28 Oct 2012

Painting Frost and Fire

SOMETIMES WRITING ABOUT a project in only one dimension is an exercise in frustration. Right now I am working on a painting which, as I try to assemble my thoughts here, the pieces of what I want to say go scattering around the landscape like an explosion of hares on crack.

I’ve never seen hares on crack, but that tells you just how far I have to reach to make an analogy. Follow me over the jump and I’ll see if I can manage something more coherent than “ZOMG squeeeeeeee, I am loving this!!!”

Why am I doing this painting? Because…

original art done for Magic the Gathering collectible card game, fantasy art painting(a) I have a Nov 12 deadline to finish a piece of new art that is also retrospective to my art for Hymn to Tourach, for a collaborative book celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Magic the Gathering card game. The book will probably be Kickstarted before the end of the year.

(b) I am painting a book cover for a collection of my short fiction for a heavily illustrated themed anthology.

And (c) I have long wanted to do a painting of my favorite virtual spellcaster that captures not only his magical potential and his human warmth, but also carries a suggestion of what I imagine to be his erotic sensuality.

Explaining any one of those in detail would create a wall of words that would make your eyes bleed. This brief post won’t begin to do justice to the complete context.

Original pencil art sketch, detail of handABOUT THE MAGIC BOOK
I don’t want to talk about the art book too much yet. Kickstarter works because it sells you a dream, a possibility, and a hope that a project will actually come to fruition if you dig into your wallet and see it funded. We don’t want to oversell it in advance, our hands stretched out greedily. In this case, much of the content is already in the works, already in progress as mine is. Some parts are already finished.

Dozens of the seminal artists who contributed to the card game in the early years are feverishly working, simultaneously competing with one other and inspiring each other. All of us have come a long way in the last two decades, so unless I’m very mistaken, this will be one helluva fantasy art showcase.

But although I wanted to do something that carried an echo of the original Hymn, I didn’t want to simply re-do that assignment. It had to be something more.

ABOUT THE BOOK COVER
I have mentioned Steve Crompton many times in this blog by now, an artist, writer and publisher I’ve known since he was a brash 16 year-old at Flying Buffalo. This summer, he suggested I assemble my existing short stories and novellas into a themed anthology. He has read many of the stories, likes them, and suggested I use the main character for a story in the next City of the Gods anthology.

original pencil art sketch, detail of headI’m halfway through writing that new story, but I’m also taking Steve’s suggestion to heart and revising my existing tales. As I discussed last year, a lot of it is fanfic. For obvious reasons, there’s much rewriting to make the work stand on its own without stepping on the toes of others’ intellectual property.

But a handsome, black-haired spellcaster, adept at weaving magics to go world-walking between one segment of the multiverse and another? The Winter I know has many stories yet to be told. Azeroth cannot contain them all.

ABOUT THAT MAGE
I’ve been playing Winterice of Stormwind for nearly seven years now, and he’s a complicated character to my mind. “She knew this man too well, the good and the bad, the great and the humble, the arrogant warmage and the lost boy.” That’s a line from one of my stories, an observation by one of the women led down the garden path by this moody, randy, skirt-chasing mage. (You can read one of his stories here.)

Trying to encapsulate everything in a single image was impossible. I might catch a glimmer of his cocky grin in one sketch, only to see the hardened warmage show in the other half of his face. I’d nail the erotic in one sketch, yet lack the warmth that made him worth picturing at all.

Winter, Waiting Up -- original pencil sketchLate last year I did a sketch that was sensual but kept the humanity and warmth and magic that makes the character alive in my mind. I sketched him into a doorway with a lit window in the upper story of the building, as if he’d thrown on a coat just long enough to meet his lady friend at the door downstairs. I planned it for a painting and even gave it the suggestive title of “Waiting Up.”

And there the picture languished. I didn’t have time for a piece “just for my own amusement” and, honestly, the architectural surrounds I wanted were so elaborate, the figure himself was shrinking down to almost nothing.

AND NOW…
Here we reach the Work In Progress. I might have only shared this among the other Magic artists in our private hideyhole, but I loathe how A Certain Social Medium handles artwork. I put my art on my own website; that’s why I have it. Word is starting to trickle out about this project, too, and it’s not like I’m the first to speak of it.

Moreover, if Magic the Gathering was part of your past, if the idea of the book interests you in the slightest, then this bit of a tease won’t do more than whet your appetite for a project that extends far beyond my small contribution. Trust me: when the day comes we can talk about the project, you’ll hear plenty more! What little I’ve said here doesn’t even scratch the surface. (You can subscribe to my blog via RSS or email, if you don’t want to miss one of my erratic posts.)

For now, this is where it’s at. My lickerish mage with one hand alight, his magic opening a portal to somewhere else, his other hand extended to someone just out of sight… still waiting up and still evidently unable to find all his clothes … Hymn to Tourach was never like this.

Frost & Fire: Tales of Winter value painting, with pencil sketch insert

JUST A TASTE…
This is a very preliminary stage of a painting, a thumbnail value sketch with no real detail. (In art, “value” or “tone” refers to the lightness or darkness of a piece, not its pricetag.) I’m tracking where light falls, what areas need further development and what can be ignored lest I fall into the trap of too many fiddlybits.

You’ll see some finished version of this in the Magic book, assuming that gets funded and published next year. You’ll see a complete rendition the day I can release the “Frost & Fire” collection of stories. And it’s likely there will be more than one opportunity to see the original painting itself, if you’re in the right place at the right time.

The amazing thing to me is that, for reasons I can’t even begin to explain, I feel like this painting will truly be a step up in quality the like of which I haven’t done before. Whether it’s because of the subject, or that I’ve finally reached some new level of skill, or some combination — I don’t know. I just know that I have this Muse-Monkey on my back and she’s riding me as hard as I’ve ever been ridden.

I couldn’t be happier about it. I hope what comes next intrigues you as much as it does me.

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8 Responses to Painting Frost and Fire

  1. Stefan Jones says:

    Liz: The OCD technical writer in me wants to note that the website watermark in the second illo (of the hand) is missing a D.

    • Liz Danforth says:

      Fixed! Thank you for letting me know.

      Not so much a watermark as hoping that, if someone swipes something, at least they know where it came from. I’d rather they simply respect me and not swipe, but nothing I can do will seriously change that without doing more damage than good.

  2. Well I am lucky enough to have seen this piece in even more detail than the rest of you and I can say that I believe it really IS going to a new breakthru for Liz. And having read a big chunk of her stories, I think many of you Liz fans and friends out there are going to be in for a treat! So stay tuned and get ready for a really special Liz Danforth production! Congratz Liz

  3. Mike Jarvis says:

    Stunning! Even the sketch has such a depth of charater. Love it!

  4. You show see the color study she did – bold and exciting!

    • Knick says:

      Now I’m jealous :-)

      Also, thanks Liz for clarifying things for me the other day – I was trying to reconcile Winter, who in my head is a Blue/Red mage, and Hymn to Tourach, which is a spell that I can’t see him ever casting. Now I’ve got it all sorted.

      • Liz Danforth says:

        For anyone else who might find it an odd jump between Winter and the Magic card: the key commonalities of the two pictures are the extended hand(s) and the expectation of magically-assisted translocation. :)

  5. Liz Danforth says:

    I should note that the “November 12th deadline” came and went — not only for me, but for several other artists. Coordinating dozens of freelancers (some of whom left the business or moved on to other sorts of illustration completely) in the two decades since we were all in the Magic decks together is a challenge. Bless the socks of those herding those wet cats — better them than me!

    This painting is progressing, but much of my attention has shifted to the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls project. All I’ll say is — I’m working as hard as I can, and I think everyone will be pleased with the results in time, whether they know me for being a Magic artist or for Tunnels & Trolls or both.

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