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January 26, 2017 4 min read

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 Spire of Industry by John Avon from Aether Revolt.

Take it away John.


Sometimes when I am looking at the style guide I get very excited by the concept art – with Kaladesh I had the same experience as with Ravnica and Mirrodin.

This piece specifically I was drawn to because it has a science fiction look, is imposing like the Brandenburg Gate or the Eiffel Tower and I enjoy painting architecture – so I literally requested if I might be allowed to paint this one – not something I ordinarily do.

I forgot all about it and when it came up again I didn’t really have the time to do it but I fit it in anyway as I was enthusiastic for the piece.

The art direction for this piece was purely in the form of the artist’s brief and the style guide. The brief was a paragraph. The most important element was that it matched the vibe of the look in the style guide and the general style of Kaladesh.

It had to look imposing, magisterial and important.


As well as the style guide I generated my own 3D model to help me with reference – for me this is important for lighting and shadow as these are the trickiest things to just invent.

It’s all down to shadows – it is very hard to know how a shadow will look behind something as they get distorted across different surfaces. I usually don't use 3D assistance, but it can sometimes really speed things up.

A brief aside about my process, these are the typical stages of every piece I create nowadays:

  1. Structure and Design - As this was a complex image I produced a 3D model to assist me with light and shadows. This is the initial wireframe image and is just simple shapes and lumps.
  2. Sketch - This is developed closely with the style guide, I don’t use the 3D model to produce this and just use the drawing
  3. Layers - Following client approval of the sketch I then develop my layers, tones for and perspective – this is the way I always work.
  4. Form - At this stage I am developing colour and form, which includes some of the shadows – I am not yet adding light sources.
  5. Lighting – This is the hardest stage as this is when I am trying to make something pure fantasy look realistic.
  6. Final Image – All details, lighting and colours developed satisfactorily – although in my mind it is not really finished….as with much of my work I feel I could work on a quite a lot more – but this is a feeling I have become accustomed too and at some point you have to make the call.

As I was creating the image I’m focused on the Spire but like cooking to make the main element of the meal, the protein for instance, you have the supporting vegetables, onion and gravy.

The Spire is supported by the buildings and the sky, so I am always thinking in terms of the context as well as the subject matter.

It was here, the lighting stage, that I spent most of my time.  Of course the Spire is the focus,but for composition I need a few other highlights to look at.

I aimed to capture the imposing grandeur/scale and the evening Hollywood lighting, that is low down lighting hitting the building at around 90 degree angles, this creates drama but also helps the viewer see what is going on.

Illustrating on Kaladesh has been a real privilege, very exciting and good to be involved in something which is sci-fi, architecturally interesting and optimisitic. Some of the sets are quite dark, pessimistic, blood, etc. If I am illustrating dark, demonic scenes they can bring me down a little. Kaladesh is optimistic!

This is one of the pieces that was quite tricky to finish but I quite like to the soft, blurry, dream like effect. It is what I set out to do – well about 80%, which is as close as it ever really gets for me. I look at all my work and consider them a work in progress, I just don’t have the time opportunity to finish things as much as I would like to!

This piece took me around a week and a half to produce – I really do not work very quickly these days but also I care about getting it right and so they take time.

If you enjoyed this piece, there is another special one coming out, perhaps later this year, which will hopefully be well received and I enjoyed painting.


The original artwork for this Spire of Industry was created digitally but the pencil sketch will be for sale soon. 

John Avon Art is introducing a new series of large format Ultra Limited Edition prints, starting with Spire of Industry   Limited to only 10 (TEN!) signed and hand numbered prints these are a serious collector’s item.  

John’s website also has available a wide range of other print options for this art, and all his other works.

Thank you John for sharing this story with us. 

Check back next Thursday for more Art in Focus.

Josh Krause

Josh Krause owns and operates the Original Magic Art Store.

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