The creative process behind each piece of Magic art is unique to the image and the artist.
From the art description to the final product, the Art in Focus series reviews every step involved in crafting the art of Magic the Gathering in the artist’s own words.
This week we shine the spotlight on Kytheon of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged by Will Murai from Magic Origins.
Take it away Will.
I got really excited when I knew that my first planeswalker commission for Magic would be in such a special product as Magic Origins!
In this specific case, both young and adult Gideon had concept art nailed down by the concept team, so the challenge lied in how to make an interesting and epic composition. Also, both illustrations were meant to be featured in “Duels of the Planeswalkers” from the beginning (For those who don’t know, Duels is the digital version of the game which runs in different platforms such as iPads, Pc and consoles), so I needed to make something that would work in different aspect ratios (16:9, 3:4) and bigger resolutions than the usual card size.
With that in mind, I wanted to bring the best of my skills on detailing because the application in different platforms would allow them to be more visible.
I started by building a structure in photoshop that would accommodate all the ratios. Making those guidelines in an early stage helped me a lot to position elements, assuring they would keep intact and away from crop areas, making the illustration readable and comprehensive no matter the ratio.
Because I worked on Theros some months before starting this commission, I still had plenty of imagery fresh in my mind, so it was very natural to build the scene with Kytheon.
The art director had important requests in the art description, all meaningful metaphors to the character backstory. I had to make sure that I was composing Kytheon, along with Heliod in the clouds in the background, the foot of the statue and depicting the city of Akros in its full glory, while delivering all of these elements in an epic and strong composition.
I started by sketching in black and white and playing with the elements positioning. I figured that the smallest ratio would be the card frame, so the composition should be working in that size. The other ratios would contain extra information complementing the scene, but the most significant elements should be in the card sized frame.
Focusing my attention on trying to make it look good in the space dedicated to the card, I then worked on figuring out elements to fill the scene in the other sizes.
After I was satisfied with the initial design of Kytheon, the more complicated of the two images, I used the same mindset for sketching the adult Gideon, which was much lighter in terms of the numbers of elements I had to fit in the illustration.
One particular thing I imagined was the depiction of Gideon’s Sural, the signature flexible blades he uses in his right arm.
I wanted them to be displayed as they were being deployed by his white magic, forming a bright spiral as they unfold. We’ve always seen Gideon using his weapon in battle, but I felt it was perfect for a set called Origins to show him unveiling his weapon for the first time.
I usually work in grayscale to focus on shape, contrast and readability. After I am happy with the composition, I start laying down the colors, which usually stays really close to the final result.
As I mentioned before, I dedicated a lot of time detailing the statues and ornaments around Akros along with the figure of Kytheon.
On “Gideon, Battle-Forged” I was very happy with the opportunity to illustrate a big, open landscape. I was able to paint the clouds, mountains and vegetation of Bant, which was much more liberating than the hard, perspective-driven landscapes in Akros.
It’s great that Wizards decided to do something grand and special for the last Core Set. Those changes will resonate a lot in the storytelling of Magic which makes the product much more interesting.
As a kid, I used to save money and ride a bus to another city just to buy some Magic cards. The opportunity to work on such a special set, in a universe which is already full of amazingness, is indescribable.
The original artwork for Kytheon / Gideon was created digitally. Anyone interested in purchasing prints or some of his other work should check out his website.
Thank you Will for sharing this story with us.
Check back next Thursday for more Art in Focus.