about. Or I guess Ash and Misty, only less antagonistic.
In the thumbnail, you can also see I had some notes for possible sources to study for the photobooth poses, including "Colbert," meaning Stephen Colbert, specifically the excellent trove of expressions from his acting exercise with Emily Blunt, which I've referenced before in this very year's "Furious," in fact. The thumbnail also shows a panel I scrapped where she gives him a kiss, which felt too on the nose--again, the idea of shipping (at its best) is when you can make reasonable arguments for and against the plausibility of it happening. Even in the final, "Love" is scratched out, so if you can read it you can hinge an argument on that, but at the same time, it could have been a slip up or even just a more platonic love, since they've been training together and have been tight for so long.
Easter Eggs: The middle pose in the photoroll is of course that famous Calvin and Hobbes cover, and the pose below that is the fusion dance from Dragon Ball Z. The 254 is a reference to the great Maro254.
MTGinktober bumps into Day 24, "Blind," starring Nahiri, the Harbinger and Maro254 from Look at Me, I'm the DCI posing up a storm at the Eye of Ugin! Don't blink or you might miss it!
This one almost went to pencils under a false premise. In my mind's eye, I remembered Triad of Fates as being blindfolded, so I was planning the composition in my head to be them in ridiculous Super Sentai, Power Rangers, or Ginyu Force style poses. I then remembered that Look at Me, I'm the DCI features Mark Rosewater as a stick figure with a blindfold, so I thought it'd be funny to include him posing along with the trio. But upon closer inspection, the triad's eyes are just darkened in shadow, but they don't have any apparent visual impairment. Idea killed. What to do?
Well, I had another idea I'd been looking to implement since I did a soft cross-over with Kiora and The Little Mermaid: I'd been wanting to dress up a Magic character in another property's costuming. While I do no prep before I learn of the day's prompt on the same day I am to draw it, I do have these general gimmicks that come to and linger in mind that I wait to use on a given prompt should they ever sync up. So for this one, since there weren't very many usable blind characters in Magic itself, I realized I could borrow a blind character from Avatar: The Last Airbender--Toph Beifong, and dress someone from Magic as her. But who to cast? Well, Toph has earth-manipulating powers, so why not a Magic analog--Nahiri, who controls stone? And then it struck me that we could even salvage the old idea and have Maro254 as a support character, too! To cap it off, I placed them both in the Eye of Ugin, since that was a sight-based place name.
Fun Facts: Rather than dress Nahiri one for one as Toph, I mixed their costuming a little, and fortunately Nahiri's signature stripes, arm wraps, and the prominent stitching on her outfit ported over pretty easily into Toph's costume's design. The worry here was that this might make the costume unrecognizable, so I made sure not to let these Nahiri nods dominate the costume. While drawing this though, I came to see quite concretely how accurate the Tolarian Community College Professor's point was about Magic characters lacking truly unique, definitive character without their trappings to aid them! As far as I can tell, Nahiri has whispy white hair and super pale skin, but other than that, good luck!
Easter Eggs: Nahiri is of course assuming an Earthbending stance. But since Maro254 is drinking some kind of flavorful juice in his card art, I had him take a Drunken Master pose here a la Jackie Chan; he retains his beverage and dart. I hid a bunch of messages in the Eldrazi-esque engravings carved into the background. Let's see, I'll start on the right side going top to bottom--HI MOM; IMPEACH THE FRAUD; YYUR YYUB ICUR YY4ME; [signature]; 日本語大丈夫か; HOLA. Starting at the top of the left side and going down--何これ; YALE; 254; ルーベン; MCR MCS FOB PTV. And on the hedron: HEY LISTEN.
Monday, October 23, 2017
MTGinktober drips towards Day 23, "Juicy," starring Lil'iana, the Raven Man, and Kid Josu, and featuring the severed head of Joyce. It's fun for the whole fambly!
When I got the prompt, I thought, sweet, I want to draw chubby cheeks trying to hold down some plump, juicy fruit or something, and that's how this piece all started! From there, I pondered what could be funny to draw counter-intuitive to more typical munchable material, so my first idea to contrast chomping into a fruit was a zombie biting into a brain. A natural couple that might present this would be Liliana and her freshly zombified brother, which would coincidentally be a great opportunity to draw the kids again but in greater detail.
The reason I engineered for all of this to occur was because it was a classic family picnic under a tree. And if these were kids on a picnic, why not have a parental character looking after them? So I used the Raven Man as that chaperone figure, and as a nod to the story, he is doting after Liliana, trying to wipe her face.
Fun Facts: My position used to be that I would never draw Jace, as I detest the character and how they shove him down our throats, and more offensively, how they insist he is representative of Magic players in general, as the go-to Mickey Mouse of the property. But I needed someone to be having their brains getting eaten and Joyce seemed like an appropriate pick over either a random face or a random other character.
Easter Eggs: The juice boxes feature the word "juicy" in Japanese, which is also how you pronounce the name of the juicebox's mascot, Jushi Apprentice. The background is taken from Tree of Perdition. Liliana is eating a fruit from a Utopia Tree. Josu is eating the brain of specifically Jace, Memory Adept since the D. Alex art is great.
Here's a look at the initial sketch I roughed out when I first had the idea for the illustration. It started in landscape orientation. These early roughs help me anchor the emotion and general poses so I don't lose sight of the driving vision throughout the penciling stage. There was originally a raven nibbling out the eye of the decapitated head, but that felt just a smidge too gross, since it was supposed to be a more amusing/cute piece than actual horror. There were also sandwiches, which I also cut for time. They started out as elementary-school-age (see the roughed in idea for a backpack for Liliana), but ended up drifting to sorta teen-aged by the end of the pencils phase.
MTGinktober blazes toward Day 22, "Trail," starring Jaya Ballard, Task Mage and Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, aka Proto-Chandra and Kid Chandra! Chandra's on the run, on the open road, unknowingly on a trail blazed by the black-clad Ballard, bygone eras before!
This was a nightmare to draw! I missed my alarm clock, so I had to race to get this drawn, hence its relative simplicity. But in order to give an otherwise straightforward image of a firey-fingered femme fatale some flair, I thought I'd pull the old portal trick and play with the common knowledge that Chandra is basically Jaya but for the fellow young people. The nightmare portion of the program came from when I was already at my pencils deadline and needed to move to inks, but I noticed the arms were way too big--you can see remnants of where I kept bringing in the arms and elbows with each frantic revision. Once I got the arms to a reasonably passable position, I then noticed the hands were also out of proportion. Since the hands were so complex, I had to try my best to preserve them, otherwise I'd never make final deadline. So just before inks, I took them in just slightly while keeping their general positioning and while inking, I favored the inner side of the linework.
Back to the composition, to help sell the parallels these two Planeswalkers possess, I wanted to arrange them such that their placement indicated that Chandra was following in Jaya's footsteps, on a trail the elder pyromancer blazed, as it were. The story in my head here is that Chandra's on the run from the law, so she's hobo'ing it up across the multiverse, fresh off her spark igniting. She thinks she's going on this grand adventure learning of her powers and the peoples of the myriad planes, but really, she's retracing the exact journey of discovery Jaya took when her spark first ignited untold eons prior.
Fun Facts: One thing I discovered in Japan that bugs me to no end is how they randomly screw up easy pronunciation stuff that could be solved in a simple email. They call Jaya "Yaya" in the Japanese translation. It's not because Japanese doesn't have that phoneme--they famously say "sanks" for "thanks," for instance since Japanese has no "th" construction, or they often say "right" for "light" since the Rs and Ls are entirely interchangeable in Japanese--rather, they call her Yaya just freaking cuz. Fix it.
Same thing with Reid Duke's name. They call him "Raid-o" since somebody apparently translated his name by looking at its spelling and plugging in the corresponding Japanese phonemes on a first-come basis, and didn't bother to listen to how it's actually pronounced, and everybody from that point on just went with it. They should be using the more accurate "Reed-o," but why bother to show respect for not just a legendary player, but also a human being?
This goes both ways, though. I hate when people call Shota Yasooka, "SHOWW-tuh (rhymes with POW!-tuh) yuh-SOO-ka." Again, show some respect and extend the minimal effort to get in the ballpark of SHOH-tah yah-so-OH-kah. Or even Yuuya Watanabe--come on, what is with this ridiculous fast-forward "wahTAHNAY-BAY" they do? It's literally, just as you read it, no tricks: wah-tah-nah-beh.
Easter Eggs: As I often do when I draw fire, I bury in the flames the Fire Nation symbol from Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Fire Energy symbol from the Pokemon TCG, and of course the Red Mana symbol from Magic: The Gathering, a popular trading card game I enjoy. But there's also a heart. And the Plane kid Chandra's on is of course Kamigawa, which features those fantastic Jim Nelson swamps.