The Portent! This piece has had an exciting ride and is a favorite piece of mine, and I am happy to share the process, steps, and some of the backstory that went into making this piece. First, here is some of the backstory about the Portent and its intended life as another card. I worked on this piece in late 2013, and from what I understood, it would be making its appearance in Commander 2014 as updated art for the Commander Sphere. The art order called for a magical glass sphere full of magical powers swirling around inside it. The orb could be set in some sort of holder, or it could be held in gloved hands. I went with the gloved hand route, and I wanted to do something interesting with the sphere's surface, or orb, with having different sections and maybe some wrappings or metalwork to make it visually unique. I did a lot of work, which I will share below, got the piece approved, and sent it off.
When Commander 2014 came out, I looked through the art to see that the Commander Sphere's art was not mine and was either old art or someone else's new art. This was not the first time something like this had happened, and while I was used to it, it never takes away the sting of realizing that it had happened. I reached out to my art director to see if it was anything on my end of the piece that was the issue, and she, if I recall, was actually unaware of the change in art and assured me that it was not me or the art and that in the fullness of time the art would be used. She mentioned that they had just found an unused Mark Zug painting in the slush folder that had lingered there for ten years, but it was finally getting released.
I knew I needed to be patient. It will either get used or it wouldn't, and there was very little I could do about it. I out the piece out of my mind and moved on since I was more than busy enough and had plenty of work ahead of me and plenty that was coming out. Jump ahead to late 2018. I sat down at my computer one morning and was starting everything and getting ready for the day. I glanced at my Twitter app as different software opened, and my blood went cold when I saw my art for the Commander Sphere in a tweet I was tagged in. My first thought was somehow my computer, and my art had been compromised, and someone was posting my unreleased art. That was how far out of my mind this piece was five years later. It took a moment for me to realize that this was an official announcement that the art was finally released and had been now used on the reprint of the Portent card. But for a few moments, I was a bit panic-stricken that I had a lot of clean up to do.
The personal connection here is that the Portent card's original appearance was in the Ice Age expansion, which happens to be the final set I bought and played when I used to play Magic the Gathering. Liz Danforth was the artist on the original Portent, and it has gone unchanged until my art was used on this new printing. If I am going to have the baton passed to me with a card, it is an honor to have it, Liz Danforth. I am confident that if this art had been used on the Commander Sphere in 2014, it would have gone unnoticed, but in 2018 as the new art of the Portent, it was a very successful piece for me. Before I get into the process, here is the final art for the Portent.
Now that I had more than enough references to work from, I got to work on my thumbnails for this piece. I had three main concepts I wanted to send to production. With those concepts, I had a plain and a more involved version. If I remember correctly, they had several favorites, but we eventually settled on option 'D' for the final. They did not have any notes regarding changes or edits. I am still a big fan of the 'face' version, and since it was not used, I may use it in something for my stories. Here are the thumbnails that I submitted for this piece.
With an approved thumbnail in hand, it was time to work on the drawings. First up is the pencil drawing to finalize the image and add details. I needed to make sure the metalwork on the orb's surface was correct and working so that I didn't have any awkward edits with the painting later. Better to make sure it was right now. I submitted this drawing, and it was approved. Here is the final drawing for this assignment.
12 x 9 -Pencil on paper
Original - SOLD
Magic the Gathering - Commander 2018
12 x 9 -Pencil on paper
Original - SOLD
After all of that work, two rounds of reference, thumbnails, drawings, tonal studies, and approvals, it was now finally time to paint. To be honest, this was the easiest part of the whole process. I had done so much work and had so much to pull from that the painting practically painted itself. I simply needed to spend the time in the chair and get the work done. Which I did. Here is a look at the painting for Portent taking shape.
After all that work, it is hard to not feel a certain degree of sadness and frustration when a painting goes unused. But, at the end of the day, that is the reality of the industry. Thankfully, the art eventually saw the light of day, and I can share all of this with you here. I still have art that has never been released, some from all the way back in 2008, though I am not sure how eager I would be to share that worth you now. Some things are best left lost in time and space. Here again, is the final art that eventually became the Portent and its corresponding card.
That is all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog. See you back here on Friday! Until then...