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Dragons of Tarkir

159802 Kolaghan's Mastery
Kolaghan’s Command – Dragons of Tarkir © Wizards of the Coast

[pix_dropcap]A[/pix_dropcap]t PAX East, Wizards of the Coast previewed some of my paintings from Dragons of Tarkir, although I think the entire set has been released online by now.

I only have three cards in Dragons of Tarkir. I actually had to opt out of the second wave of commissions because the deadline was going to be a little too close to the birth of our son. This was the first time I declined Magic work, so I was a little afraid that they might forget about me and not hire me again for the next block. I’m glad I did though because it gave me more time to prepare.

There are so many new names in Magic and their work is incredible, so I always worry that one day I won’t receive any new Magic work. I think most artists feel this way once they have been in the industry for awhile. This fear also helps push me to try and create better art. It doesn’t always mean that I do produce better art, but I definitely try to. At the same time it is also exciting to see all of the new names and what they bring to the game.

Boltwing Marauder - Dragons of Tarkir © Wizards of the Coast
Boltwing Marauder – Dragons of Tarkir © Wizards of the Coast

Thinking back, I probably should have opted out of this wave as well. At the time I was on-site at Wizards of the Coast for a concept push working on some secret stuff. During the concept pushes I’m at WotC from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday through Friday. It is a normal full-time job. That means in order to work on my freelance, I have to do it after hours at the hotel.

Typically I would get off at 6:00 pm, shower, and then eat some dinner. That means I probably won’t start working on my freelance until around 7:30 pm. I would probably get in a good 4-5 hours of work before I had to go to bed since I wake up at 7:00 am.

So after getting off of work, I had to work on all three of these illustrations. Of course two of them aren’t exactly simple. Multiple figures, horses, and dragons. I’m getting old now, so working 12-13 hours a day isn’t as easy as it used to be.

If you have ever had to work in a hotel, you also probably know that they don’t exactly have the best desks. Most of them are way too tall, which would wreak havoc on my wrists. It also doesn’t help that I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists and cubital tunnel syndrome in my left arm. I probably could have gone back to the office, but after being there all day, you kind of want to get away. Plus I think they turn off the A/C at night, or maybe that is just on the weekends.

Foul-Tongue Invocation - Dragons of Tarkir © Wizards of the Coast
Foul-Tongue Invocation – Dragons of Tarkir © Wizards of the Coast

It also didn’t help that I was struggling with all three of these paintings. Horses are always hard to paint, plus I think dragons are hard to paint as well. I think it is mainly their wings that give me problems. Multiple figures with multiple horses and dragons? Blah.

I often go through these periods where I feel like I forgot how to paint. I was definitely feeling that when I was working on these. I couldn’t figure out the colors, I couldn’t figure out how to render certain things, I just felt like I couldn’t paint. Maybe I get this way when I’m burned out, I don’t know.

Foul-Tongue Invocation gave me a lot of problems as well. I wasn’t very happy with this painting and I sort of wrote it off as one of those paintings that you finish and then throw away. The dragons are usually a lot larger than that, but I had to show one next to a human and make them both important and both read at card size, so I had to just make the dragon smaller. Sometimes you gotta bend the rules to make something work. Maybe this is a baby dragon. Yeah, my excuse is that this is a baby dragon.

Foul-Tongue Invocation detail
Foul-Tongue Invocation detail

I also didn’t like how the girl’s face looked at card size. The glowing bits from her eyes and mouth just made her look weird at card size. The glow from her eyes and mouth was in the description of the card, so I had to put them in there. It looks a lot better larger, so take a look at the detail shot.

I actually completely started over on her face too. The first one I painted was pretty horrible and the lighting was bad. I also didn’t really capture the features that I wanted. Instead of trying to make something work that doesn’t, I just deleted the face and started over. Sometimes you just gotta throw something away and start over.

It might seem a little silly to worry about these things, especially when the images on the cards are so small that most people won’t even see the details artists worry about. I think I mainly do it because I don’t want to create a bad painting, regardless of how big or small it will be printed.