Alterations - April Review
In a month that showcased godbooks, bannings, and Caw-Blade, it's easy to forget about the lighter, more colorful side of our game. Luckily, the April alter review should bring sunshine and happiness back to your Magical life. Enjoy!
We'll be starting the month off with a couple of original works. Again, I call them original because they're completely different from the printed card, so if these are reproductions of some sort, I apologize.
The Gaea's Bounty by FutantShadow really caught my eye while scrolling through the forums, and I kept coming back and looking at it. Every time you see a scene from a movie shot in an art gallery, you'll notice people standing there, staring at a piece of art in contemplation, and that's what this piece does for me. The contrast of our subjects (tree, stairs, girl) against the super bright yellows really makes the whole piece stand out. The tree and floating girl are both really detailed, but the staircase is what I seem to focus on. Where is it coming from? Where is it going? Also, the fact that the subject matter is all on the left side of the card is interesting. I love this piece.
Ondal the Fool always delivers a unique piece when he picks up the brush, and this Sarkhan Vol is no exception. Ondal has an unmistakable style, generally containing all sorts of crazy line work, but this Sarkhan stands out from a lot of his work to me. I'm immediately drawn to the glowing eyes, but then the detailed work within the face becomes apparent. Whoever ended up with this card is one lucky gamer.
The second day of April brought us two incredible and very opposing styles from BigUp. The Tainted Pact, which I'd imagine is going into his black and white cube, must be the sickest eyeball I've ever seen. The lighting on the top and bottom lids look great, and it seems as though BigUp used one of his own eyelashes to paint the veins in the whites of the eye... they're so tiny!
This bizarrely styled Venser, Shaper Savant really made a splash on the forums, resulting in a few other artists replicating the effects beautifully. It really made a wave and sparked quite the discussion throughout the early weeks of the month. With so many artists in the world, it's difficult to be a true innovator, as you can surely find references for almost any ‘original' style out there. I'd like to see what inspired BigUp to give this a try though, because the results are intense.
What would an alterations article be without Sandreline? Well, it would exist but be devoid of five or so really great alters! Koth of the Hammer featuring Ghost Rider, hell yes! I managed to find the source image that she used on this one, and I'd say it was ported over to card form quite well, keeping canvas size in mind. The character is also a great tie-in to the card, depicting Ghost Rider hitting his -5 ability and steamrolling the opponent.
On the same day Sandreline posted Koth, among others, Demonium showcased two tribute pieces including one for Sandreline! Ashling's Prerogative was an obvious choice to gift Sandreline an alter, as she has been using the image from Ashling, the Extinguisher as her forum avatar for as long as I've been on the boards. Demonium integrated the purple extinguisher flames into regular Ashling and gave her a paintbrush and some Magic cards in place of the flower she was previously playing with. Quite the gift.
The Mana Short is a portrait of Demonium's beautiful girlfriend. He mentioned that he gets lost in her eyes, and he's really managed to capture that in this alter, as I'm drawn immediately to the eyes. Hair is much more difficult to pull off well than most people realize, and he does it superbly in this piece. Kudos, Demo, you're a lucky dude!
Just two short days passed before we had a couple of other artists attempt BigUp's newly introduced style. Demonium gave it a shot with a Time Warp, which ended up looking pretty cool despite resembling sperm, as some pointed out on the forums. Yawg took poison a step further in his alteration of Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon using this new trend. While I preferred BigUp's utilization of the spaghetti contour on his Venser, I felt it was important to demonstrate how the community feeds off each other, resulting in the bar continually rising. For those non-artists out there, it's like having Gerry Thompson or Alex Bertoncini as a daily test partner. So good.
Not one to be outdone, BigUp followed up with three more crazy line alters all done on red cards. Of the three, I think the Dragonmaster Outcast looks the best in this style. Some cards are definitely more suited to this treatment, and the Dragonmaster seems to be throwing the tendrils forward, from which the Dragons will emerge.
Yawg takes another shot at tendrilizing, this time with his Yawgmoth's Will. I like the fact that he kept his tendril count down on this one, as it integrates with the card art perfectly.
I have a love affair with Captain Sisay due to her being my first and only Commander, so any time I see a nice alter of her, I'll be displaying it. This time, Sisay has been transformed into Cammy from the Street Fighter series to great effect by the altering machine, Eric Klug.
BigUp keeps the ball rolling with this sweet Capsize. Like the Dragonmaster, this one seems to have a natural flow to it, making the style really work with the card. Hands down, my favorite done in this style to date.
Here we have a colorful Mulldrifter original by Demonium, featuring what seems to be a baby Mulldrifter and an Elven woman. I'm a big fan of the way he tied in the original artwork in such a way that people unable to read a word in French could deduce which card this is.
James Griffin had an article go up here on April 7, in which he takes us through his process on a handful of fetchlands. The Misty Rainforest was of particular interest, as it's the first one I've seen done with a bit of a pond on the bottom instead of more foliage. Kudos!
Another day, and another insane original by Demonium. I'm still trying to figure out what's going on in this picture. Whatever it is, it doesn't look like much fun. Also, isn't Yawgmoth a character name? How does his name change to Yaugzebul en Français?
Klug whipped up this Accorder Paladin with the Marvel fringe character Moon Knight, positioning him in such a way that you're still able to see the blue orb above his head, maybe representing the moon? I don't know if he thought that through, or if it was just a coincidence... but it's cool nonetheless.
Next up on the 10th, we have a seasonal playset of Noble Hierarch by the CardKitty team. I really love the colors used in the spring version, and the transformation of the trees in the winter version was really well done. The summer and fall versions irk me though. The divide between original art and border extension can be plainly seen, as if they forgot to blend it into the card. Tsk tsk.
I don't know how I managed to miss giving Adunakhor some screen time in the last few months, as he's been a regular poster in the forums for a couple years. I decided to keep the 'before' shot he took in with the 'after' so you could see how well he worked with the original art. This Strip Mine is gorgeous, and I'd love to see different cards getting this sort of treatment.
Putting a playing card on a Magic card never really crossed my mind, but it's very fitting, as a lot of MTG players are also poker enthusiasts. The king looks fantastic, with the signature clean lines that Klug is famous for. Incorporating the Sword of Feast and Famine into his hands works really well too.
Klug then strays from his more recent styling and completes a beautifully color matched Stoneforge Mystic.
I couldn't pass up this lovely Plains that Laura Van Wie put together. It reminded me of a landscape I'd seen at a local art show recently, albeit on a much smaller canvas. Like many of the others I mention on a regular basis, Laura has been contributing to the altering community for a long time, and her gallery is quite immense and worth perusing.
What do you get when you cross Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Icy Manipulator? I present to you: Jace, the Ice Sculptor! For those of you who weren't playing Magic back in the Unlimited/Revised era, Icy Manipulator was what you kids would call the stone blade, so seeing it used in conjunction with the current best card is pretty awesome. There have been many iterations of the art, but the original still stands out as the best for me and brings back the memories. This piece is definitely #WINNING.
When Badjuju posted this Stoneforge Mystic, I simply had to visit his blog link to see what else he was up to. If you take a minute and scroll down a bunch, you'll find that he has like ten pages of different Stoneforge poses he was working with. It's cool to see how much thought he put into this alter before it actually went on the card.
Masamune brings us another famous heroine, in Chandra, which has been painted onto a Lightning Bolt. The colors used aren't what I would have figured (greens/browns), giving her an artifact feel. It really works though, and the lighting and shadow on her face are fantastic. Bravo!
This Island submission comes from an artist using the name Arwen at MTGS. It seems there are a disproportionate amount of great French alterers this month. Perhaps they're pushing harder to compensate for the recent shortcomings of their countrymen? Regardless, this Island is pretty nice. I'm a big fan of vibrant colors, and she's matched them very well, and it really stands out. The light cloud extensions look a little misshapen, but other than that, great alter!
It seems everyone alters a Noble Hierarch at some point, but Sandreline's is one of my favorites. Her work on the ground cover at the bottom of the card is phenomenal and turned out way better than my attempt.
Then, after a few days without the contoured spaghetti style, BigUp hits us with an awesome Yosei! He's being very smart about card selection with this styling. Imagine the Noble Hierarch done that way... it simply wouldn't make sense, right? The cards BigUp is choosing really benefit from this approach, and I really hope he continues to produce these over the next year.
Klug finished another character alter on Thada Adel, Acquisitor on the same day he had a guest spot on Untapped Cast. Definitely worth a listen, as the show is quality, and Eric did a great job as a guest host, integrating perfectly with the crew. Eric Klug is a machine. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. G.I. JOOOOOOE!
It seems the 18th was all about bringing back childhood memories. First, we had the G.I. Joe alter, followed by a Chocobo! Final Fantasy was by far my favorite video game franchise, having played every one of them growing up. The games were so immersive that I could be playing for an entire day and not realize it. Also, of all the ride-able bird species, Chocobo are the best.
Also of note on the 18th was James Griffin's latest installment of his Altering Commander series, in which he displays like, a bajillion alters from his deck. This thing will be a force once it's complete!
Poxy's back in a big way. I heard he captured lions and trained them to pose for him for this set of four. (I'd imagine the Chuck Norris jokes started this way...) Seriously awesome alters though; the grayscale with the pen work on top is fantastic!
So. Freaking. Good. Sword of Body and Mind, by Sandreline. This alter is easily one of my overall favorites in April. The backdrop is beautiful but also fitting, with the wolf having just jumped out of the sword after a slash to the dome.
Planeswalker alters are a bit tricky, as you have to interact with the semi-opaque text box to avoid oddities. Yawg managed to pull this one off perfectly. The background work matches the original styling very well, and the leg and cloak extensions look pretty natural, including some great lighting on his pant and foot.
And the winner of best Hebrew alter goes to... Cardkitty! Quality alters, humorous (not the bone...), and including crazy text work. Printing text that small is a serious pain in the rear, so hats off for that accomplishment alone! The depictions of some of our game's heroes was a fantastic idea, topped with renaming each card to match. Great work, CK.
Demonium slides in another sick original before the end of the month with this Goblin Welder. Again, he uses the card itself as inspiration and comes up with a piece of art that would have made it as an actual Magic card prior to the art direction going almost solely computer generated.
The last BigUp piece for April brings his new style to a dark place with this Ink Eyes. Graffiti meets Dexter? There's a lot to take in with this one, as it's very busy, but I'm pretty keen on the transparent qualities he's kept on some of the red sections.
Klug put together a sweet package at the end of the month with this Storm Brainstorm and his original Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. We've seen him do tons of these superhero alters, but seeing him break that mold and create something totally original is quite refreshing.
On the same day, he also had a sweet time-lapse video go live at GatheringMagic. This is something that I've wanted to do for a long time, as both Thea Steele and Evan Erwin suggested at different points throughout the SCG Talent Search. If I had access to the required technology and time to learn how to use it, I'd be on the video bandwagon. Sadly, it's currently out of reach.
On the final day of April, Sandreline hits us with this super sexy Chandra Nalaar, pointing sharp objects at the caster. I forgot to ask her what the source material was, if indeed there was one, but the character here reminds me of a Diablo II Amazon. Can't wait for Diablo 3!
Well, that concludes our look back at the altering world for April 2011. I apologize for not having this up closer to the end of the month, but it seems there is more awesome stuff to showcase as the months go on. I'm thinking I may need to condense these reviews a little further to get them done in a timely fashion, but let me know what you guys think.