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 Oashra Cultivator by Sara Winters from Amonkhet.
Take it away Sara.
I was contacted by art director Cynthia Sheppard to paint this card last summer. This was a really simple art description. I was asked to paint a human acolyte who bears a ceremonial bowl containing sacrifices to the gods The contents could be fruit or other items wrapped in leaves. This image would take place in lush gardens and the acolyte’s attitude would be polite and courteous. Since this was a creature card, the character would be the star of the show and the bowl and gardens were secondary but still necessary since the card was green.
After receiving the description, I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to paint. At this early stage I start to see imagery in my head and get notions of the mood I want to hit and the story I want to tell. I also start to think of compositions that fit.
There were really only two options I could see in this piece: a composition where the figure is in profile shot and is offering her fruit to an off-camera entity; and a composition where we are looking straight at the character. I decided on the latter. I liked the idea of making the audience become the god that she is giving an offering to, as opposed to a third-person witness to the scene.
I find it captivating when a character is staring directly at the viewer, like they are inviting us into their world. Since the audience is in the position of a god, I decided on a down shot of the character for purposes of hierarchy and storytelling.
For reference, I try to gather as much exact reference as I can so that I can focus on only the fun part: painting. The more pre-planning there is for a piece, the more enjoyable it is for me to get lost in the painting process. I’ll explain that a bit later though...
I began thumb-nailing compositions to make sure that they worked outside of what was in my head.
My first attempt at a pose was a bit over the top. The figure had a big toothy smile and it was a little cheesy. She had a bit of a fake door-to- door salesman vibe, which I found to be unappealing.
My second sketch was more subtle and nuanced. The character looked happy but a little bit nervous at the same time. They ARE meeting a god after all. I received concept art for architectural elements of the garden, costuming for the character and motifs I could include on the bowl to make it look like part of the world.
This is the sketch I settled on:
Once the sketch was approved, I started to gather reference and schedule a photoshoot. I hired an excellent model that I worked with before. We met at Volunteer park, here in Seattle, for the photo shoot. Luckily, this was one of the rare bright sunny days here, so I could capture the perfect lighting. I brought my handy metal Ikea bowl filled with grocery store fare and a fake lotus pod I picked up at the craft store. I researched fruits and plants that would fit into the climate.
There was supposed to be a banana in this painting, but I got hungry. I discovered while at the park, that there was a plant conservatory, which held a ton of tropical plant life. I had never been to this location before, so I kind of lucked out. Here are some images from that shoot:
When I had everything I needed, I worked up a rough underpainting with the reference that I gathered. I noticed that the background was a bit too green so I added some flowers to break it up. The figure wasn’t popping from the background like I wanted, so I lightened the area behind her head and cooled down the color temperature a bit so that the background receded more into the distance.
During this time, I was really trying to focus on my mark-making and edge control. Edge control is a great way to trick the eye into looking where you want it to. I blurred out and softened the background and sharpened up the head and bowl so that the eye looks directly at what I wanted the focal point to be. Its a great way of showing spacial relationships in a painting.
I think that I was pretty successful at accomplishing these things in this painting, but I do think I am much better at it now. You’ll have to wait a while to see some of those paintings though :)
I was really excited to see this style guide for the first time. I knew for a while that Wizards was working on a world based on Egyptian mythology, but I didn’t realize how beautiful some of the concept art was. The gods in particular are incredible! I have always been enamored by ancient cultures and at one point wanted to be an archeologist, so this set was particularly exciting for me to work on.
This is the second set that I have worked on, the first being Kaladesh. I enjoyed both sets immensely and it’s hard to compare. Culturally they are very different worlds, but as an artist they had similarities: characters wearing gold in bright daylight. I definitely learned a thing or two about painting gold materials. They were worlds set in mostly bright and sunny climates and it a was fun challenge learning to paint that type of lighting. I typically resort to painting dark, moody and overcast images, so Kaladesh and Amonkhet were very different from what I am used to. I really enjoyed working on the set and can’t wait to show you what’s next!
The original artwork for Oashra Cultivator was created digitally.
Thank you Sara for sharing this story with us.
Check back next Thursday for more Art in Focus.