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 Sentinel of the Eternal Watch by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme from Magic Origins.
Take it away Bastien.
The focus of this piece was meant to be on the defensive, blocking, strength of the character. The Sentinel guarding the bridge. She had to be a strong, giant woman in armor.
The description was short, leaving things open to my interpretation. When I work from description, I usually have mental pictures flashing as I read it. And most of the time, those flashes are close to the final composition.
Here, I wanted a stable composition, with verticals and horizontals to block the eyes of the viewer as the sentinel would block any creatures approaching the gate. The sentinel is the focus point, where all the lines of the composition stops.
I use reference in every part of my work. Always. For the background of this piece I used photographs of different types of architectures. I looked at pictures of armors of course. Drapes. All the things that I needed for the decorum.
For the characters, I always work with models. I chose them according to the artwork, and they usually define it strongly.
On this card I worked with a person that appears extremely strong and confident. I wanted a feeling of passive strength in her eyes. Even with that, I wanted more: I wanted to suggest a little bit of boredom, telling the viewers that she has been here for a long time, and will be for a lot more.
I also used birds flying away from her shoulder, suggesting the fact that they could even have made a nest in the armor parts. This communicates the passing of time, but also was a trick to suggest the “giant” size, the scale of the character.
My main focus for this piece was the Sentinel and illustrating precisely what defines her.
I think I subconsciously created her in two parts! I wanted her to be very grounded on the floor. Attached, unmovable. I also wanted the top of her to be more aerial, ethereal, subtle.
The base of the character is built as if her dress emerges from the ground. As if she is even part of the bridge. I painted the draping dress with this idea in mind.
I wanted her head and the armor in the light to tie in the “white” color of the card. I wanted her face in the light and the armor strong, practical, but still ornamental. This was a way for me to enforce the “noble” aspect of her.
Her face, the armor in the light and the top of the spear (also purposely strongly grounded) were the subject of all my attention and detailing. I wanted the eyes to be always called back to her. And I wanted her imperial.
I always start with composition sketches, and when all that is blocked, I start the work on the main element. For this piece, it was the Sentinel.
Once the main focus point is sufficiently fleshed out(colors, a bit of details, etc) I start working on the surrounding (Architecture, other secondary focus points), then go back to the Sentinel, and I keep alternating this way. This allows me to always have the global harmony of the piece in check, and still keep the essential parts of the picture as sharp as I want it to be.
In this picture we have the Sentinel, then the bridge and the gate. Only after you’ve reviewed these elements do the other details serve to enhance the main elements: the corpse in armor on the floor, the birds, the city in the back, etc.
My favorite parts are the face of the character and her posture. I wanted her to be proud, strong, and again: imperial. But I also wanted to suggest more, just a bit of human emotions behind, perhaps a sadness and I am happy with the way it turned out.
When I was kid, I was obsessed with illustrated children books. Later on came the late nights of Role-Playing games.
One day, the mother of the friends of mine who used to host our rpg sessions came up with some odd new game for us: some weird cards, with pictures of dragons and knights and vampires and angels and all that… It was in english, and we were french kids so I just became obsessed with the art. Then Magic finally arrived in France.
20 years later, I was living in the US, with a busy career as an illustrator. In July 2014 I decided to take a break and visit my parents in Brittany, France. I received the email from Wizards on the train from Paris to my childhood town.
Here is the anecdote: In the train there is a car with a bar, for the long distance trips. I’m in the car to get a bottle of some famous soda brand that was, at the time, advertising with random names on it. I’m getting my drink and go back to sit with my spouse, checking my emails on my phone. There was one email waiting for me, and the name on the bottle was the same than the sender of the email. I opened the mail and my spouse sees a smile rising on my face, so she asks me what it is about, and I told her simply “I just have been ask to join the Magic art team!”.
I am sincerely happy and proud to be part of the adventure!
The original artwork for Sentinel of the Eternal Watch was created digitally. Anyone interested in purchasing prints or some of his other work should check out his website.
Thank you Bastien for sharing this story with us.
Check back next Thursday for more Art in Focus.