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
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
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
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!