Goblin Balloon Brigade by Lars Grant-West
The more I trawl the Internet for cool, unsanctioned expressions of Magic, the more I realize the best stuff is flying way, way under the radar. And why not? True artisans tend to keep a low pro, right? Holed up in their shops on Urborg, tinkering happily away. For me—being more of a producer than an artisan—it always blows my mind when I stumble across MTG fan art that really pushes the upper limits with its quality, originality, and zeal.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to an artist with possibly the most unique take on MTG fan art that I’ve seen to date.
Meet the Balloonomancer.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite balloon sculpture by DJdrummer
Smaug balloon sculpture by DJdrummer
1. What's the correct title for someone in your profession? I was thinking about calling you "DJ, the Balloon Sculptor."
I call myself "Mr. Twister, the Balloon Artist,” but I'm also known as "the clown,” "the balloon man,” or my civilian name, DJ.
2. How did you get into this line of work/type of art?
This is actually something I learned from my parents three years ago. Kind of runs in the family.
Smaug balloon sculpture by DJdrummer
3. What made you decide to incorporate Magic characters into your suite of work?
I'm constantly pushing my creative boundaries with the balloon sculptures I twist, and I'm always drawing inspiration from different movies, video games, or, in this case, card games that I'm passionate about.
4. If you play Magic, what decks and formats do you enjoy?
I play Magic on almost a daily basis. I dabble in Limited formats when a new set comes out, and I play Modern when I'm free for a tournament at my LGS (R/G Tron and Bloom Titan), but I spend the most time, by far, on Commander. I absolutely love the freedom that Commander deck-building gives you. I must've built a hundred decks so far in the year and a half I've been playing. And of course, there's nothing else like a good Commander playgroup.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope balloon sculpture by DJdrummer
5. So far, I've seen your Elesh and Avacyn. How involved are these installations? Give us an idea of what it's like to put one of these together—insight into your process, in other words.
Well, something like an Avacyn or Elesh Norn uses potentially dozens of balloons, so first thing is making sure I have enough balloons handy. It feels terrible to spend two hours working on a balloon only to realize there's no more of an important color.
It also takes a bit of experience to know what translates well to balloon form—and what will fall flat. The character design has to be striking enough to stand on its own outside of the rest of the Magic art. Most of the people who stop to watch me twist aren't Magic players, so having a design that looks cool by itself is always a plus. To a non-Magic-player, Elesh Norn is a creepy skeleton monster, Avacyn is a gothic angel, and Nicol Bolas is a sweet dragon.
Once I've picked a character, I almost always start with the head. That's where the eyes fall on first, and if that looks funky, the whole balloon doesn't work. It also dictates the scale of the rest of the balloon. Most of the time, there's no planning—I'll just go with an idea and hope it works. Usually, they'll end up taking two to five hours, depending on how ambitious the project is.
Karn Liberated by Jason Chan
6. Can you let us in on what Magic imagery you have planned for future balloonization?
I think a Sliver Queen would look really cool. Maybe a Karn made from a ton of silver balloons. An Ajani would also be really interesting. After my vacation in Taiwan, I'll be back at it, and you can bet it'll be on the Internet.
DJ as Ral Zarek
7. Where can fans find you?
You can find my all my creations, Magic related or no, at http://djdrummer.deviantart.com/. I make it a goal to have at least one new sculpture up there per week. I also make cosplay costumes and do a fair bit of Magic card alters. You can find me physically in Houston, Texas through my Facebook page.
8. If you could be any Magic character for a day, who would you choose and why?
I might be an Eldrazi titan for a day to experience what it's like to devour reality.
Hope you enjoyed this peek into the work of yet another talented artist in the MTG community, and maybe it’ll inspire you to create some of your own fan art. The more’s the merrier in the Vorthos Legion.
Till next time, may Magic be your wealth of balloons.