Reinvisioning Sol Ring – Altering Commander – By James Griffin

Altering Commander: The Sissay Project by James Griffin


Sol Ring might have the worst artwork in the history of magic.  Just my opinion of course.  Well, after order of the Golden Cricket that is (Nah, mainly I just wanted to say ‘Order of the Golden Cricket’ because it makes me smile each time I see it.  See? isn’t it awesome!)

So it seemed like a good thing to do to scrap it and start again with something totally different as I have to have this most awesome of cards in my deck.  However, It’s iconic, and other people seem to like it, so maybe I’m missing something here.  Looks like I’m going to have to include the ring of fire myself somewhere.  Aah well, worse things have happened at sea I’m told.

Firstly, I’m not going to do this:


Two reasons, firstly, I don’t like using out of MTG references on my cards very much, although I will do some pieces based on the nature photographer of the year competition 2011 soon.  Secondly, I want to be original, and that probably means not just going with my first thought automatically.  So then, what to do?  Well I enjoyed painting my Chrome Mox:


So it seemed like a good idea to do another piece of anatomy.  How about the human eye?  cool.  Where’s the f ire going to go?  in the reflection of course.  Maaaaaan, this is going to be my biggest challenge yet, and it’s in pretty bad shape before I begin – let’s see how I get on.  I use layers of water and acetone to remove the grease and dirt from the card.  THis takes a little while but will lead to a smoother result with a better keying surface for the paint.

To begin with I strip the Sol Ring of any artwork or ink that will get in the way of a clean white base.

Then I lay down a number of layers of white, cleaning up the text and mana cost each time until I had a decent blank canvas from which to work.  For those who are wondering, this took the better part of two hours – it’s not a quick process, even with an airbrush.

Then I mix up some grey, and get the general outline down.  This is rough at this point, and that’s fine.  I lay down more layers of white over the rough bits to try to begin to smooth it out.

I next go back over it with the gray, and use a piece of kitchen towel above the eye, which messes up the finish.  No matter, I’ll solve that later.

Next, it’s time to crack out the paint brush.  I lay down a watered down layer of black paint ot define the shape and features a little better, including the eye lid and lashes.

Then it’s time to add colour.  I want to go the opposite from the original art, and use cold colours, so I lay blue down over the black.  Here I’m using a technique called feathering.  This is where a layer of paint is laid down and then the edge of the line is smudged in the few seconds before the acrylics dry in order to enable the paint to look like it is showing a gradual change of colour.  This effect is most easily got by careful use of an airbrush, but I;m using it here too, so that there is smooth coverage of the shape and the original black outline is made less stark.  The card has a very ‘cold’ feel at this point, and I hope this will contrast well with the reflection in the eye.  I also add the first detail to the iris, the painting of which is the next task.  I lay down lines of green and brown while looking at photographs of real eyes in the hope of creating something that looks pretty real.  It takes a while to get right, but after a while I think I have nailed it.

I add  further definition to it by painting in the pupil and the edges of the iris, as well as adding more shade to the ends of the eyelids, so that the whole thing had a clear shape and made as good a use of the white background as possible.

At this point it’s time to paint the Sol Ring itself.  I begin with a circle of a desaturated yellow, and paint a broken line of white inside it (this is really small work – think how small this is!)

This then gets filled out with washes (thinned down layers of paint applied liberally over an area, literally ‘washing’ it, and leaving a little bit of a tint) of bright red and yellow.  At this point I also add some shading where the edge of the nose would be – this finishes off the composition of the piece, moving the focus further into the centre of the card despite the right hand bias made necessary by the shape of the eye.  I go over some parts with white again to give it that etherial look, and to keep the blends smooth, and then volia, it’s done!  I’ve got a scanner now, and while that is good, the glass has some marks on it it would seem, so I hope you appreciate this when you look at the finished article below, I’ll work on the colour balance on my scanner so it looks as ‘real life’ as the camera images I’ve been using above:




I hope you like it!  As ever, keep painting (and if not painting, then messaging me and commissioning me to paint your stuff lol!).  Any questions, please take a second to comment, you never know, I might even answer! 😉


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