Mentorship 2.0

Hey everyone!

It’s that time of year to talk about my mentorship again. After teaching 5 classes, some changes have been made.

As you can see by the table, the prices have changed. If you sell products, even digital ones, most states require that you charge sales tax. That sales tax is then given to the state. In Washington, I am required to charge 9.6% sales tax on products I sell. I then have to give that 9.6% to the state, I don’t get to keep it. If I don’t charge people sales tax, I have to pay the 9.6% out of my own pocket. The new prices reflect the 9.6% sales tax plus a little extra because Paypal takes an additional 2.9% (3.9% for international people).

Video Only

10 Weeks x x x
12 Weeks x
Video Paintovers + JPG x x
Video Paintovers + PSD x
Standard Assignments x x x
Personal Assignments x
Portfolio Review x x
Access to Resources x x x x
Private Forum x x x x
Live Chats x x
Contact with ADs x

Modular Options

Intro Class

• Upgrade from 10 weeks to 12 weeks (video only). Only available to economy and standard tier students – $110

Advanced Class (currently the advanced class is only 10 weeks)

• Add contact with ADs (Standard tier upgraded to Premium tier only) – $55
• Add premium assignments (Standard tier upgraded to Premium tier only) – $55
• Upgrade from 10 weeks to 12 weeks (video only). Only available to economy and standard tier students – $110 (currently unavailable)

Payment Options – Economy, Standard, and Premium tier only

• Full – 5% off
• Two Payments – 50% up front, 50% at week 5
• US Military Discount – 20% off (can’t be combined with the 5% off)


When I first started the mentorship, I had a waiting list since I can only accept 10-12 students at a time. That failed because too many people were either canceling or not responding. One time I had around 30 people cancel. I would often spend several weeks trying to track down and email people on the waiting list, only to either not hear from them again or receive a cancellation. That would then cause more problems because it gave new candidates less time to pay for the class since I would have to try and find last-minute replacements.

I then decided to do a first-come, first-served announcement a couple of weeks before the starting date. Even then I had around 10 people cancel after agreeing to take the class. That ended up being worse because new candidates had virtually no time to pay for the class before it started.

What I am doing now is I am requiring a non-refundable deposit of $100. Hopefully this will weed out the people who aren’t really sure if they want to take the class. These reservations will be available for purchase through my store. Only 12 reservations per class will be available and I will make them available for purchase roughly 1 month before the starting date. That should give people enough time to get their tuition together. Right now only the Intro to Digital Painting reservation is on the store. The Advanced class requires a portfolio, so I have to approve each person first before they can make a reservation.

The $100 deposit will be deducted from the total tuition. So if you are taking the Premium tier ($900), after you pay the $100 deposit you will then owe $800. The discounts only apply to the remaining balance, it does not count toward the deposit. Same with the payment plan options, they only apply to the remaining balance.

I want to make this extra clear, the reservation is a non-refundable deposit. If you cancel, you will not receive a refund.


Registration for the Intro class opens on March 10th and the class starts on April 10th. Registration for the Advanced class opens February 5th and the class starts on March 5th. Since I have to approve portfolios for the advanced class before you can register, send them in now. Just send me a link to your portfolio (website, blog, DeviantArt, etc.) to I will then let you know if I think you are ready for the Advanced class. If you have taken my Intro class in the past and you want to take the Advanced class, send me an email.

I look forward to seeing your submission! See you in class!

Fate Reforged

Archfiend of Depravity © Wizards of the Coast

Archfiend of Depravity © Wizards of the Coast

Two of my illustrations from Fate Reforged were spoiled the other day, so here they are!

The first card is Archfiend of Depravity. This card was fun, but very tricky. The description called for a demon floating above a pile of dead bodies. Although I have to admit, painting the pile of dead bodies was pretty fun. Not because of the subject matter, but because it allowed me to paint things I don’t normally paint, like feet.

It was a good challenge, but now I wonder if the government has me flagged for Googling piles of dead bodies. I think most artists probably have some pretty weird Google searches.

The body pile ended up taking me maybe 2 days to paint? It doesn’t seem like much and a lot of it is hidden in shadow, but it took a lot of time. After I turned in my painting, my AD said that the demon was too small at print size and they were going to have to crop out the body pile. They own the image and they can do what they will with it, but I was a little disappointed since I spent a lot of time painting it, plus I felt it made the illustration better. I completely understand though, they need the illustration to fit their needs, so you gotta do what you gotta do.

I was very surprised when I saw the spoiler because they left the body pile in! Yeah I guess the demon is a little small at print size, but I think the card makes much more sense with the body pile considering the mechanics of the card.

Outpost Siege © Wizards of the Coast

Outpost Siege © Wizards of the Coast

The next card is Outpost Siege. Battle scenes are always tough for me. I tend to have a problem creating cool and dynamic fighting scenes, which is why I find it weird that so many of my illustrations these days are battle scenes.

I was never really fond of this illustration. I had a lot of trouble painting it and I was just never satisfied with the results. Most of the time I don’t post paintings I don’t like, but sometimes I have to. If I didn’t, I would never be able to post anything. If I really hate a painting, I won’t post it. I think I’m mainly unhappy with the people and not so much the dragon.

I believe I have 1 more painting in this set. Unfortunately I had to opt out of the second wave in the third set (Dragons of Tarkir) since our son was going to be born during the time as the deadlines. I should still have 3 cards in Dragons of Tarkir, but I was pretty bummed out because this was the first time I turned down work from Magic, plus I had helped concept two of the three sets of Khans of Tarkir, Dragons of Tarkir being one of them. Ah well, it was probably better that I opted out instead of turning in mediocre work.

“For the Emperor and Sanguinius! Death! DEATH!”

Blood Angels © Games Workshop

Blood Angels © Games Workshop

Of course, as soon as I post something saying I have nothing new to post, something new comes out.

Several of my Blood Angels were spoiled when Games Workshop started taking pre-orders for the new Codex Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard Edition. It looks like it is out now, so go pick one up before they sell out!

Painting anything from Warhammer 40k is super exciting, so it was great to paint 7 Blood Angels for the new Codex. I also painted a little blank side view of a pauldron so that GW could swap in and out various company markings.

When GW approached me to create the new Blood Angels, they wanted me to update the old front pose they used to use for all of the various Space Marines. If you have ever looked at a 40k Codex, you know which one I’m talking about. They wanted something more interesting and dynamic and they wanted different poses for each one.

Blood Angels Sketches

Blood Angels sketches

The sketches I did for the various poses are pretty straightforward. They wanted a standing pose with no background, although I added a little bit around the feet just to ground them so that they didn’t look like they were floating in space. A few of them changed slightly as I took them to finish, but they are pretty close to the original sketches.

I was on a fairly tight deadline (partially due to my commitments with my other clients in addition to these), so I may or may not have copy and pasted a few legs, heads, and arms between the 7 paintings. Shhhhh.

What’s funny about this guy is that after I submitted my file, I noticed that he had six fingers on his right hand. Of course I didn’t notice this until several months after I had turned in my final and by then it was too late. This version is the fixed one, but if you look at the book, he probably has six fingers on one hand. “You killed my father, prepare to die!”

Yeah I know, I remembered the trigger discipline on the Angels Encarmine, but I forgot to on this guy. What can I say, he likes to live dangerously. I mean, you gotta when you have six fingers! I dunno, maybe he just finished shooting his gun in the air while yelling “yeehaw!” That makes sense right? Maybe I’ll add a muzzle flash…

Ah screw it, I already went back and removed one finger, I might as well take his other finger off the trigger. Ok, here is the new new version.

Codex Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard Edition prints

Codex Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard Edition prints

Anyhoo, the Codex Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard Edition looks super awesome and it comes with prints of all 7 of my Blood Angels. I wish I could get one!

I like how they cropped the right arm off the guy with six fingers. Maybe they noticed it and decided to crop it, or maybe it just turned out that way.

That’s about it for now. Just remember, “Be bloody, bold, and resolute!”

Blast from the Past – 2006

Hero Japan Marketing

I wanted to post the concepts I created for Crytek for the game Ryse: Son of Rome, but I was told I’m not allowed to show my work to anyone. Since I can’t post any of my new art either, I figured I would continue from my Warhammer post and show some of my older paintings that have never been seen before.

Behold! Paintings from 2006! I would say “there can be only one,” but then this would be a very short and boring post.

These were illustrations and concepts I did back in 2006 (I graduated in 2004) for Widescreen Games for the game Highlander. Unfortunately Widescreen Games is no longer around and the Highlander game was canceled back in 2010.

Oh man, it’s always weird going back and looking at your old work. These paintings are 8 years old now, 8 years! I believe these were actually my first “real” video game concepts. By “real” I mean concepts for a big client and title. I had worked for a video game company called Mind Control Software before this, but we weren’t making big games, we made word and puzzle games. Other than this work, I was working on D&D interior illustrations, card art for Fantasy Flight Games, and a few other random things for smaller clients. I think I started working on Magic: The Gathering in 2006 as well.

new_yorkMy stuff was pretty dark (hence the name) and loose back then, and apparently everyone had huge hands and feet.

This painting was the art test I did for Widescreen Games. Widescreen Games was a very professional client, so they paid me for this art test. In this day and age most art tests seem to be unpaid, so I was grateful that Widescreen Games knew and understood the value of paying an artist for their art test.

The cool thing about working on the Highlander game was that the game spanned different timelines, which allowed me to paint designs from various cultures and time periods. I’m usually known for my fantasy work, so I hadn’t done very many paintings of characters in contemporary clothing. This was a great opportunity for me to practice painting jeans and Chucks. Now that I think about it, this was the last time I painted people in contemporary clothing, other than studies from life.

As always, this wasn’t all of the work I did for Widescreen Games. The rest isn’t really worth showing.

Ancient Gaul, Pompeii, and other stuff

Vikings, gladiators, Romans, oh my! I can’t really remember who Antonius was with. He looks like a typical fantasy character while the others are more historical. Maybe he was with a barbarian horde? I can’t remember.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it really is weird how your perception changes over time. Looking back at these paintings I can see how off my proportions were, yet back then I thought they were correct. I remember reading this article that explained a scientific reason why beginning painters can’t recognize their mistakes, but I can’t seem to find it anymore. If anyone knows which article I am talking about, I would love to read it again.

Feudal Japan

I’ve always loved Japanese armor, so I had a lot of fun working on these. I used to periodically run down to Kinokuniya in San Francisco and look at their armor books. Looking back now, I’m not really happy with my designs. I think I really could have pushed these more, plus the paintings themselves are kind of blah. Before you say anything about the samurai hero using a Chinese sword, I was told to do that. Joe, I’m talking to you!

Modern Day – New York

Now you can’t say I never painted mad bling (not my idea), although I’m not sure why he is squatting and pretending to hold a chainsaw. I don’t think he was initially supposed to hold a chainsaw, which is why his hand doesn’t look like it is really holding it. Or maybe he was and I just screwed up, I can’t remember.

There is Still Hope for Me Yet

So, as my students said after showing them this post,  ”there is still hope for me yet.” Yeah I know, my paintings were pretty lame back then. Thanks for rubbing it in!

It’s always fun to look back at your old work and see how far you have come, but I also cringe at my old work and I feel a little silly showing them. I need to figure out a way to systematically remove all of my old Game of Thrones paintings from the internet. Those should never been seen by the human eye, ever. Pew pew! (That’s me using lasers to remove my Game of Thrones paintings from the internet.)

Wacom Companion – Screen Protectors

Photo from

Photo from

Now that the Companion has been out for more than a year, companies have started making screen protectors for it. When I first purchased the Companion, there weren’t any screen protectors available, so I had to risk scratching my screen. I’m always super careful with my things, so I went about 7 months with no problems.

I use the Companion as my only work machine, so I use it a lot. After 7 months my nib had worn down quite a bit, but I didn’t notice how much it had worn down. It had worn down enough to create a sharp edge, which of course scratched my screen. <insert Vader “Noooooooo” here>

It was completely my fault. If I had been paying more attention to my nib wear, I probably wouldn’t have scratched my screen. Luckily it wasn’t that bad, so you can’t really notice it. Anyway, I went on Amazon and found a couple of different options regarding screen protectors for the Companion.

Posrus & Skinomi

I’ve been using tablet PCs since around 2009, so I have quite a bit of experience using various screen protectors. Back when I was using the ASUS EP121, I used the Posrus and the Skinomi screen protector. I used a few different options for the Fujitsu ST5112 as well, including the one from Fujitsu. Out of the 5112 screen protectors, the one from Fujitsu ended up being the best, even though it was really thick and made everything look a little blurry.

Skinomi screen protector after only 3 weeks of use. No bueno.

Skinomi screen protector after only 3 weeks of use. No bueno.

The Skinomi screen protector was a pain to install because it was one of those wet install screen protectors. It was a glossy protector so everything looked super crisp and clean, but that also meant there was a ton of glare. After only three weeks of use, the screen looked like the surface of a lake, or maybe liquid mercury.

The Posrus protector was an anti-glare screen protector, but it also scratched very easily. Not only did it scratch, but the scratches made everything on the screen look blurry. At least the indentations on the Skinomi protector didn’t make everything blurry. The Posrus protector had to be replaced after about a month or two.

Sure the Skinomi and Posrus protectors were for the ASUS EP121 and not the Companion, but since they are made by the same company, I’m sure they are pretty similar. Posrus offers a Companion screen protector, but based on how the Posrus protector performed on the ASUS, I didn’t want to take the chance.

Photodon a.k.a Awesomedon

There was another option by Photodon that looked promising, so I gave it a shot. They offer several different options for the Companion, a 25%, 35%, and 85% anti-glare and also a clear version. I went with the 25% anti-glare.

The Photodon screen protector is by far the best screen protector I’ve ever used. It is easy to install and it doesn’t affect the colors or touch capabilities. I also don’t really notice much affect on the sharpness of the screen, although I guess I didn’t sit and inspect it before and after. It does have a little bit of a matte feel to it, but if you buff the screen with the cleaning cloth that comes with it, it becomes much smoother.

The other screen protectors lasted anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months max, the Photodon screen protector lasted 7 months. Quite an improvement. Plus that 7 months was with me using the computer 7 days a week, 8-15 hours a day. The scratches also weren’t huge indentations like the Skinomi protector, instead they were fine scratches. They also didn’t make the screen blurry like the Posrus protector. They did cause my nib to get caught a little and make squeaky noises, which was why I decided to go ahead and replace it. Paying $20 every 7 months to protect my Companion seems like a pretty good deal to me.

If you have a Wacom Companion and you are looking for a screen protector, Photodon is the way to go.

More Hobbit Stuff


Bard the Bowman

I’m back!

I have a couple of new paintings I did for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth by Kabam.

Like with the other paintings I did for Kabam (more here, and here), these were painted on a transparent background so that they could be dropped directly into the game. This time they requested full figures, so no sketchy legs!

I was actually working on these paintings while I was sitting in the hospital waiting for my wife to give birth to our son. We were in the hospital for 4 days, so I had plenty of time to work on my freelance. Good thing I have a Wacom Companion!

It’s pretty hard to believe that I’ve been doing paintings for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth for more than two years now. I think so far I’ve created a total of 38 paintings, not counting a few head changes. I ended up painting two different heads for Legolas and Elrond.


Master of Laketown

The Master

The Master of Laketown was fun to paint, but it was hard. There aren’t very many high resolution images online of his outfit, so I couldn’t go into as much detail as I could with the other characters. With the other characters I actually received high resolution production images from the film, which was great. This time I didn’t receive any production images of Bard the Bowman or the Master of Laketown. Google was my friend.

It’s funny because after I turned in my painting, they said that the style of their game assets had changed and they needed something more loose and less detailed. I ended up going back through my old iterations (luckily I keep them all) and used some of my looser WIPs to create a less refined painting.

These are the more detailed versions because I like them better. I think they match my other paintings better than the loose versions, which makes sense because they are all part of the same game.

Ok I lied, these are actually a hybrid of the more detailed version and the less detailed version. I liked some parts of the looser version and some parts of the more refined version, so I just masked out certain areas. Sometimes you can add too much detail. I think I got carried away in some areas.




Vastriel is a new character Kabam wanted me to create for the game. Creating a new character for an IP like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is incredibly daunting. It is a great opportunity to expand the universe, but you might end up upsetting the fans. It is even harder when creating a female character, especially in a fantasy genre.

The designs in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are definitely more historical than fantastical, so I didn’t want to go into too much high fantasy. Of course there is always the problem of female armor too. You won’t see any mail bikinis in The Hobbit, so you won’t see any on Vastriel either. I also didn’t want to take the route of boob armor.

I painted Vastriel back when I was working on the first paintings I did for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth, so she is probably about two years old now. I posted the avatar I painted of her a long time ago, but I never posted the full painting. Her legs aren’t painted because you will never see her legs in the game.

Here is the description I was given.

Vastriel is a Rivendell loremaster who has armed herself with artifacts. Long red hair, pieces of armor over an elvish gown or robes, attractive, appears about 30. Sword and shield. She’s driven, almost obsessed — with finding artifacts, protecting her people, and killing Orcs. 


She needed to be armored enough to look like she could take out some Orcs, but not so big and bulky that she lost her femininity. Of course she also needed a book since she is a loremaster! I didn’t want to add too many artifacts and knickknacks to her belt since that might get too much into high fantasy, but I thought one book would probably be ok.

Stealing the Arkenstone

Stealing the Arkenstone


This was the last painting I did for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. Maybe they will hire me to do some more paintings in the future, but as of right now, this was my last painting.

When they asked me to paint Bilbo stealing the Arkenstone, I think my eyes glazed over. All I could think about was “how in the world am I going to paint all of those coins?” I didn’t think about how I was going to paint Bilbo or Smaug or the environment, no, only those cursed coins.

I think I ended up trying several methods. A coin brush didn’t really work and photo textures didn’t really work, so I ended up just painting them all by hand. They are all really loose, so it wasn’t like I was spending hours and hours painting each coin. I think trying to decide how refined to paint the coins was also a problem. How big was this painting going to be seen? Would I need to render the coins out or just hint at them?

This actually isn’t the version that was released. After I had painted this version, they had asked me to remove the Arkenstone and make Bilbo bigger. I’m not sure why they wanted me to take out the Arkenstone, but I think the painting works much better with it. Not only does it help guide your eye, but it is also an important storytelling element.

Well, it has been a great two years. Hopefully this won’t be the last you’ll see of me when it comes to Middle-earth.

GP San Antonio 2014

View from the hotel

View from the hotel

Last weekend I attended GP San Antonio. This was the first GP I’ve been to since GP Albuquerque one year ago. I haven’t been traveling lately because of the little guy and I probably won’t be doing much more. I do plan on going to GP Vancouver in February since I can drive to it. I can tell you one thing, I don’t miss flying.

This GP was special because I created a unique playmat for the event and I was able to visit my parents since they live in Texas. Of course that meant a trip to the Alamo! I should have taken a picture next to the Alamo while holding up my playmat.

I don’t think I’ve been to the Alamo since I was in middle school. It’s funny because the Alamo looks so small now with all of the big buildings around it. It probably looks smaller since everything looks bigger when you are younger.


Sarkhan Gambit alter

Luckily the event wasn’t too big. I believe there were 1167 players. If this ended up being another Vegas, I probably would have died. I must admit, I was a little rusty since I haven’t been to a GP in a long time. I always forget to take pictures of drawings and alters I do, but I took a few.

I just want to thank everyone for dropping by and thanks to Steve Port for bringing me out there and giving me the opportunity to create the San Antonio playmat!

Mentees, not Manatees


Andres Esquivel – Week 2 (left), Week 4 (right)

Although manatees are awesome, and something I need to post about in the future, this post is all about my mentees!

Last week was the final week of my third Intro to Digital Painting class and the fourth week of the first Advanced Digital Painting class. I’ve been extremely happy with the progress everyone has made, so I just had to share a few of them. These first few are from the Intro to Digital Painting class. During week 2 I have everyone paint a black and white still life and on week 4, they paint a color still life.

Savage McCants - Before mentorship (left), Week 4 (right)

Savage McCants – Before mentorship (left), Week 4 (right)

Sometimes it is really hard to believe how much progress my students make from week to week. I know I ask a lot from my students, but I think it really pays off in the end.

Right now I’m currently teaching 11 Intro students and 11 Advanced students. The Advanced class meets every other week, so we are only on week 4 right now (even though the class has been going for 8 weeks).

This is the first time I’m teaching the Advanced class, so it is really exciting seeing all of the assignments. Sometimes the Intro assignments get a little repetitive, so this is a nice break. If I have to paint one more tree during the week 3 assignment, I think I’ll go insane. I really need to change that assignment.

I also have a few updates about future classes. I have mentioned several times that I am no longer doing a waiting list for the mentorship.

Vlad Rikowski - Advanced Week 3

Vlad Rikowski – Advanced Week 3

Intro to Digital Painting – December 5th

The next Intro class will be starting on December 5th, so I plan to make the official announcement for submissions on November 14th. At 11:00AM PST and 9:00PM PST I will post on FB and Twitter that I will be accepting submissions. The first 5 people during each time slot to reply by sending an email to will be accepted. Payment will be due by December 4th.

I’m hoping that by accepting submissions at two different times, international students will be able to submit during at least one of those time slots.

It is unfortunate if people don’t have Facebook or Twitter, but those are probably the two easiest ways to get the word out. If I posted on my blog or website, I’m not sure how often people would check them to even see the announcement. I guess maybe if someone had an RSS reader that might work.

Yoobin Han - Advanced Week 4

Yoobin Han – Advanced Week 4

Advanced Digital Painting – 2015

The next Advanced class will probably start in February. Again, there is no waiting list, so it will be first come first serve. My current Intro students will have the opportunity to take the Advanced class without having to go through the submission process. Any seats left will be open to public submissions.

When we get closer to the end of the current Advanced class, I will let everyone know when I’ll be accepting submissions for the next Advanced class.

I should probably also mention that I still haven’t finished the demos for week 11 and 12 of the Advanced class. Right now it is still a 10-week course. I have no idea when I’ll finish week 11 and 12, but hopefully I will soon. Of course I’ve been saying that for about a year now, so who knows.

Ben Liou - Advanced Week 3

Ben Liou – Advanced Week 3

Payment Plans

I also changed around the payment plans a bit, which is good for some but bad for others.

Instead of offering 10% off by paying in full, I have lowered it to 5% off. I already lose between 2.9-3.9% from Paypal fees, plus my mentorship is extremely cheap compared to other mentorships and online classes, even without the discount.

The good news is that I am now offering a US military discount of 20% off. This is a flat 20% off, so you can’t combine it with the 5% off. Normally if you select the payment plan, you can’t get a discount, but the military discount works with the payment plan as well.

Not joining the military has always been one of my biggest regrets in life, so I want to give a little back with this discount.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the work from my current students. See you next time!

GP San Antonio Playmat – Spirits of War

Spirits of War

Spirits of War

Next month I’ll be one of the guest artists for GP San Antonio from November 28-30th.

Steve Port contacted me and wanted to know if I would be interested in creating an original playmat illustration for the GP. They wanted something that was specific to the city of San Antonio, so of course the Alamo and the Riverwalk were the first to come to mind.

The illustration needed to look like it could fit within the world of Magic, but it couldn’t look too much like Magic. The Riverwalk is a little too modern, so I didn’t know if I could make it fit very well within the world of Magic. I ended up going with the Alamo idea, but I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the Alamo.

At first I considered painting a battle scene, but I thought it would be a little too complicated. Players will be playing Magic on top of these playmats, which means there are going to be a lot of cards and tokens cluttering the surface. If I painted something that was complicated and then added all of the elements from the game on top, I thought it would just be too chaotic and it might distract the players from the game. I wanted something a little more simple, but not too boring.

The Sketch

Original sketch

Original sketch

My first sketch had the warriors standing in front of the Alamo, but they were all living. WotC had to approve my sketch, and their feedback was that my painting didn’t feel fantastical enough to fit within the world of Magic. They also suggested that I make the designs of the warriors similar to the designs in Khans of Tarkir.

I decided to turn all of the background warriors into spirits. Hopefully that would give the illustration a more fantastical feel. I had also planned on making the main warrior’s sword glow, but I thought it would blend in too much with the background warriors.

Video Tutorial

At this point I thought it would be cool to record my painting process and create a new tutorial. Since I hadn’t recorded the process of the original sketch, I repainted it specifically for the tutorial.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to record the entire process. Some parts during the middle of the process weren’t filmed because it would have taken up too much space and the video would have been extremely long. I usually spend 2-3 days on a Magic painting, so this painting took me probably more than a week to paint. Even after skipping parts of the process, my video was still 6 hours long. I was able to cut that down to a 4.5 hour demo and the video file is around 9 GB.

Selling a 9 GB file through my own store might end up exceeding my bandwidth, so I decided to offer the tutorial through Gumroad. Yes, I have finally joined the Gumroad frenzy. Be sure to check out my other videos on Gumroad as well!

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

This morning I checked my FB feed and saw that my Ob Nixilis card finally came out after waiting for more than a year! I’ve been waiting for a long time to show this painting, but I have some mixed feelings about it now that so much time has passed.

I guess the good thing about going back and looking at older paintings is that I can see what needs to be fixed. Sometimes I’ll go back and fix older paintings before I make prints. My older Magic cards were pretty loose and painted at smaller sizes, so they don’t always translate well with larger prints.

Someone on my FB page asked if I had started in black and white and added color later or if I had started in color first. I started in black and white like I normally do. Starting in color is pretty rare for me. I usually only do that if I’m doing a study from life or if I have a very clear idea of what I’m going to do with the color scheme.

I wasn’t planning on showing the process for this painting, but since someone asked, I figured I would go ahead and show it.

Here is the art description I received.

“This is a planeswalker, one of Magic’s iconic, world-traveling mage characters. Ob Nixilis is black aligned planeswalker who eventually gets transformed into a demon. This card represents him as a human before becoming a demon. Ob Nixilis stands over 6′ tall, and is broad across the chest. He is clad in black armor that parallels his torso in demon form. On his breastplate, and written in blood, is demonic script (no real-world letters or symbols please). He is bald, and there is heavy stubble on his face. He has sunken, but intense eyes, and he has the look of a person who has seen some seriously dark stuff. Or, perhaps he looks like a sort of black magic addict. Your choice. Under one arm, he holds a helm that is fashioned with the same horn pattern as he will have as a demon. Ob Nixilis stands in front of a blood-stained altar.”

After reading the description, I just realized that it had asked for a demonic script written in blood on his chest. I completely forgot to add that, whoops! I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal since no one ever brought it up.


Ob Nixilis, the Fallen by Jason Felix

The image the description referred to was the painting done by Jason Felix. I tried to make some of my armor designs similar to Jason’s painting, mainly the helmet and the shoulder spikes. I also kept the glowing chest the same since it already looked like plates of armor.

Before going into the painting I already knew that I wanted to give a nod to the portrait paintings done by John Singer Sargent. Sargent has always been one of my favorite painters and I thought the setting and mood would fit well with Ob Nixilis.

I don’t know much about the lore behind Ob Nixilis, but I saw him as being snobby royalty that would revel in having his portrait painted. Hopefully it doesn’t go against his lore.


The Earle of Dalhousie by John Singer Sargent

It seemed like his face was a major part of the art description and I liked the idea of him being addicted to black magic, so I decided to spend more time working out his face during the initial sketch phase.

Typically I don’t spend this long on a specific part of a sketch before giving it my AD, but I wanted to make sure they had an idea of where I was going. I wanted it to look like the black magic was actually corrupting his physical appearance and staining his eyes and lips. It reminded me of the Mentats from Dune who would drink so much sapho juice that it would stain their lips red.

I’m actually not sure if I had completely worked out his armor design when I sent my original sketch for approval. The sketch I’m showing now is more refined than what I usually send clients for approval.

I took some pretty funny reference photos of myself holding my ice hockey helmet and sword, although I wasn’t holding both at the same time. I should probably go back and do that just because it would look ridiculous.

Ob Nixilis sketch

Ob Nixilis sketch

Throughout the process I kept having to make him look taller. Looking back at this sketch, he looked really short. He definitely doesn’t look like he is over 6 feet tall like the description said.

After I received approval, I started working on different color variations of the face. I wasn’t even worried about working on the color scheme for the entire image, I just wanted to get the face nailed down first. It also helped that I already knew he was going to be in black armor and the pillars and altar were probably just going to be a stone color.

I came up with two different color variations for the face. In the first one I was going for a sickly pale skin tone with a bit of green and yellow. For the second one I decided to try something completely different and went with a blue and purple color scheme.

Both of these were achieved by adding color on an overlay layer. The pale one also required quite a bit of opaque painting on a normal layer to get what I wanted, but the blue/purple one was almost done completely with one overlay layer.

Face color variations

Face color variations

I ended up going with the first one because I felt like he looked more like an addict and it showcased the staining better than the darker version.

Now that I had an idea of where i was going to go with the face, I started working on color for the rest of the painting. The black armor was also done using an overlay layer. Of course I couldn’t just make the entire armor black, so I would have to go and add more color variation by painting opaquely on a normal layer on top of the overlay layer.

Ob Nixilis process

Ob Nixilis process

In the third image, I decided to add some red cloth to his design. It made him feel a little more like royalty and it added some color variation to the image. Later on I added more red to his arms because otherwise the red cloth felt too isolated. I needed red somewhere else in the image to balance it.

The next to the last image is closer to what I actually submitted to WotC. When I found out my painting was released this morning, I opened the file to post it. I noticed that he still looked really short and his Captain Morgan leg looked off. I moved his head and neck up to make his torso longer and lowered his bent leg. I actually think I made the image a little too dark. I should probably go back and fix the levels.

If you are interested, I added prints to my inPRNT gallery. Check it out!