Paint to Power – Painting New Phyrexia Red – By James Griffin

Altering Commander: The Sissay Project by James Griffin


Hey all,

So before I go any further I should correct a grevious oversight – I promised a picture of me with my new piece of power, and I didn’t stump it up.  Well, here it is:

Now, when I get myself a Mox, well then we can talk about some sort of portrait – until then my thumb will have to do.  Turns out its hard to take a picture of yourself holding something, that requires many hands at once.

On to more pressing matters – Painting to (more) Power.  To recap, I took a bunch of cheap cards and painted them, put them in a file, and have been doing commissions and trading the ones that are painted for any cards.  I’ll then sell or trade the proceeds towards the Power 9, the most powerful cards in the game.  I had a success with nailing a mentally good deal on a Timetwister, and now I’m putting my best foot forward towards the second piece of the puzzle – This project is fun!  I’m going to continue it today with a Sesame Streetesque look at the colour red.


Red sucks.  It also blows.  It sucks and blows so much that it is basically not breathing.  It’s basically a zombie, because it sticks around even when it’s not welcome, gah.  Red.

Why does it blow etc. so much? well different paints are made of different chemicals, and every type of acrylic red paint has to some extent or another got less opacity than most other colours (yellow is also tricky).    What better card to try this out on than the new New Phyrexian ‘Urabrask the Hidden‘ card.  I’ve been hoping to get my paintbrush onto some New Phyrexia cards, and this seems as good a time as any.

This guy looks like he’s leaping out of the card, and I want to help him on his way.  I’ll begin by extending the artwork outwards and blending with the background that is already there, and then I’ll extend the Alien dude himself so that he is clawing his way onto the battlefield.  My apologies for some poor camera work.

FIrstly I removed the border (should have done so better, it would have saved me some time layering the paint later).  I also sort out the floor at this point, to make sure the card kept the ground as an identifiable reference point for the viewer in the piece.  If I had changed the angle of it then this effect would have been lost, but as it was straight, he gives the impression of really going for you.  I blend red into the black to give the ground some perspective, and then it’s time to work on the sky.

Next some thin layers of bright red get the ‘sky’ nice and red before I go any further.

You can see above that i’ve also added texture to the floor.  The red paint makes everything a little more tricky, but particularly so the blending of one colour into the next.  Blending, or ‘feathering’ is the process of adding a layer of paint of a different hue over another coat of paint, and then blurring the line between the two in some way.  In this case I use another brush held in the same hand which is clear of paint and that enables me to get to the site quickly – this paint dries in seconds, so speed is paramount.  You can see this below – the trick is to do lots of layers, and in the case of red or yellow the trick is to do many many many layers, all thin so that the end result is smooth.  Sure it takes some practice, but once you’ve got it down, you’ll be able to make one colour fade into another one, and that’s a big part of altering.  If you are altering and you don’t use this, give it a try, it’s going to give you good results in time.  Have a look:

With the paint put roughly on:

With the blending started after a few layers:

Blending complete:

It’s important to get a balance as you are layering a ‘see through’ colour like red, between smooth transitions and identifyable contours.  As such the red cloudy bit is started on the right, and the lines of texture above the light source are painted in to give them emphasis on the finished piece.

When I’m working on the cloud on the right, i’m using an old brush, almost dry of paint  to splodge on the paint in a reasonably random way so as to match the texure of that part of the original artwork.  The colours also aren’t quite right, so it’s going to be important to keep adding layers of red and yellow to match the two.  I dont mind painting a little way into the original art in order to keep the colours consistent.

It’s time to work on the light source in the bottom left.  I begin by remapping it in orange.

This then gets reinforced with blended layers of orange to yellow to white to give it warmth:

Now the background is completed to my satisfaction, I begin to add in the pop outs.  I begin by painting the ‘fins’ black, and then add layers of red (many to stand out over a black background) to give them definition and make them look like they are shining as I reckon was the artist’s intention to begin with.

Then I begin work on the hand, again adding it in black to begin with.  (also, while the black was out I took the opportunity to paint the bottom border of the card to make it look better there)  I also added some cracks from the dude’s hand in the text box to make it look like he was clawing his way out to go beat your face.

The claws and membrane between them get highlighted, sharply because they are now very much in the foreground.  Also I use some thin layers of grey to make it look like he is causing a shadow on the text box.

Some finishing touches, and he’s done.  Here, check him out in big, sorry for the blurred top corner!:

Im on a roll now, so it only makes sense to crack on with another red card, Moltensteel Dragon.  I’m using one as a finisher in my standard deck right now, and as I opened this one as a prize pack at the release event, I don’t mind sticking it into my binder for my paint to power project.  It’s a pop out rather than a full extension, but the challenge is making the bits of the dragon in the background less colour saturated (more grey) than the bits more in the foreground.  I like doing alters that push me to get it right, and while it takes me ages to complete I’m happy  with the result:

The Urabrask gets packaged up and sent to the client, and while it was a pain to do the extension, I love how the cracks on the text box turned out, and I’ll be missing him.  The Moltensteel Dragon goes in my trade folder, hopefully ready for someone to come along and trade for.  We’ll see, here’s hoping!  Of course if you want him or anything else altered, then get in touch and we’ll organise it.

I’ve gotten something big brewing for next week, so until then, this concludes our foray into the colour red.  May it rest in peace!


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