Friday, January 8, 2016

Magic: the Gathering - Zendikar Expeditions

Oath of the Gatewatch is the name of an upcoming release of Magic: the Gathering.  As part of the release there are some rather rare cards that will be included called Zendikar Expeditions.  I had the chance to do three of the twenty that will be released with Oath of the Gatewatch.

Mana Confluence

Mana Confluence oil on panel - 16x20
Digital sketch.  Because I was doing an oil painting, I took my sketch a little further.

Here is a video time-lapse of the painting.

Ancient Tomb

Here is the sketch submitted for this card as well:

Once the sketch was approved, I decided to build a bit of it out in Blender:

And for good measure, here is a gif of the painting steps:

I have always loved the dried out corpses in movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark that suggest a long story aside from the current one being told.  As I painted these three here, it was fun to imagine what brought them here and what they might have been seeking.  Were they killed, or did they die, content with having found the treasure they sought?

Strip Mine

This card was challenging to do as an exercise in patience.  Lots of little geometric details to add.

The sketches:

Progress gif:

Thanks for taking a look, and when the third card is released, I will post it in my next post.  It was an oil painting and I shot a time-lapse of the piece from start to finish.

Howard Lyon


  1. Howard I really love the use of Blender on "Ancient Tomb", It gives the piece the exact amount of atmosphere and perspective needed. I think it stands alone as a great painting even before the figures are placed. Once they are there, Bam! Terrific work my friend-

    1. Thank you Michael! I love Blender. Incredible that it is free.

  2. Is this the Blender program that you were talking about?

    Good grief, those tiny geometric shapes! I would've gone insane for a bit. I love that you can make even your dead bodies in ancient tombs look peaceful and smooth. Fantastic work! (I'll be lucky if I can pick them up in cards!)

    - Sarah Main

    1. Sarah - That is the one. Very capable and free program that I have found to be an excellent tool. Thank you for commenting!

  3. This is a great post! I have never heard of Blender before, so I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the process GIFs, too.

  4. Your art makes me want the cards solely for that reason, even though I am not sure about colorless mana as a mechanic... But I'm new to Magic, I might figure it out.
    //do you have any tips for aspiring artists on sketching landscapes?

    1. I think the biggest and best tip is to paint from nature as much as possible and build up your reservoir of understanding relating to what a landscape does under different light and weather conditions. It takes time, but it is a blast to do!

  5. I have found to be an excellent tool and your art makes me want the cards solely for that reason.

  6. Thanks for another excellent post Howard.
    I use Cinema4D myself but find it a dangerously addictive practice (it's so hard to stick to just simple modelling to serve a painting!).
    Were you tempted to build a Blender maquette for the last painting too?
    I've tried to do a very similar "tunnel" piece, a few years ago- failed horribly.
    Now I can go back to it and get it right!
    Thanks for providing these gifs of your beautiful, tasteful, elegant work. They're really useful.

    1. Good question! It is addictive and I think I have overdone it in the past. I probably could have benefitted from building a model out for the last painting too, though. I always get a lot of good information whenever I do. Building actually clay or wood models is excellent too. I hope you do go back and give your painting another shot, and then share it! :)

  7. Thank you very much for this article Howard! I'm in the process to create some lands illustration for an upcoming Wotc portfolio and I'm glad to see some process from you!

  8. Could you elaborate on the tool in your hand (other than the paintbrush of course hehe) during the youtube video? Is it just something to rest your wrist against?

    1. Yeah, it is called a mahl stick and it is a centuries old tool. You will see it in the hands of Rembrandt and Norman Rockwell. Sign painters use them as well. Some artists use a bamboo cane and hang it over their canvas. For a long time, I used a broom handle with a hole in the end that would loop over a screw on the top of my easel.

      I recently made my own mahl stick (kind of like how a Jedi makes their own light saber, but way cooler...) and it has served me well. :)

  9. Wow the strip mine still mystifies me every time I see it. Here's hoping I get one sooner than later!

  10. The geometric patterns are super cool on strip Mine. Was this something they had asked for in the art description, or was it just you doing your thing? It looks amazing either way

  11. These are some great tips. For those who could use some more specific advice, tips and information about great article thanks for posting.
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