Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Hey everyone! I have some more Khans of Tarkir art to show you. I’m also going to go ahead and repost the illustrations from before so that you can get the whole picture of what I’ve done for Khans of Tarkir.
Today WotC posted the video of their Khans of Tarkir Worldbuilding panel at Pax Prime 2014. If you weren’t able to attend Pax Prime, be sure to watch the video! They also posted a high-res wallpaper of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker.
Since they spoiled a few pieces of my concept art at the panel, I wanted to show some higher quality images of the same concepts. For some reason they looked incredibly dark at the panel. I’m not sure if it was the projector they were using or what. I know my name is Daarken, but my paintings aren’t that dark! Or at least they aren’t anymore.
Back in January, 2013, along with Chase Stone, Tyler Jacobson, Sam Burley, and Wayne Reynolds, I helped concept Khans of Tarkir. Over 15 days I produced almost 40 painted concepts…which is pretty fast for me. The other guys probably produced between 60-80, so I’m pretty slow compared to them. One day we came to work and Chase whipped out this fully rendered illustration that could have been slapped on a Magic card and called it done. That sneaky little jerk painted that whole illustration the night before at the hotel after hours.
Actually, I should probably start at the beginning. Back in September, 2012, I received an email from Jeremy Jarvis asking me if I would like to paint a pitch illustration of Sarkhan Vol because they were planning on returning to his home-plane. I believe I was actually the first person to create a painting for Khans of Tarkir. This was back before the project had been approved by the higher-ups.
Original Sarkhan concept
I received the email on a Friday and they needed the sketch by the following Monday and the final a day or two after that. It was a pretty short turnaround, especially since nothing had been concepted yet for the world.
I was basically given the phrase “a heavy metal Mongolian inspired empire” and told to run with it. Of course that world is so large and expansive that it was hard to narrow down the essence in a single painting. I basically tried to throw everything into the same painting and hoped it worked.
To the right is the original Sarkhan sketch I gave them on the following Monday. I knew I wanted to pull something from my original Sarkhan Vol design from Shards of Alara so that you could more easily identify him as Sarkhan Vol. I thought similar pauldron spikes might be a good way to link the two designs.
Updated Sarkhan iteration
After some feedback, I submitted the following painting. I changed the position of his head to match the original Sarkhan Vol and I continued to refine his costume design. I personally like the original head position better.
I also added an embroidered dragon claw on his left pauldron. They wanted some sort of clan symbol on his armor, so this was my first stab at a Mardu symbol. The Mardu symbol was later changed to a set of wings while Temur adopted the dragon claw symbol.
The following January we arrived at WotC to concept the rest of the world. I didn’t actually work on Sarkhan while I was at the concept push. He was already in a fairly good place and there were much more important things to worry about, especially since we had a limited time to finish everything.
After I returned home at the end of January, I was contacted again to see if I wanted to update Sarkhan since I had just spent three weeks working on Khans of Tarkir. I knew a little more about the look of the world and they wanted to see my take on an updated design.
Third Sarkhan iteration
Sarkhan’s previous design was a little too convoluted. Since I didn’t know what the Mongolian inspired world should look like, I had just thrown everything in the design. I tried to simplify the design a little more and focus on the large scale mail as the repeating shape of their culture.
The pauldron spikes were replaced with two dragon horns. Hopefully they are still reminiscent of his original spikes while also adding in a bit of narrative regarding his connection with dragons.
I also changed his weapon to fit more with the look of the other Mardu weapons we created. There is also a little storytelling element on his weapon.
He also needed some more color and more bits of fur. The fur was tricky to add due to his red pants and black boots. Do you know anyone else with red pants, black boots, and white fur? Yeah, I really didn’t want him to look like Santa and every time I added the fur with the red pants and boots, he looked like Sarkhan Claus. I tried to hide the pants as much as possible and keep the colors toned down. If you are a good little boy or girl, Sarkhan Clause will bring you a bleached dragon skull for Christmas!
Like I mentioned before, a few of my concepts were spoiled at the Khans of Tarkir worldbuilding panel at Pax Prime. I wish I could show you more, but these are the only ones I can show right now. Maybe I’ll release more in my next book!
Temur – Ice Elemental
Sultai – Rakshasa
Mardu – Light Rider
You’ll notice that the Temur ice elemental has the text “Temur Djinn” written on it. My original idea was that this was what a Temur Djinn would look like, but they later decided to make him an ice elemental instead.
Usually when I concept something at the pushes, I don’t receive card commissions of anything I concepted. This time was different. I was able to illustrate both my Temur Ice Elemental and my Sultai Rakshasa…and Sarkhan of course. I also illustrated a fetch land, which is really cool. I’ve only illustrated two lands before this one, Badlands and Fetid Heath. I think Badlands was only released on MTGO.
Mardu trailer illustration
After the concept push, I created this Mardu illustration featuring Zurgo Helmsmasher which was going to be used in the SDCC teaser trailer. This illustration also had a really short turnaround. I think it was also commissioned on a Friday and I turned in the final on the following Monday.
Females play a large role in this set, so we wanted to show them in more powerful positions…and wear normal armor, sans boob plates.
I hope you enjoyed this closer look at the concepts and illustrations I created for Khans of Tarkir. If they release more of my concepts I’ll be sure to post them. If not, you might see them in my next book (if I ever make one).