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  • April 28, 2017 3 min read 0 Comments

    The creative process behind each piece of Magic art is unique to the image and the artist.

    From the art description to the final product, the Art in Focus series reviews every step involved in crafting the art of Magic the Gathering in the artist’s own words.

    This week we shine the spotlight on the Maelstrom Wanderer by Thomas M. Baxa from Planechase 2012.

    Take it away Tom.


    Here’s the actual art order straight from Wotc for Maelstrom Wanderer, painted in May of 2011. It has been a player favorite Commander in EDH ever since.

    Color: Red, blue, and green legendary creature -- one of a kind

    Location: A steeply inclined landscape, swept by a very strong wind
    Action: The Maelstrom was the point at which the five shards of the plane of Alara merged -- a huge, roiling, crackling whirlpool of mana, aether, and magic. The Maelstrom is mostly gone now, but it remains a site of bizarre, flaring magic and strange winds. Show The Wanderer, a towering elemental creature borne of the Maelstrom. Its body is composed of green veins and vascular structures, fire and rock, and ribbons of blue arcane energy. It's easily 60 feet tall. It wanders the former Maelstrom's rim, into the wind, trailing blue plasma and licks of flame as it goes.
    Focus: the huge "maelstrom elemental"
    Mood: A walking storm of quasi-living magic, purposeless and ceaseless
    Notes: [[Not providing Maelstrom ref because (a) terrain around it isn't clear in any ref, and (b) the Maelstrom itself is gone, its energy harvested. This thing walks around where it used to be.]]

    One of the things that stood out and informed some of my creature design decisions was the fact that this was a steeply inclined rocky landscape, so I wanted the Wanderer to be sure-footed. I decided to make him crab-like.

    I was also struck by the idea of him being a creature, but composed of and exuding a lot of energy. I chose to make him more of a solid exoskeletal creature with a core of energy instead of a energy based elemental.

    I didn’t end up using much reference for this particular painting, but rather relied on my imagination and familiarity with rock and muscular forms to convey a creature with powerful and weighty limbs. I wanted him to feel like a brooding, heavy juggernaut that just marched the barren plane forever.

    I also wanted to convey a vast amount of mana filling him up and surging forth from his body – showing the energy needed to move his massive rocky carcass.

    The sense of mass was important, and I wanted him to have a cool visage made up of layered rock plates and glowing from within.

    I almost always focus on the main figure first. I like to design something cool and original, then give it some kind of drama, in both the way it’s moving and through color and light. I added in the background later.

    When I do the actual painting, I mask off the figure first and fully paint the background, then I paint the figure.

    I love the dramatic, almost cataclysmic nature of the Maelstrom Wanderer. There’s a ton of energy swirling around him and in the background.

    My favorite parts of the painting are his fiery gut behind the rock-form ribcage, and his face with the star pattern and the floating rock shapes that stay suspended in the blue mana storm emanating from his neck and clavicle region.

    I’m so grateful that players are enjoying Maelstrom Wanderer and the artwork I created for the card. And thanks to all the sites and communities that support fantasy art like OMA!


    The original artwork for Maelstrom Wanderer was created traditionally and sold many years ago.

    Tom is currently taking pre-orders for an official MAELSTROM WANDERER PLAYMAT! This is a high quality playmat produced by UltraPro and only available through Tom. You can get details and pre-order a playmat for $40 at his web store(prices will go up after this initial offering).

    Tom also has all kinds of Original Art, Sketches, Prints, Artist Proofs, Books (Blood Rituals: The Art of Tom Baxa, Get Work as a Fantasy Artist) and Merchandise available at his website.

    Thank you Tom for sharing this story with us.

    Check back next Thursday for more Art in Focus.