GP Vancouver 2015

Photo Feb 21, 8 36 16 AM

Vancouver Convention Center

Over the weekend we attended GP Vancouver. This was my first Canadian GP and only the second time I’ve been to Canada (I think). The first time was for my sister’s wedding in Winnipeg. I hate flying and my wife doesn’t like boats, so luckily we were able to drive to Vancouver.

You know you are in Canada when it is 34 degrees outside and people are wearing shorts and t-shirts. I remember one time during GP Albuquerque it was snowing outside and Rob Alexander was walking around in a t-shirt. Crazy!

We were only in Vancouver for the weekend, but I was really impressed. It has the big city feel without the cramped crowded streets like San Francisco or Seattle. For a big city, it was also incredibly clean. The buildings were cool, the trees were huge, and the air was fresh. Plus everything smelled of maple syrup and people said “eh” and “aboot.” What’s not to like about this city?

The food was amazing. Everything I ate there, with the exception of the convention food, was incredible. There is a food truck near the convention center called Japadog; you must eat there before you die. The butter and shoyu fries were the best fries I’ve ever had, they finally unseated the duck fat fries I had in San Jose. The hot dog was also the best hot dog I’ve ever had. I need to go there again…soon.

Hippo Token

Hippo Token

In honor of my first Canadian GP, I created a special token for the event. Behold, the legendary hippo token!

When I was first asked to create a special token for the event, I had no idea what I wanted to do. With the help of Twitter, I decided to give hippos some love and create a baby green hippo token. Now I know hippo tokens aren’t exactly popular, but I wanted to do something different. Sorry, no goblin token this time!

Even though I went with an obscure token, it still seemed pretty popular. I guess there are more hippo fans out there than I thought there would be. Hippo army ftw!

I’m not sure if I will be selling them online or just making them available at shows. Tokens are cheap (2 for $1), so shipping and the time spent driving to the post office probably wouldn’t make it worth it. I was thinking about maybe making them a special bonus if people bought something else, but who knows.

The Grand Prix was great. It wasn’t as large as some of the other GPs I’ve been to, especially when you compare it to something like GP Vegas, but it was still good. It was probably better that this one was a little smaller because it really helped my wrists.

I tried to get to everyone in line when it came to alters and drawings, but unfortunately there is a limited amount of time. There is only so much I can do in 9 hours each day. Thanks to everyone who came out to the event and dropped by, I really appreciate it!

I kept hearing about the Vancouver Aquarium and how people will drive to Vancouver just to go to it, so we had to check it out before going back home. It was awesome. The shows were great and they had a lot of cool things to look at. I was bummed that the Monsters Revealed exhibit hadn’t opened yet, but I guess that gives me an excuse to go back. The area around the Vancouver Aquarium is beautiful, plus it was only a couple minutes away from the convention center.

I just want to thank everyone at Game Keeper and WotC for a great show. I hope everyone had a good time, I know I did!

WotC Concept Push – 2015

Photo Jan 19, 8 31 09 AM

Day 1 at WotC

I just got back from another 3-week concept push at WotC. Of course I can’t tell you what we worked on and unfortunately you probably won’t see any of it for another couple of years. Boooooo, I know.

The concept crew this time consisted of Tyler Jacobson, Cynthia Sheppard, Chris Rahn, and Steve Belledin, with additional help from Sam Burley.

I have to say, out of the 5 concept pushes I have been on over the years, this one was probably the hardest. I felt like I was spinning my wheels and I don’t feel like I produced as many concepts as I usually do. Typically I feel like that during the last few days of the push, but I felt like that by day 2. I had actually worked on some of this stuff last year, so maybe that was why I was feeling burnt out.

There are two things that were probably my greatest contribution to the push. The first was my laptop. There was a TV in the room we were working in, so I brought in my laptop and hooked it up. Movies galore! We seemed to be the talk of the office. Every so often someone would walk by and look through the window. We would then hear them comment about whatever movie we had playing at the time.

For me, watching movies while I work is something I do every day, but I guess for others it is a novel idea. I really hate working in silence. I actually find that when I work in silence, I become more easily discouraged, frustrated, and more prone to putting my painting down and walking away.


Turtleneck & Chain – The concept artist edition

My second best contribution, and probably my greatest contribution in my entire art career, was the Turtleneck & Chain concept artist edition photo. The day before we were listening to the song by The Lonely Island, so later that night my wife thought it would be a good idea for me to photoshop our heads onto one of the Turtleneck & Chain pictures.

The original picture only had three people in is, so I was only planning on adding the heads of Tyler, Chris, and Cynthia. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I should add all 5 of us. I combined a few other Turtleneck & Chain photos into this one, and behold, my greatest creation ever!

Initially I was just going to use the photo of myself that I photoshop onto all of my photos, but it was really grainy and it didn’t match any of the other heads. I went to the hotel bathroom (it had the most light) and took a few pics of myself with my phone.

Tyler Tech...wait, what is that on the roof?

Tyler Tech…wait, what is that on the roof?

It’s actually really funny how many people thought this was a real photo. To me it looks obviously photoshopped, but I guess I can understand why some people might be fooled. Chris and I do make a pretty good couple. I think I need to hang a large print of this above my mantle, when I have a mantle that is.

I foresee some turtleneck and chain shopping in the near future. All I need now is a furry couch…

One day when I was walking around the parking lot, I noticed that Tyler apparently has an office next to the WotC building conveniently called “Tyler Technologies.” That Tyler and his ego, jeez! Of course when I stopped to take a photo, Tyler himself was overseeing his building. Probably to make sure everything was running smoothly. That guy is everywhere!

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!

WotC Concept Push 2014

renton push 2014

Renton Concept Push 2014 – Wayne Reynolds, Vince Proce, Steve Prescott, Steven Belledin, Cynthia Sheppard, Me :O

I just returned from a 5-week concept push at WotC. I was joined by Cynthia Sheppard, Steven Belledin, Steve Prescott, Wayne Reynolds, Sam Burley, and Vince Proce.

It was great seeing and working with everyone again, even if we were trapped in a tiny room. After 2.5 weeks Belledin and I broke out of our room and joined the others for some shenanigans, tomfoolery, and general ballyhoo.

Cynthia and I stayed on for an extra two weeks, while the rest of the guys left after three. Prescott didn’t want his food to go to waste, so he very graciously gave me his leftovers. When I opened the bag I was greeted by half of a pepper, a yam, a handful of cereal, a few chips, and some other odds and ends. I wonder where the top of the pepper went?

daarken pepper

Steve really likes pepper tops.

I kept the cookies and olive oil and gave the rest to Cynthia. Of course I had to take a picture with the pepper before giving it to her. Little did I know, she also took a picture of it as soon as she got back to her hotel room. That pepper is famous now.

After four concept pushes, Renton really feels like a second home to me, sometimes even like my real home. I think I actually know my way around Renton better than where I live. In fact, I’m headed back there today to meet up with the next concept push crew.

The Mysterious Trip

One day Colin forced us to leave the office. Forced us I say! Usually when full-timers have an excuse to leave the office, they jump at the chance. I think our general reaction was “how long is this mysterious excursion going to take because we have a lot of work to finish?” Crazy artists.

We were led to a dead end in the middle of a forest. Is this where they dump concept artists after their time has come to an end? After trekking through the woods, we crossed some railroad tracks and came upon a huge wall covered with graffiti.

This was where our epic group shot was taken. Notice that I am so white that my shadows are cool, unlike the warm shadows of the other artists. Ok, it’s probably because the sun was bouncing off of my white jacket and blowing out the shadows with white bounce light, but still, I’m pretty white.

It was a pretty fun little trip, plus we need some sun from time to time.

I had a great time and I would just like to thank everyone for the opportunity. Till next time!


Photo Nov 25, 10 36 35 AMAfter our flight was delayed 4 times, we finally made it to Albuquerque! Luckily we were only about an hour and a half late.

Going to Albuquerque also meant that I was going to inevitably make Breaking Bad references the entire. I thought about printing out a “Save Walter White” sign for my tip jar, but the locals would probably roll their eyes and think I’m just another noob tourist going through the motions of making Breaking Bad references whenever the opportunity presented itself. I dunno, I think it would have been awesome.

Photo Nov 22, 6 55 42 AMAt breakfast I knew I had to get some bacon. Good thing they had a breakfast buffet!

There was no one in the dining room so when I went up to the buffet, the cook was just standing there staring at me the entire time. I didn’t want him to think I was crazy by grabbing a bunch of bacon, so I only took 3 pieces and hoped it would be enough. It wasn’t my birthday, but when in Rome…

With seven artists on the list and a GP in the middle of the desert (a desert which was going to receive snow during the weekend) I didn’t have very high expectations. I think for the most part this was one of the smallest GPs I’ve been to, at least in terms of traffic to my table. It actually felt more like a prerelease. The large number of artists thinned out the numbers even further, so much of my time was spent sitting and admiring the drink suspended 20 feet in the air on a window ledge.

Photo Nov 24, 11 54 59 AMDon’t get me wrong, it was still a great show. Unfortunately I had to leave a bit early on Saturday due to a medical emergency. Of course it was the weekend and we couldn’t find any dentists. Even the ones who were supposed to be open on the weekends 24/7 weren’t around or refused. Uh, if your site says you are open during the weekend aren’t you kind of required to accept a patient, especially when it is an emergency? Apparently not.  We had to wait until Monday before my wife could have surgery.

It was probably better that this GP was slower considering I had to leave early on Saturday, plus it always helps my wrists when I don’t have as many people in my line.

We ended up missing dinner with the other artists because of my wife’s medical problem. Sorry we couldn’t be there!

Hotel of Awesome…and Science

yeah scienceThe best thing about the hotel was that it had free wifi. Not just free wifi, but free wifi of lightning fast awesomeness. Actually, their upload speed was only .9Mbps, but they had a consistent signal. My upload speed at home is around .3Mbps and my signal is intermittent like crazy.

It was weird clicking on a link and having the page actually load. This is what the real internet must feel like! Usually when I’m at home I have to click on a link and hit refresh 4-5 times and sit for 2 minutes before I can get a single page to load.

Good news for my mentorship program, I was actually able to upload the rest of my Intro to Digital Painting videos to my Vimeo account using the hotel wifi. It was glorious.

“Yeah, science!”

Maybe next time I should go to the hotel that is 2 blocks away and sit in their lobby and upload my videos. They won’t notice right? Right??

Photo Nov 24, 6 31 36 AMSnow!

It snowed over the weekend! I was walking by the hotel window and I glanced outside and saw a blanket of white. I screamed to my wife “it snowed!” Ok, maybe I didn’t scream, but I definitely exclaimed.

I love snow. I like the crunching sound it makes when you walk on it. I wanted to take more pictures while I was walking around outside, but I forgot my camera in the room.

The one bad thing about the cold is that it seems to drain my phone battery even faster than normal. My battery already sucks after I upgraded to iOS7, so the cold weather didn’t help. In the time it took me to walk from the bed to the bathroom, my battery had drained from 20% to 7%. It lost 13% in literally 5 seconds. I wasn’t even playing games on it or watching a movie. To be fair I have heard that the battery indicator isn’t very accurate and that you can only truly trust the reading when it is at 100% or at 0%.

Photo Nov 23, 3 01 19 PMOn Friday I was walking around outside trying to find Starbucks when I saw Rob Alexander walking around wearing a T-shirt.

Let me set the scene; it was about 33 degrees and extremely windy. Wolves howled in the distance and the clouds blotted out the sun. Ok, there were no wolves but it was very cold and windy. It was so windy that every time I tried to put on my hood the wind blew it off my head. I was wearing a shirt, a hoody, and a jacket and I was still cold. Those crazy Canadians.

Future GPs? 

Several people asked me about future GPs, but right now I don’t have any plans. I was interested in GP Sacramento, but I never heard back about it. GP ABQ may have been my last GP for the foreseeable future, but I’m not really sure.

We had fun and I would like to thank everyone for braving the weather to come out to the show. I would like to especially thank Bo King. He was a real trooper when it came to helping out the artists with whatever they needed. I’m sure I can speak for everyone and say that we greatly appreciated it.


WotC Concept Push #3

Photo Sep 23, 8 30 23 AMI spent the past three weeks on another concept push at Wizards of the Coast. What that really means is that I was locked in a tiny room with a bunch of other guys drawing stuff and drinking tasty Oregon Chai.

There were some old faces and some new ones as well. Well, there was only one new face, Mark WintersSam Burley was with me on the previous push earlier this year and Steven Belledin was with me way back during the Innistrad concept push. Tyler Jacobson came and hung out with us for a little bit. He brought his Wacom Companion with him, so it was a Wacom Companion party at WotC.

Everyone is extremely good, so I always feel a little intimidated when I go to these things even though I’ve worked with most of them before. I think the first few days are always the hardest because you aren’t really sure what you are going to work on yet and you don’t have a clear direction. There are so many directions to go in, so it takes a bit before you can narrow it down.

Photo Oct 06, 2 32 35 PMThis year alone I’ve spent six weeks in Renton. This place is starting to feel like a second home to me. We both really enjoy it here and we have a lot of friends in the area, so maybe moving up here would be a good idea. We will see.

Most days have been rainy, but there have been a few times when the sun came out and the sky cleared.  Today it was sunny and 70 degrees outside. From the mall we could clearly see Mt. Rainier, although it looked really tiny on my camera phone.

Photo Oct 06, 12 31 39 PMWe also got to meet up with some of our old friends from the Mythic days. They took us to St. John’s Bar & Eatery in Seattle.

I ordered the brunch burger, and I have to say that it was hands down the best burger I’ve ever had, period. I wish I had taken a picture of it! Cat got the French toast, which was also incredible. If you are in the Seattle area, you need to try the brunch burger, you won’t regret it.

Afterwards it was a little sketching at a local coffee shop, although I didn’t do any sketching. Daarken don’t sketch! I also don’t drink coffee, so I just tried to block the sun with my big head so that other people could draw.

Photo Oct 04, 11 53 55 AMIt is always weird how fast time flies when I’m on these concept pushes. Three weeks always seems like a long time before you start, but it never ends up being enough. It is definitely a nice break from the freelance life. Getting to work next to other amazing artists is always inspirational and I feel like I learned a lot. I’m going to miss everyone, but I’m sure I’ll see them again soon.

Thanks for the great time everyone, see you at the next concept push! ;)

GP Yokohama 2013

IMG_0165This past week my wife and I were in Japan for the Yokohama Grand Prix. This GP ended up being the second largest GP in history with almost 2400 people in attendance!

As always, it was a real pleasure to visit Japan and meet all of the fans. Everyone was very welcoming and we felt honored to be a part of the show.

The other two artists in attendance were Min Yum and Raymond Swanland. These guys are ridiculously amazing and Raymond’s line was daunting. I don’t think it ever ended! Min’s paintings have so much form that his planes have planes! That guy isn’t human. I’m really glad I was able to meet these two legends. Now I need to go back into hiding and try to improve my art so that I can stand next to these guys.

IMG_0096I was also able to meet with Born Digital, the publisher of the Japanese version of my art book Elysium. They were selling my book during the GP and they were very helpful with translations and helping run my table while I signed cards and drew for fans. Everything ran so smoothly because of their help, so thank you very much!

It was also my first time seeing the Japanese version of my book, and I was very impressed! Now I need to get one! Thank you so much to all of the fans who purchased my book. I hope you enjoy it!

Yokohama is a beautiful city. Every city I’ve been to in Japan is always so nice and clean and Yokohama is no exception, even with a population of 3.7 million. Coming from America, it is always strange to be in a big city and not see homeless people everywhere or trash lining the streets. It is very refreshing to be in a place where everyone is polite and they follow the rules. They don’t jaywalk or cut in line. They actually leave their bikes unchained. If you lived in the US, it wouldn’t be unusual to chain your bike and still find your tires gone when you returned. People always greet you with a smile and say please and thank you. Sometimes I feel more at home in other countries than I do here.


Don’t even get me started about the food. The food in Japan is top-notch. I’m not just talking about the Japanese food either, I’m talking about all food. Even food that you buy at the corner store or at the train station/airport is better than most food I’ve had in the US.

Don’t get me wrong, there is good food in the US too, but on average I would say you could go anywhere in Japan and have better food than what is available in the US.  My wife even said their Italian food was a lot better than the food she had in Italy. San Francisco has some really good Japanese food, but it can’t compare to the food in Japan.

Okonomiyaki is probably my favorite food. Botejyu is one of the oldest okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan, opening back in 1946! What are the chances that I would find one of the oldest okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan? I ended up getting the mochi and cheese okonomiyaki.


While we were at the Narita airport I had, what is hands down, the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had. How many people can go to an airport in the US and claim they had the best food ever in their life? Probably not many.

We actually had some airport food at SFO and it made us both sick. It was pretty disgusting and almost twice the price of the food in Japan. The food here on average is definitely more greasy than the food in Japan. I remember after I returned from my first trip to Japan I didn’t want to eat anything in the US because I just felt so gross afterwards.


We didn’t get to go outside of the city, but we did a bit of exploring. There are a lot of shopping malls and touristy things to do in Yokohama. They also have the largest China town in Japan.

I ended up chickening out and not going to the observation deck of the Yokohama Landmark Tower. The Yokohama Landmark Tower is the 3rd tallest building in Japan, standing at 972 feet. They also have the 2nd fastest elevator in the world. I have heard that you can’t really tell the elevator shoots you up and down at 41 feet/sec. I probably should have gone, but my fear of heights prevented me from going.

In the end, we had a great time and met some really cool people. Now I gotta get back to work! Thanks again to everyone who came to the show and to all of the people who helped out. I really appreciate it! See you next time!

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WotC Concept Push


Foggy WotC building

The Room

I spent the past three weeks locked away in a room with four other guys, huddled over a computer, marinating in warm concept artiness. Occasionally I would glance over at the other guys to see what they were doing, and I was always both impressed and intimidated by their work.

These weren’t ordinary guys, they were a class of souped-up concept art beefcakes that smashed your face in with their stylus while sipping their tea and coffee. With the caliber of the other guys, I”m not quite sure why I was there.

By the end of the day we were nice and ripe. The last time I did a concept push (for Innistrad) we were in a pretty small room, luckily this room was a bit larger. I’m glad they didn’t put us in separate cubicles. Cubes aren’t exactly very conducive to a creative atmosphere. I know when I worked in a cube at Mythic, people didn’t collaborate nearly as often.


I got the guys to sign my cards! Woop!

The Players

So who were these masked men? Tyler Jacobson, Chase Stone, Sam Burley, and Wayne Reynolds. They are a fantastic group of guys and I’m glad I got to meet and work with them. I definitely need to work harder in order to compete with these guys. It sounds like I’m gushing, but they really are an awesome group of guys. Ok, maybe I’m gushing a little bit. I can’t help it, Wayne is just so dreamy! I think it’s the sideburns.

It was hugely inspirational to see the concepts they were churning out and I can’t wait till the style guide comes out. Too bad it won’t be until next year probably! Unfortunately I can’t say what we worked on, but it should be cool when it is finished! I know, I’m just sticking in the knife and turning it.

The mall!

The mall, home of yummy crepes.

The Game

It has been a few years since I worked in a studio, so it was nice to get back to working with other artists. As a freelancer I tend to stay at home and not interact with the outside world. Working with other artists can really inspire you and give you an insight into their design process and how they solve problems. Artists usually tend to have a certain style and design sense, so after awhile your concepts might look the same. What is great is that I can look at what the other guys are doing and say “hey, I never thought of using that shape.”

I think collaboration when creating a world is essential in order for it to have a believable and cohesive look. I know sometimes as a freelancer when I’m working on a game I don’t feel like I really know what the world is all about because I’m not shown what the other artists are working on. Again, that is one of the great things about being a staff artist. You can just look at what the people around you are doing, you can’t exactly do that when you work from home.

Tyler Jacobson signing his very first Magic cards! :O

Tyler Jacobson signing his very first Magic cards! :O

Other than painting all day, I worked on some freelance work back at the hotel. The freelancing life is never over! I did get to go to the city a few times and eat with some friends, so that was nice. Kekai Kotaki showed up on our last night, so it was good to be able to see him again.

We also got to play some Magic in the hotel lobby. Tyler hasn’t played since Ice Age, but he got back into the groove pretty quickly. I also got to witness history in the making, Tyler signing his very first Magic cards! I had to take a picture to commemorate the event.

The End

I would just like to say thanks to all of the people at WotC for having me out there, it was awesome! I hope they aren’t getting tired of me because I would love to go back soon. Working on these concept pushes is always the highlight of the year.

It was a pleasure meeting the other concept artists. Hopefully we keep in touch and meet up again soon. If I move to Seattle, I think we should definitely share a studio space!

Daarken down under

Melbourne – Australia

Usually I wait until I get back from my trips to blog about my MtG travels, but this time I decided it might be better to record a type of daily journal in order to save time. Usually by the time I get home I have so much work to do and so many different pictures to upload that I just end up never blogging.

Our flight to Australia ended up being pretty awesome because we got to fly Virgin Australia. I’ve always wanted to fly with Virgin, but they have such limited destinations that I never get to actually fly with them. People always talk about the cool purple lights, and the individual TV monitors. While we were in the terminal waiting for our flight there was this ad on the wall of Virgin Australia and the picture showed a desk, complete with a shelf on the wall that was full of books and even plants. I was like “no way they actually have that on the plane.” That has to be some metaphor about how cozy and awesome Virgin is that it makes you feel like you are at home. Of course when we got on the plane we had to pass by the first class section, and sure enough there were desks with bookshelves complete with books and plants. They even had a bar.

Coach, where we were, was still pretty fancy. Having your own personal tv monitor is always nice, especially when you get to choose your own movies from a selection of maybe 50 movies. I ended up watching The Adventures of Tintin, The Three Musketeers, Machinegun Preacher, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Cars 2. I must admit that I turned off Transformers and Cars 2 halfway through. Transformer movies always fail as soon as the transformers open their mouths. I liked the first Cars movie, but the second one didn’t interest me at all. Between catching some sleep and watching movies, the flight actually went by pretty fast even though it was a 16 hour flight.

Day 1

Well, with just getting off a 16 hour flight and the 18 hour time difference, even though we arrived at 9:30am we didn’t do much the first day. I think we both ended up crashing shortly after arriving at the hotel. I tried to stay up so that I could get back on a normal sleep schedule, but I felt like I had taken sleeping pills or something. We were finally able to drag ourselves out of bed and go outside.

Melbourne has a very San Francisco feel to it. The public transportation is very similar to the Muni in San Fran. The other similarity is that Melbourne is extremely expensive. I think San Fran is ranked the most expensive city in the US. People always talk about how expensive Japan is too, and they are right. I never realized how expensive Melbourne was going to be. I actually think that it might be more expensive than Japan. We went to the local 7 Eleven to buy some drinks and I was shocked at the prices. A can of Coke is about 50 cents in the US. Well in Melbourne it is $3. That is an increase of 6 times! Insane. A 12 pack was $15, while you can expect to pay $3.99 in the US. You know how mini bar prices in hotel rooms are so ridiculous? Those are normal prices for things in Melbourne. I think I’m going to live in a diet of tap water while I am here. We stopped by the local GameStop and the prices there were even more ridiculous. A 3DS game which is usually $39.99 in the US was $79.99 while 360 games were $99.99+. I saw some 360 games that were $160 a pop.

Day 2

Well, I was able to fall asleep at a fairly normal time, although it was incredibly early for my standards. Going to bed at 10pm might seem normal for some people, but I usually stay up until 3am. Waking up at 6am is also not normal for me, but I guess it is pretty good for an 18 hour time difference. We ended up staying in the hotel for most of the day because I had to work and my wife was feeling under the weather. It is crazy how much work you get done when you wake up at 6am. I ended up finishing a Magic card and wrote part of this blog before breakfast. I also ended up knocking out 26 alterations and worked on another Magic card.

Day 3

The breakfast at the hotel was very good. I’ve actually noticed that hotel breakfasts in other countries are always extremely good…and free. In the US the only free breakfast consists of a muffin. If you want a real breakfast in the US you usually have to pay for it. The apple juice here was actually the best apple juice I have ever had. Their peaches were also incredibly good. Speaking of having to pay for stuff in the US, I’ve also noticed that the US is the only country that charges for carts at the airport. All other airports give them to you for free. Most countries also don’t tip, but in the US you are expected to tip for almost everything.

We were walking around downtown and decided to get some Starbucks, and again I was shocked at the price. Normally two venti PMFs are $9.90 where I live, but here it was about $18, double the price. Not to mention the venti here is actually the size of the grande in the states. I then went to a fast food place and ordered a burger, not a combo meal. Just a burger ended up being $10. It makes me wonder what minimum wage is here considering everything is extremely expensive. I dunno though, from what I heard the pay there is similar to pay in the US, and some full-time positions don’t even offer any benefits. Seems pretty crazy to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the city so far. I would actually consider moving here, but if we did I think I would have to ask my clients to pay me more money since my current pay probably wouldn’t fly here. I’m actually curious how much the rent is here, although if you have to pay $3 for a can of Coke I might not want to know what the rent is here. One thing I noticed as we were walking around downtown and going into various shops was that the clerks were very hands off. In the US you almost have to yell at them to stop bugging you, but here they completely leave you alone. Actually, I don’t think any of them even said “hi” when we went into the store. We went into one game store and they had a shelf of Warhammer stuff and it was almost like the Daarken shelf because almost every product on the shelf was one of the covers I painted. It was cool being able to see some of my covers since I haven’t actually seen most of them in print before.

I noticed that there aren’t any homeless people here. In San Fran you can’t go 30 feet without being accosted by homeless people. Last time I was there the homeless people were starting to get really aggressive if you didn’t give them money. This city is incredibly clean; it reminds me of Japan in that regard. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I remember seeing any trash on the street. I’m not sure if there is some anti-homeless law here or something, but it is refreshing not having to push through throngs of stinky homeless people in order to get to your destination.

The weather is also a lot like San Francisco. I can see why some people were telling me that Melbourne is their favorite city in the world.

There is only one more day before I gotta go to the Grand Prix. I’m not sure what we are going to do, maybe we will check out the zoo.

Day 4

Instead of the zoo we ended up going to the museum. By the time we walked over there, I was already tired. I am so completely out of shape. I noticed that almost everyone there had really big calves…I guess most Americans are used to sitting around or driving everywhere. It was only a 20 minute walk, but I’m used to walking 0 minutes.

They had a pygmy blue whale skeleton near the entrance and a bunch of dinosaur skeletons on display. The dinosaurs were by far the best part of the entire museum, although they didn’t have very many. I think in terms of dinosaur museums, the best one I have been to was in DC. They also had a lot of spiders and insects, but the smell was so overpowering that I had to leave that part of the exhibit. It was crazy how strong the smell was even though they were all behind glass.

Day 5-6

The show was great. Not as many people were at the GP when compared to some of the GPs in the US, but they still had a little over 500 people I think. The GP in Austin and DC had about 2,000. I was busy the entire time and had to turn away a lot of people, but at least it wasn’t madness like it was in DC. I think I almost died at that show. I remember trying to take one bathroom break after working for like 8 hours straight and the fans got really mad at me. Working at these shows is a lot harder than my normal workday, but they are a lot of fun. The fans in Australia were great. Everyone was very nice and friendly. I got to meet fellow Magic artist Adam Paquette. He is a great guy and has created some awesome land cards. Grrrr, how come I never get any land cards??

As usual I spent most of my time creating alterations for the fans. The types of requests I received ranged everywhere from Sesame Street to Star Wars, which is funny because most of the time I end up drawing things that I am not typically known for. For example, one girl asked me to draw Hello Kitty and Stitch. Is it bad that I had the most fun out of the entire show drawing Stitch instead of scary zombies and evil warriors? I have a reputation to maintain!

Wellington – New Zealand

Ahhhh, New Zealand. I thought Australia was awesome, but I think New Zealand wins. While we didn’t get to go on very many hiking trips or even go outside of Wellington, it was still amazing. The first couple of days we ended up just relaxing and walking around the town a bit. We had initially planned on going to see Hobbiton, but I didn’t realize that it was a 6-7 hour drive from Wellington. There goes that idea. I even tried looking into using the train to get around, but most of the locations I was interested in were still 6+ hours away in one direction. I wish we had more time, or maybe if I had planned the trip better.

LotR Locations

I went looking around and found some tours around Wellington that visit all of the Lord of the Rings shooting locations. That seemed like a good way to get around Wellington and see some cool locations to boot. We ended up going with Rover tour. It was definitely worth the money and the tour guide was really good. I recommend them to anyone going to Wellington.

Talk about a nerd filled day! It was funny because almost everything the tour guide mentioned was straight from the LoTR extras, so I already knew most of it. It was still awesome seeing all of the locations. What is really crazy is that you will be in a dense forest that looks like it hasn’t been touched by man, but then you walk 50 feet away and you are in the middle of Wellington. It was really strange having that kind of juxtaposition. It was almost like playing WoW. You know how you can go from a desert zone and then the zone next door is a jungle and then the next one is covered in snow. New Zealand is kind of like that. I heard that there is a 7 day hike you can go on and you basically travel through every climate type there is.

The first image was where Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were built and filmed. They were built in an active rock quarry, so they had to basically ask the city to stop working for the entire time they were building and filming the shots.

Next we went to where the “Get off the Road” scene was filmed in Mount Victoria. This location was right in the middle of town, so it was weird going into a dense forest and then popping out in the middle of downtown. The square image is the scene where the hobbits rolled down the hill and fell onto some mushrooms. The part where they jumped behind a tree to hide from the Black Rider didn’t look the same at all because the tree in the film wasn’t real, so the actual location doesn’t look anything like the movie. I passed on the photo opportunity since there wasn’t really anything to show.

A few other shots were filmed here too. One was when they were going to the Buckleberry ferry and then there was another shot of Dunharrow when Aragorn and Theoden were looking out over their troops in the valley below.

Some of the other locations included The Great River Anduin, Rivendell, and Isengard.

Weta Cave

On Friday we met up with fellow concept artist Ben Mauro at the Weta Cave. Ben was gracious enough to show us around town since we were total Wellington noobs. We had some Dim Sum and then walked around town. Wellington is actually a lot smaller than I thought it was. You can probably walk to just about anywhere in town. You know how there is a Starbucks on every corner in the US? Well it seems like there is a Subway on every corner in Wellington.

Gotta love where Gollum is sticking that fish…that was completely unintentional, I swear!

You can’t see it in the picture, but the price for the large version of the gun was $5,500!! I must say though, it was freaking awesome looking. I wonder what customs would have thought about that if I tried to bring it through?

Oh man, the exosuit from District 9 was soooo cool. If it didn’t have an $800 price tag I would have definitely considered buying it. We almost bought a T-Rex skull, but I don’t think we would have had room to carry it on the plane.

Te Papa Museum
The next to last day we decided to go to the Te Papa Museum because the guide book said it was amazing and that everyone should visit the museum before they leave. Initially we were going to take a cab, but we found out from previous days that Wellington is fairly small, so we made the 20 minute walk to the museum. The actual design of the museum is really cool. I think the guide book said they spent something like 180 million on the museum, and it shows.

I think the layout of the museum was better than the one in Melbourne, but it lacked dinosaurs! They did have a pygmy blue whale skeleton like the Melbourne museum though, and a giant squid. I did find that I am more interested in dinosaurs and ancient civilizations as opposed to more recent civilizations. If they had dinosaurs and knights I would have been all over it. It was still a fun experience, but we ended up breezing through most of the exhibits.

Random Stuff
Here are a few more random pictures that I took from around town and around our hotel. People always ask me what camera I use, which is funny because I just use my iPhone. I have the older iPhone 4, so I don’t even have the fancy 4S camera.

Back to Australia??

Well, we had to fly back to Australia from New Zealand before we could fly back to the US. I didn’t really want to fly to two different countries in the same day (especially if one flight was delayed or canceled), so we spent one more day in Australia before flying back to the US.

We ended up just staying at the hotel at the airport. It was nice not having to wake up super early to catch a shuttle to the airport. The burger there was freaking awesome. I mean it had an egg on it, how can you beat that??

I love flying from West to East because the flight time is always shorter due to the rotation of the Earth. The flight back was around 13.5 hours instead of 16. Several movies later and an hour or two of sleep and we were back home. I had an amazing time and I am very thankful for having a job that allows me to travel around the world. Thank you to all of the fans that showed up to the show, I hope everyone had a good time!

MtG Worlds – San Francisco 2011

Oh man, I have been really neglecting my blog lately. I launched my Enliighten site a month ago so my extra time has been going to that instead of this blog. I better post my MtG Worlds San Fran pics soon before it is old news. I guess it is already kind of old news, but this is the first time I have had a chance to put it all together. Right after I got back from Worlds I ended up getting ridiculously sick. I was sick for about 2 weeks straight…actually I still have a cough. I got to the point where I actually had to go to the doctor. I haven’t had to go to the doctor since I was in middle school. Ends up I had swine flu, yay. So yeah, that was fun. It was even more fun because about 2 weeks before I got swine flu I had just a normal flu for a week. So out of 4 weeks I was sick for 3 of them, which is crazy because I normally go 2-3 years without being sick.

Anyway, Worlds San Fran was awesome. I have never been to a worlds event before and it was amazing being in one place where there were so many people from different countries. There were also 3 other great artists there, none of which I had met before. It is even funnier because two of them, Jason Chan and Chris Rahn, both graduated from my school. In fact, Chris Rahn was there when I was there…and we had classes in the same building but I don’t remember ever seeing him. Matt Cavotta was there too, but who cares about that guy! I kid. Matt is awesome, even though he didn’t have computers back when he was in school. Hanging out with the artists is always one of my favorite parts about going to MtG events. We had some pretty tasty food…too bad Jason missed out!

It was good to be back in San Francisco. Both my wife and I went to school there, so it was awesome to visit all our old stomping grounds and hang out with old friends. It is always sad when you find out some of your favorite places are gone, like Borders in Union Square and The Crepe House on Post. Luckily I was still able to get my okonomiyaki in Japantown. If that place ever went out of business I would probably cry. Actually, I think almost all of the places we went back to eat at were Japanese places and Thai places…well we actually went to the same Thai place twice. Osha ftw.

Japantown is probably my favorite place in San Fran. It is always so nice and quiet there, plus they have awesome food and the Kinokuniya bookstore! The last time we went to San Fran we stayed in Japantown, which was good and bad because the shopping mall was just right outside the hotel. This time we were out by the Warf. It was funny because when we used to live there, walking from Pier 39 to Japantown was cake, but now I wonder how I ever did it. I am so out of shape now.

I ended up scoring a bunch of really cool books from Kinokuniya. The Hyper Angle books are awesome for reference. I also decided that maybe I should get back into drawing with pens and pencils. I’ve been wanting to go to some figure drawing workshops, so maybe this will give me a push in the right direction. There are actually some right by my house too….

Like I said before, we stayed at the Argonaut Hotel by Pier 39. I’ve never been there before, but it was a really cool hotel. I liked it a lot. All of the staff there were super nice and helpful. There is a museum in the hotel too, but unfortunately the new wing is still under construction. As you might expect, everything in the hotel was ship-themed. I took this picture of some lounge chairs in the lobby, but for some reason they look like little miniature toys.

I guess there isn’t really any point of reference and the depth of field filter made it look super tiny. During the entire trip the lobby was always full of Magic players. Not just any Magic players, but hall of fame Magic players. Pretty crazy.

Apparently my Dad has his own brand of water. He never told me about this new venture!

The best thing about Pier 39…mini donuts. That’s what I’m talking about. I probably should have ordered the big bag. I think these were consumed in a few seconds. Oh you tasty rings of evil. My belly curses you.








We went to Urban Outfitters on Powell and apparently Mimobots now come in blind boxes. I had to get a few. My Mimobot army has now grown to 5. In case you were ever wondering, you are not supposed to eat USB flash drives. You never know…I guess some electronics do look tasty.

Now for some alterations! This was the show for doing alterations on other artist’s cards. What was funnier is that several times I did alterations on Jason’s cards, even though he was sitting right next to me. Don’t hate me Jason! The fans demanded it! Just recently I started doing alterations with DecoColor paint pens. I really like using them because they are extremely opaque and dry fairly quickly. One reason I always hated doing alters in the past was because it is hard to make something look decent with only a black Sharpie and maybe a gold or silver pen. At least with these I can get a little more detailed and produce something that doesn’t look like total crap. The only problem is that they take a little longer to do.

So in conclusion, Worlds was great and I want to thank everyone for coming out to the show and standing in line. I had a great time and I’ll see you in Austin!