Altering Commander – What to Do When it all Goes Wrong by James Griffin

Altering Commander: The Sissay Project by James Griffin

I’m getting there.  Many kind people have agreed to trade cards with me for this project.  If you haven’t seen the previous articles in this column, I’ve taken the mammoth task of altering the artwork on an entire edh deck.  With cards to change in for 1v1 and multiplayer, that’s over 130 cards to alter by the time Commander comes out in a few months.  I’m currently at 70 cards owned, including some of the money cards which I was struggling to trade for such as Savannah, Primeval Titan and Chrome Mox.   I’ve also since got a Beserk and a Eureka from selling some artwork – do you think I should find space for them?  Anyway, on to the point of this article…

If you’ve been altering cards for more than five minutes, you’ve probably made a mistake.  As I type I’ve got half a dozen cards on my desk that I’m totally at a dead end with.  Paint slipping on to the wrong part of the card, the colours just not matching, the composition all shaken up, coverage issues, lumpy bits of paint, bad coats of varnish…the list goes on.  I’m going to have a bit of a session with some of these lost causes and talk you through some of the fixes.  You never know, it might help you figure out what to do to fix your little disasters.

Sunpetal Grove

We’ve got a few problems here.  The clouds on the sides, particularly the left are … erm…rough.  Not liking that – it was clearly a rush job (stupid boy!) and the card is feeling the pain as a result.  There is grey from the clouds on the black sillouette.  There are smoothness issues with the top of the title bar, and sharpie is impinging on the left hand side of the text box as you look at it.  To top it off, the tip of the flame petal thingy is too yellow.   Hrumph.  This sort of shoddy work makes me sad, I wouldn’t pay for it, and I wouldn’t want to play with it, so what to do?

To begin I crack out my airbrush.  That’s saving me some time, but you can get just as good a job sorted if you use thin watered down coats of paint and let them dry between coats.  My solution to making this all stick together better has to be to tie the different elements of the card together.  There is a lovely warm feeling from the petals, so I’m going to paint on a reflection while making the actual bright bit stronger.  I brush on some orange around the tip of the petals, and just below the title bar to tie the two parts together in colour.  Then I brush on some orange around the lumpy edges to the cloud.  It makes the transition softer, and also ties the cold coloured clouds into the petals.

This is all very well and good, but it’s a little ‘look at me, all yellow in the wrong place’, so I knock it back a bit with some very thin layers of dark blue and black.  This ties it all in a bit and makes it look more ‘natural’ (as much as an enormous shiny flower can).

Problem solved.  I tie in the bottom of the card with a little more orange, and I’m already much happier with the result overall.

The next thing to do is to clean up all the overspray, so out comes the cocktail stick, and the spare paint gets scraped off.  You can use a ruler or other straight edge to get the borders of the text box and title bar right.

There is finally the matter of the sharpie intruding on the text box.  I mix  a little black with a lot of white and a dash of brown to match the colour of the text box, and then brush a good number of thin layers over the area.  A couple of sessions of this, and a careful freehanded green line fixes the border up again.  Hoorah!  It’ll do J

Lets move onto another catastrophe.

Harmonic Sliver

This should have been a straightforward alter.  Actually it was, there was a spare 20 minutes, and I reckoned I could get this knocked out in record time.  All the art consists of is a black background with a yellow halo effect – a simple alter.  I chucked the sharpie around the edge, and then layered brown to yellow to white on the halo.  Then I went out, and when I came back it looked like this:

Aah nuts!  It looks like the sharpie ink has messed up the yellow/brown layers.  They are notoriously hard to nail normally, as there is always a slightly opaque quality to them.  Time to start again.  If it was paint I could have taken it off, but if it was sharpie, because I was working fast, so hey, I’ve only  got myself to blame.  Right then, how to fix it?  I’m going to have to basically start again here, so I’m cracking out the airbrush again and applying a pretty generous layer of black to the border and across the edges of the picture to blend in the harsh black border line.

There’s some work to do on the edge of the title box though, and I’m going to demo it here – I take the edge of the box, mask off the box itself, and spray over the shaky bit.  Volia.

The next thing to do is to add the ‘background’ shine.  I use a thin layer of kakhi green colour to add a halo to the sliver, scraping off the oversprayed paint from the wormy dude himself.  Then I switch to a brush, and layer brown into yellow into white to recreate the halo.

Finally, lets have a look at a card which needs more than just fixing, it needs some joie de vie

Garruk Wildspeaker

Ach! This guy has been bugging me.  I did him in front of the TV at Christmas, and I gotta say it’s suffered for my lack of care and attention (although it was fun, no doubt).  Problem is, it’s boring.  It’s not finished, but it’s already boring, and that doesn’t give me much motivation to move on.  There are any number of adjustments that need to be made just to make this good, and the logs still need to be painted, and particularly on the right it is rough.  I’ve been thinking about the biggest problem – making the artwork actually interesting, and I know what I want to do to make him pop.  Some sort of ethereal mist should do it.  Just like one of my favourite cards, Eternal witness (I’m saving her ‘til later to paint), Garruk could be really rather good looking with a little mistyness.  I layer brown and green around the big man until it looks smoother (sorry for the blurry picture).

Now for the ballsy bit.  Out comes the white paint, and I carefully outline garruk, along with other parts of the cards.

All of a sudden he has the eternal witness feel.  Good.  I scrape off some of the white from the nearest part of the guy, and tie the unpainted parts of the log in with some strokes of brown in wavy lines like bark.  There we go, project saved!

I hope these fixes have inspired you to pick up your brushes again if you’ve had some setbacks, let me know your results.  Join me next time for some adventures altering foils, and maybe a run through on painting a more valuable card.  That Savannah is burning a hole in my trade folder…


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