Thursday, April 10, 2014

Magic Card Art: Interpret the Signs

Card Name: Interpret the Signs
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link: Coming Soon

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? No
Artist Proofs Available? Coming Soon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Step-by-Step and Thank You to Family, Friends, and Fans

The reactions to "Learning to Leave," the new painting I posted on Sunday, have been astounding beyond words.

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who's written me emails and comments in its wake. The expressions of support and acts of kindness have been overwhelming. It feels like people are there physically trying to prop up the characters in the painting, and the experience of putting the painting out there and the warm reception has kickstarted the healing process for me. People saying they've been inspired by something I've done is the highest compliment that I could possibly receive. People saying they've looked at it and can relate deeply to their own experiences, or that it brought tears to their eyes... I hope everyone knows how much that means to me.

To close this note, here's one of my favorite videos of the figure skaters I mentioned in my last post. They're so beautiful that I don't care if it's not directly related to painting. It is art, and inspiration comes from all over the place. My post-Olympic crying jag helped prepare me for everything that's come out of my brush since then, so I owe them my thanks too.


Now back to the painting for a minute, I always save iterations while I work, so for the curious, I put together a step-by-step gif of the process:

When art resonates with people, it tends to open the door for some great discussions and exchanges of ideas. My friend and fellow artist Adam Paquette and I had an eye-opening conversation about symbolism over email. We talked about the use of the skull as an universally-accessible metaphor for loss, and what other ways one might be able to convey relationship separation visually. I always feel honored when I get to pick his brain. Discussion about the use of the classical "ballet toe" came up on Facebook as well, and to sum that up, I do think it's important to be cautious about using gestures or poses that look off-balance. It was a risk I took with this, and I'm still not 100% sure it reads properly as weakness, but I'll carry that consideration forward into my next paintings.

Anyway, enjoy the process images, and I'll be back soon with more art. Here's to better days ahead, and great things to come. Love to you all.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Learning to Leave," New Personal Work, and Updates

Allow me to break my silence for a few minutes and share with you what's been going on with me lately. (warning: human feelings)

Over the holidays, my husband and I began the long, sad process of getting a divorce. I spent most of January packing my things (about 80% of which was my art studio), and moved into an apartment about 45 minutes away from my former home. I chose to move, and on the record, the separation was mutual and amicable. That's not to say that I'm not hurt and struggling, and my internet silence has been a direct result of that.

Heartbroken doesn't quite describe it. I've been feeling such mixed emotions that it's hard to lock in on one, and sometimes they come back to back with a completely opposite emotion; I was enjoying the freedom of watching the Olympic figure skating pairs at 2:00 in the morning, until Maxim Trankov embraced Tatiana Volosozhar at the end of their winning performance, and I started crying uncontrollably. "They're so beautiful. That's what I always thought love should look like."

"Learning to Leave", 2014, Digital Painting

A better thing to call it might be grief. This painting is a symbolic interpretation of my current state of mind, and also a literal self-portrait x 3. In it, the first aspect clings to the past and mourns for her loss (and failure to save her relationship). The second is the voice of reason- she's responsible for quieting the grief when she can (in realistic terms, she keeps me from posting horrible things on Facebook when I'm upset), but she's also fragile and sometimes too weak to have any effect. The third aspect is ready to begin anew, though for the time she's stuck behind the other two, waiting for them to finish their grieving process. She exists but lacks an identity of her own yet, so we don't see her face. I thought the flower petals were a nice symbolic nod to both path-making and weddings.

This painting is about as stream-of-consciousness as it gets while still using photo references and obeying (most of) the technical rules of art-making. I started it at 8:00 PM on Valentine's Day, and finished up this morning, taking a day's break in between. Make of it what you will, I just really needed to get this out before moving forward with my artwork and my life.


So, that's what's going on right now. I'm working on getting back into a healthy, positive groove- slowly it's happening but it will take time, and I thank everyone for their patience with me. Until next time.

*EDIT: I feel embarrassed for not giving a shout-out to all my wonderful friends and family. My life is not ALL doom and gloom- I've had an incredible support network helping me through this. From the bottom of my heart, thank you guys so much. <3

[Prints available in my Print Store]

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Magic Card Art: Impetuous Sunchaser

Card Name: Impetuous Sunchaser
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? No
Artist Proofs Available? Yes

Artist Notes: This is my second card spoiled from the Born of the Gods block. For those who might be into this sort of trivia, I finished this card's art last February at the exact same time as Jeleva, hence the similarity in blocky digital brushstrokes that you won't really see before or after. Let's call it my "square brush period." I'm fiendishly excited for my art in the next block, and I think this was sort of the transition piece between old and new.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Magic Card Art: Reap What Is Sown

Card Name: Reap What Is Sown
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? No
Artist Proofs Available? Yes

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Two New Interviews

In the wake of Magic's Commander 2013 release this past week, I've gotten to do a couple new interviews about me and my art:

1. Interview with SvenskaMagic.
August Undin and I talk Commander art, explore my goth phase, and I discover (while answering) just how much my career was set up during my formative years. Yes, this one's in Swedish, though it's easy enough to translate through the majesty of Google, and the original English text can be found on the interviewer's blog.
*The comments on my Facebook provide additional laughs re: Magic cards being the secret to beauty. Ha.

2. Interview with MTGBroDeals.
Renee Hupp asks about my commander preferences, how I feel about painting classic cards, and what's up with my obsession with drawing hands.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Magic Card Art: Rubinia Soulsinger

Card Name: Rubinia Soulsinger
© 2013 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? Drawing (sold)
Artist Proofs Available? No

Artist Notes The first thing a fan asked was whether or not I designed this art from a dyslexic misreading of Rubinia's name as Soulsigner rather than Soulsinger. No, and yes. The art brief mentioned that Rubinia was used to conscript creatures into an army, plus the card is a reprint, so unlike usual I had a decent idea of what she was going to do. My husband actually suggested the scroll and quill, and I ran with it because I thought it was awesome- like a recruiter trying to get your signature, but in a more alluring/powerful way?

After the "signing" suggestion, I did assume I was initially incorrect, and that it was -signer all along, but on closer inspection later I realized I was right the first time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sketching at the American Museum of Natural History

One of my favorite things to do in my leisure time (that I don't do often enough) is take sketch trips to parks and museums. On Monday I had a lovely opportunity to visit the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, and brought my sketchbook along for some fun.

Diprotodon australis, "Two Forward Teeth" | A huge distant cousin of the rat, or the largest wombat known to have ever lived...

T-REX! | AMNH has the real deal on display, whereas the skeleton at the Smithsonian is a cast.

Mammuthus primigenius | Mammoth skull & partial front leg.

Besides the sketching, it was a treat to see the detailed diorama paintings by James Perry Wilson. He did such an accurate job of matching his paint to the physical objects in the dioramas that you can barely tell where the real world ends and the two-dimensional begins.

Not to mention, I got to walk in Central Park for the first time. Wish there had been time to sketch there too... Next time!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Master Study in Oil: J.W. Alexander's "Isabella"

The painting Repose by John White Alexander caught my eye at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year. I hadn't previously heard of or studied Alexander, but Repose resonated with my soul in the same way some Sargent paintings do. It came up in conversation that it was impossible to find a good art book about Alexander's work in print; you're more likely to see him in compendiums on American art or bad b&w reproductions.

Of course, I wanted to see more of his work in print too, and I saw this as a challenge. I went looking around online and there really wasn't much. There's a digital Kindle book containing a good number of his color paintings, which is worth grabbing for $2.99 if you have a full-size color Kindle. But nothing to be found in a printed book with the same color images. I thought I had something when I contacted an independent bookseller about a 40+ page show catalog from 1980 (the same year the Met acquired "Repose"). They said it had color plates... I got my hopes up, but when it came in the mail, I saw that it had only four color plates. The rest was reproduced in black and white. What a shame.

Study After "Isabella and the Pot of Basil" by J.W. Alexander
approx. 6x13 in. Oil on paper, October 2013

I hate giving up on a dull note, so I decided to get the best reproduction I could find of my favorite JWA work, "Isabella and the Pot of Basil" and do a master study. No color plates available? Fine. I'll make one.

Pencil sketch, on my drawing board next to the reference image

Unlike copying a photograph, which teaches you how to mimic lens trickery, copying a master painting (especially if you have an opportunity to do it in person) forces you to explore how the original was created, and contrast the methods of the master artist against your own. For example, immediately after putting down my first pencil stroke, I thought, "huh, did JWA start this painting with a drawing at all, or did he go straight to paint?" It's got an alla prima feel to it... not having his process notes available, I made a mental note and forged ahead the way I start my paintings...

Early and late stages of underpainting

The same story applies to the underpainting. Of course JWA wouldn't have used acrylic, but because it looks like there's color showing through thinner-infused brushstrokes in the background, my best guess is he used a warm/sepia-toned ground.

Creating masked edges and a border

This step was for presentation/preference only. JWA's original work has non-standard dimensions, so I masked off the edges around the small painting area and painted in a black border on the 11x14 paper. By tearing strips of tape down the middle, I masked out what looks like a torn paper edge. Combined with the bits of sepia underpainting showing around the border it should have a classy antique look when the tape comes off later...

The palette: titanium white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, raw sienna, prussian blue, ivory black

Before deciding on a palette, I did a bit of research. As I've mentioned before, my pal Aaron keeps a blog on oil palettes from all kinds of painters, so I popped over to his 19th century section and cross-checked some common colors against what I have in my studio. It's sort of a pared-down version of what Bonnat or William McGregor Paxton might have used.

Oil painting in progress.

At this point I'm focusing heavily on the subtle temperature shifts in the background, caused where the warmer toned ground is showing through the cool paint.

Almost finished. Note the spots of paint daubed on the reference photo for loose color matching.

My biggest takeaway from this study was getting a feel for how Alexander uses subtle gradients over large areas, or maybe more succinctly large abstract shapes, to create depth and interest in simple compositions. That kind of thing really sinks in when you mix and lay down the paint for yourself.

There's also a lot to be said for the experience of recreating the glowing effect in Isabella's dress- I observed JWA's technique in the reproduction, and tried to recreate it by carefully applying white paint only in the brightest area, and using more thinner as the highlight dissipated (letting some of the underpainting show) before blending that into darker pigments.

Someday I must go to Boston and see the piece in person, to appreciate it fully and uncover the mysteries left unsolved in the digital reproduction. Oh, and if anyone has a John White Alexander book in print, please leave a comment!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Commander 2013 is Coming November 1st!!!

I'm so freaking excited about the Magic: The Gathering 2013 Commander set. Look!! A sexy product shot of my Jeleva art on the Mind Seize box:

See the rest of the boxes and get more info on Commander 2013 at