Back to Magic, Vizier of Remedies

Spoiler alert: This post is mostly about my work on Magic: the Gathering in general, but I've peppered it with process shots of Vizier of Remedies, my latest illustration for it.

"Vizier of Remedies" 14x18" oil on panel

"Vizier of Remedies"
14x18" oil on panel

Magic: the Gathering has been a part of my entire career, from my very first year as a freelancer, before I was old enough to drink alcohol. That relationship is one I didn't see coming, but has shaped everything I've done since. It has been a fairly casual relationship, and there have been years I didn't participate in the game. The longest stint was these past three years.

Digital study over pencil/pastel drawing. I submitted this to AD Dawn Murin for approval. Approved, with change requested to hair: she should have a styleguide-approved updo. Check!

Digital study over pencil/pastel drawing. I submitted this to AD Dawn Murin for approval. Approved, with change requested to hair: she should have a styleguide-approved updo. Check!

I have worked with I think every Art Director that has held the seat. Considering that each AD has their specific vision for the art of the game, I'm pretty proud of that. Certainly I worked with some ADs more than others. This is doubly amazing for me because I am not one to really make an effort to send ADs emails when I am not working with them. I send each AD an introduction letter eventually, but that's about it, so if I fall out of sight and out of mind, well then I don't really get asked. There could be a longer blog post on that topic, but it is enough to bring us to the present.

When I turned in my last illustration, Treasonous Ogre, three years prior, I went about my business as usual after. When a set or two passed me by, that was not unusual--I was engaged in my large painting Alieis by then. If you don't know the story, it is the painting that led indirectly to where I am now: my still life series started while working on it, and my Hearts for Hardware art would not have started without first painting squash and tomatoes; and by expanding in those directions and enjoying them, I then expanded again into incorporating more landscape art into my mix, which had just been an occasional side thing up to that point. With an extended hiatus from Magic, I had time in my calendar to engage these other projects, which have become mainstays of my work these days.

After transferring the drawing to my board, I applied a brown wash of color, then began with the final rendering, working mostly background-to-foreground

After transferring the drawing to my board, I applied a brown wash of color, then began with the final rendering, working mostly background-to-foreground

Art Directors changed during that time, with Cynthia Sheppard and Dawn Murin stepping in where Jeremy Jarvis was the commissioning AD last time I worked with them. And clearly I was out of sight, out of mind for both of them. So a year ago I figured I'd drop Cynthia that email saying that I was still interested in working on Magic if that was in line with her vision for the game.

There was one caveat this time, however: I suggested that as much as I was still interested in working on Magic, I was only interested in doing like one painting per wave of commissions, and that I understood that the headache in dealing with a totally separate artist for just one card when there are hundreds to assign might mean it was not worth it, and I was cool with that. Surprisingly, they were cool with that, too. So I've done a piece here or there for them in the past year, and "Vizier of Remedies" is the first to release.

There are two reasons for this limitation: first, it is very tempting to want to take as much work as can be offered because money. But an illustrator has to be aware of their limitations, since this can quickly backfire on them, where they accept more work than they can handle at the expected level of quality. My own work has occasionally suffered on this count over the years, and I realize this sometimes short-changed my client and sabotaged my own career.

Some folks liked the hands on this piece, so here is a close-up of that.

Some folks liked the hands on this piece, so here is a close-up of that.

You'll note the background is a bit glowy-er than the painting. I added a bit more extreme light digitally at the end to improve how the shapes read at card size.

You'll note the background is a bit glowy-er than the painting. I added a bit more extreme light digitally at the end to improve how the shapes read at card size.

The second reason was mentioned earlier: I do a lot more things now, and I really like those things. And now that I've added Magic back to the mix in this limited way, I have another thing I like now back in the mix. It has been the busiest period of my entire career, but creatively the most exciting few years. I don't want any one thing to dominate my work right now. I want to have like 6 cakes and eat them too.

So, for at least the next year you'll see new Magic art from me, and I'm quite happy with all of it. Beyond that? Well, that's ultimately out of my control, but I've always tried to enjoy the ride while it's lasted.

Hearts for Hardware: On the Go

"Mobile Gaming Lv.1" 9x12" oil and acrylic on panel sold

"Mobile Gaming Lv.1"
9x12" oil and acrylic on panel
sold

For many, it is probably hard to imagine not being able to play video games on the go, but for some of us older gamers, there were many years of waiting for this innovation.

Sure, there were attempts before, including early LCD-based machines where you could swap out games, like the Microvision. But between too-primitive technology (Game & Watch) and onerous game changing (Microvision), it took awhile longer before we could fulfill our childhood dreams of gaming anytime, anywhere.

And so I included "Lv.1" in the title of this painting, because really it was here that what we now call mobile gaming got going. 

The original Game Boy was of course behind the times at release too, evidenced by the fact that the backlit, color, 16-bit Atari Lynx released only a few months later.  But power consumption (and Tetris) probably won that battle, especially as Nintendo was coming at the end of a very successful home console start, whereas Atari was already an also-ran by 1989, after nearly a decade of domination.

"Mobile Gaming is Evolving!" 9x12" oil and acrylic on panel sold

"Mobile Gaming is Evolving!"
9x12" oil and acrylic on panel
sold

Before too long, the hardware began to evolve, first in greater portability then by finally adding color. During this time, handheld gaming became a major business, and the meteoric rise of the Pokémon franchise provided the first major franchise launched on a handheld device.

With my paintings of these, I sought to call back to Tetris, which powered the initial rise of the hardware. I don't like showing game graphics on handheld screens in this series, and prefer not showing game labels, but the Tetris shapes provided a great compositional element.

By the end of the Game Boy Color era, Pokémon had become a major force, and the cartridges themselves began to change, introducing colors and then clear varieties, which I included here to show the evolution of the entire product line.

Though I didn't paint the interim Pocket hardware at this time, you can easily see where it might fit in this series given the way the images have incorporated on these evolutions.

The titles of these two paintings also call back to Pokémon, evoking the constant finding of primitive creatures and over time watching them develop into more powerful forms. I can't always find these kinds of hardware-to-experience hooks, but when I can they are some of my favorite aspects of this series: using the paintings to evoke these other aspects of gaming that are tied to the hardware.

See more from this series at Hearts for Hardware.

The Same, But Different

While my work has shown changes over the past few years, notably in a spreading out of subject matter, it is also true that I tinker a lot behind the scenes. Most of these experiments are not game-changing ones, and most are not even really intentional. But sometimes, at the start of a piece I'll just decide to do something different for no reason in particular.

"Pine Cone" 6x8" oil on panel

"Pine Cone"
6x8" oil on panel

The last time I did a couple of still life paintings, I did them in a limited palette, as discussed in the videos that resulted. I don't always work in limited palettes, but have done so more often in the past year or two.

When I painted this still life at the very end of 2016, for no particular reason I decided to choose a limited palette: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Perylene Red, and Ultramarine Blue. I hadn't used that Red much, and wanted to experiment a bit more with it.

Happy with the result, when a few days later I did another small painting, and my first of 2017, I took my palette out of the freezer (where I store it between sessions) and, noting that I had quite a bit of paint left, decided to just continue using it, albeit with a very different overall color cast.

"Concha" 6x8" oil on panel sold

"Concha"
6x8" oil on panel
sold

So this second piece uses the exact colors as the prior one. It's been fun to do this from time to time. I don't know if it'll stick long-term or just remain a way of working on occasion. What I do know is that following this piece, I then worked on a larger 18x24" landscape piece for my Times and Seasons series, and what do you know: I just kept on working with that palette, although in that case I did add Cadmium Yellow Pale because Medium did not have the punch needed for some of what I was doing there. I look forward to sharing that with you soonish.

From there, I took a few days away from the easel to do an event and start working on taxes and stuff, so that paint won't be usable anymore next time I sit to paint. So it's off to a different thing.

Cards Signed By Mail and Artist Proofs

Update April 2017: New instructions

Artist Proofs:

I am not presently offering a shopping cart-style method of buying whiteback cards, but I do have a list which will live here. I'll update it at this link, so if you download a fresh copy, it's always the latest.

Inventory and instructions in the PDF here!

Card Signings:

There are two ways to get cards signed by mail by me, and the methods have changed as of 2017:

In-person signing fee: $1/card. The best way to know what events I'll be at is to get on my once-per-month mailing list. You can do that here.

By mail: $2/card, no minimum, including no minimum for international packages.
If you write on each sleeve what color you'd like the card signed in, I'm happy to oblige (I have every Sharpie now). I'll reuse your packaging and send your cards back to you. Just click this link, increase the Quantity and Pay. I'll send you the address to ship to when I receive payment. Include your receipt in the package and send them off and I'll return them promptly in your packaging on my dime. Please do your fellow players a favor and don't post the address online--if people start sending me cards without following these directions, their cards will go into the Bin of Earbuds and AAA batteries. Maybe the trash, eventually.

You can also include a personal check made out to Randy Gallegos.
You can also include cash but you're on your own there if something happens en route.
Get your cards signed!

Gameify: Bonus Items
This offer is good by mail only.

Depending on the # of cards you're paying to have signed at once, I will include a freebie signed artist proof, free.
10-14: 1 Giant Spider (random set)
15-19: 1 Random Common
20-24: 1 Random Uncommon
25-29: 1 Random Rare
30-34: 1 Random Foil
35-39: 1 Random Foil + 1 Random Common

Increment according to this pattern ad nauseum. Random inserts will be from Exodus forward.

You may also receive a random signed postcard, subject to availability.

Either way, you get signed cards and help ensure new art gets made. Smiles for all.