With the events of the past four months firmly behind me, I’m finally rejoining our magical community. Many of you will no doubt be surprised to find that the address for my offerings has changed, as I’ve had a lot of time off the radar to do some reevaluating.
Between personal life things, alterations issues, and my entire collection being stolen and then returned to me by the police, it's been a hectic final third of a year. Having worked through all the negatives, it’s absolutely brilliant to be among the thriving Vorthos community at GatheringMagic. I couldn’t have asked for a better turn of events.
I have a lot of catching up to do now. I haven’t been keeping up with what has been going on in the altering community this entire time, so I’m sure I’ve missed seeing some absolutely stellar pieces of art. I’d like to continue sharing the art being produced by the community here, as I did over at StarCityGames with the monthly review, but with a few changes to make it a little more manageable for me. I definitely plan to continue my occasional walkthrough articles while I also explore some other new article ideas going forward. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be seeing a lot more from me in the future!
With that aside, it’s story time! (I know it’s a lot of text, but it’s a good story—don’t scroll looking for pictures yet.)
One of the major challenges I’ve faced over the last four months was the overwhelming amount of outstanding work I have yet to tackle. Things piled up over a period of months, and when I received a plethora of alteration requests at SCG: Pittsburgh, the stack was too high to look at. It was like being in school again and getting some massive assignment, then leaving it to the last minute. Fear, stress, loathing . . . work. Altering became work. My brain has informed me that work isn’t fun, and it became very difficult to even cast a glance at my painting desk without entering a state of panic.
I remember hitting that same wall back when I was playing World of Warcraft—grinding all those levels for hours and hours, questing with my friends as much as I could, and neglecting real life. Then, we finally hit the max level and started raiding. This was great at first—experiencing battles of epic proportions and then talking about it all day at work. Then, it became a weekly scheduled event, and I’d have to show up so as to not let everyone down. If I had to be away for something going on in real life, I was panicked that my guild wouldn’t be able to run something because of not having sufficient players or not having a healer, and I’d be the cause of that. It added a new layer of stress to my life, and thus, it became work. Shortly after that, I retired from the game and never went back.
Luckily, Magic is the one thing in my life that I always seem to come back to. This time, it took an amazing turn of events to provide the inspiration to put this altering train back on the tracks.
A couple of months ago, my entire collection, including painted cards, was jacked from the back of my van while it was parked in my driveway. It bears pointing out that I live in a very rural farm town of maybe a couple thousand people who seemingly know everyone and everything that happens in our community. My house is situated on a road that has maybe ten other dwellings on it, with farm fields scattered between many of the lots. Yet, some random guy decided that a Mazda 5 minivan, with those little cartoon family stickers on the sides, was worth breaking into. Then, he decided to grab the innocuous black bag from the back seat, while leaving behind in the van a bit of cash and some pretty sweet tools.
Upon discovering that my gear was heisted, I promptly put the word out to the local game shop on Facebook and word spread, as it tends to do these days, to all the stores from Ottawa to Toronto. I was contacted by many people from all over the place saying that they were on the lookout and would notify me if anything popped up. Andrew, an employee of Jeff’sCardsandComics (my LGS) advised me that I should file a police report to make sure I had all the bases covered just in case something turned up at the store or at a pawn shop, so I made the call and gave the minimal detail I had available. Most of the conversation with the officer on the other end was spent trying to explain what Magic cards were and how they’d be able to discern mine from another person’s—notably, that a handful had been hand-painted. Painful.
At this point, I was extremely depressed and had practically resigned myself to no longer playing Magic, much to my buddy Sean’s chagrin. I was simply planning on taking some time off, then coming back to finish the outstanding paint jobs, followed by a departure from everything Magic. Then, the clouds withdrew.
Roughly three weeks after filing my police report, Andrew messaged me on Facebook asking that I come down to the store—he had the feeling he just purchased a stack of my cards. I had a hard time believing it, but I went down to the store immediately after work anyway—with a sliver of hope. The cards Andrew purchased for $60 from this guy were absolutely mine. They were a random smattering of cards from all of my decks, boxes and binder, all sleeved up in my plain Ultra Pro blacks. There were none of my painted cards present, but there aren’t too many people rocking Group Hug deck foils and brutal foils collected solely for the art and artists.
The $60 price the store paid was certainly suspect, as there was over $325 retail in that stack, including a Gaea's Cradle sitting at the top of the pile. It was clear to the employees and me that the thief surely knew nothing about the game and that he didn’t bother to Google what he stole. Criminals take note: Always Google what you lifted so you don’t get screwed when you peddle your wares!
The big savior in all of this was that Andrew had asked the guy if he had anymore cards to sell, which he did. The guy arranged to be back in the store on the same day the following week with another pile of goodies. Awesome! I called the police again and brought them up to date with everything that had transpired, and I gave them the phone numbers for the store and the key employees involved.
The following week, I was contacted early in the morning to go over all of the details again with the police before they headed down to the store. I recounted the tale again, and I crossed my fingers.
Right around lunchtime, I received a call from a clearly excited Andrew. Apparently, the police had also called him that morning and provided him with the cell phone number for an undercover cop whom he was to call as soon as the culprit came in. The thief came in, as promised, and brought a whole fat-pack-box worth of cards to the store. Andrew said that he excused himself for a minute to go to the washroom and quickly called the officer’s cellphone. He went back to the front desk and asked the guy if he minded that he sorted the cards into colors to save him time pricing . . . with the intent of stalling until the police showed up. “Sure, no problem.”
Within a few minutes, a couple walked in, clearly not nerdy enough to be customers, but Andrew asked if he could help them with anything. The officer replied, "Yeah, I'm Trevor; we spoke on the phone." To which Andrew replied, "Here are the stolen cards, and this is the guy that brought them in."
He said the look on the kid’s face as he realized what just happened was amazing.
The cops put the guy in cuffs and went into the back of the games room to question him. This got us up to speed, and Andrew said he could still hear the kid sobbing and sniffling in the background. Sweet, sweet justice.
When I got off work, I headed down to the store to partake in story time with the lads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my cards back that day—the officers had to take them for evidence, and they still had to recover the rest that were at the guys house, but I did get to pick them up later that week, and it seemed that everything minus the bag I carried them in was recovered!
Receiving all of my goodies back certainly took me several strides closer to rejoining the Magic community. Sure, I missed my daily magical conversations, but turning on Twitter during downtime had simply reminded me of all the cards I had lost. Once I had everything back in my possession, however, I simply had to share the story on Facebook, and from there, the word of my good fortunes managed to reach a few Twitter folks. My phone blew up with texts, tweets, e-mails, and Facebook messages, prompting me to start communicating again.
Of course, having my cards back also had me itching to play again, so I headed down to Jeff’s Cards and Comics for my first FNM Draft in months. It was basically story time with Jeremy from the moment I set foot in the store, as I recounted the tale repeatedly for everyone within earshot, being sure to praise Andrew for his hand in all this. I really couldn’t thank him enough, and I was considering buying him a Tim Horton’s gift card, or maybe a pack of smokes, to show my appreciation, but these were but small gestures not quite fitting of what he had done for me. The obvious solution was to paint him a card!
Although he enjoys Magic on all levels, Andrew is a Legacy player at heart, and I can’t think of a time he had a Legacy deck together that didn’t include Blue. I wanted to be sure that what I painted for him would always be on display, so a basic Island was the obvious choice. With this in mind, I set out looking for an Island that spoke to me, and I settled on a Revised purple Island. This was most likely going to be in Legacy decks, so an older version really fit the bill, and the color blending with the sky and water looked complex enough that the final product would turn out fairly interesting.
I spent the following two evenings locked in my tower, fervently mixing and blending, until I had transformed the old faded Island into a stunning extension with a Beta-like bottom:
After I had coated Andrew’s card early one evening, the itch to paint hadn’t subsided in the least, so I pulled out the brutalized Maze of Iths I had in the docket for months, and I started splashing orange, green, grey, white, peach, and many combinations of those all over the card. I’ll rewind a moment and show you what Ben Boccio sent to me.
The pictures don’t really show how mangled these two Mazes were. The one on the left, where you see the two small crease lines on the right-hand black border, were actually more like full folds all the way through the card!
The one on the right, with the heavily fuzzed-up corner, was the one I had come close to completing prior to my fallout with motivation. I did take pictures of the process, but the colors changed so many times that it’s really not worth showing. It really looked bad, until almost the last day, because of the crazy blending and layering that went on. What I settled on was this:
The following day, I was at work, just doing my salesman thing, when I got a Facebook message from Ben:
“Hi Jeremy, any chance you could send my cards back? It’s been a year, that’s probably a little too long to wait for this . . . ”
Now, Ben was exaggerating a little with this message; it was really only ten months . . . I definitely agreed that it was way too long as well, and I asked that he give me a single week longer, and that I would ship them in whatever condition they were in at that time, and I did not expect a penny out of him in payment. Obviously, he agreed.
I’ve been saving the second Maze all this time for a special project. I had planned on doing some sort of Dr. Seuss–inspired hedge maze with one of his signature fuzzy creatures in the middle of the maze with the name Ith printed on his chest, as the good doctor did on many an occasion.
I simply couldn’t find any pictures that had an actual maze on them for reference, and it seemed far too daunting for someone of my limited artistic ability to develop on his own. I did, however, find the PinkTuftedBeast.
This image just seemed perfect for what I wanted to do. The background seemed very maze-like, and the creature was interesting, even though he didn’t have space for me to write “Ith” on him. I figured that by plopping him on the end of the pier, it would be implied, so I went with it.
I loaded the image up in Photoshop, gave it a resize and a horizontal flip to better incorporate the card name, then printed it. This was my first time borrowing Klug’s transfer method to get the drawing onto the card, and I was really pleased with how well it worked.
With the pencil down lightly, I could see why Eric always pens over the initial transfer. The lines were very light, and I was afraid that if I were to apply any paint on top of the lines, they would disappear, leaving me with no guides. Out came the .005mm pen.
Wow, now it’s actually looking like something!
With the amount of negative space being quite extensive in this piece, I decided to get that out of the way first. This way, all the areas that were to be colored popped out a little more, ensuring that I didn’t miss anything among all those crazy lines. I also roughed in the beast at this stage, which I had previously left out because I was contemplating putting a different Seuss creature there.
The black isn’t totally filled in there, but you get the idea.
Once I had the background polished off, I began coloring in many areas with a simple grey, just to hide the original maze picture better. I followed that up by coloring in the platform and any areas with that similar yellowy color—they really seemed to pop.
The next portion was roughing in dark greys and light greys, in addition to going over the yellow–beige stuff a second time so that it was a solid coat. I also re-penned the outlines everywhere to clean up the image. I then took a battered brush and used a watered-down black to put shadow depth into the picture in a handful of areas.
There was a fair amount of time between that image and the next one, but I didn’t put the brush down for a while—I was nearing completion. Adrenaline was pumping as I watched it all come together, so I kept going and going until about 2 a.m. while polishing this off.
Here’s the final piece:
The beast was a lot of fun to paint, and I managed to get his facial expression down on a microscopic scale, so I was happy with that. Actually, I’d deem this as my favorite alter I’ve done to date. The picture never does it justice, so I hope you’ll run into Ben at an event some time!
Well, that concludes my first piece for GatheringMagic! Let me know what you guys think or what you want to see in the future. While you’re commenting, also throw a link to your favorite YouTube video, so that when I’m bored at work (people don’t buy flooring for Christmas . . . ), I’ll have something to watch.