-By Jesper Ejsing

I love Magic the Gathering. I play with the cards every week, and the time I am not playing I am sorting out teh decks and try to come up with different new combos for playing. So I was extra thrilled when I got an assignment for a magic card for an upcoming Commander card. Commander is a special format within Magic and is my favourite format.

Mark Winters, my art director at Wizards, ask me to do a huge cat lord, an elephant size cat looking like a mix between a lion and a snow leapoard. He is roaring and surrounded by snow leopards in a snow canyon. “Great!”

I had a complete pure image in my head and sketched it out right away, loved it and submitted it for approval and got a green light a couple of days later.

And then I started looking at it… And my evil mind started to doubting it.

The sketch was too static. He looked moaning rather than roaring his pose was passive and the weight was weak and he was looking away from the camerea. “This is a Commander, Jesper. You cannot let this weak illustration be the Commander”, I said to myself, and started all over again. But I couldn’t go completely back to scratch, I had approval, so I needed to stay within the same angle, zoom and so on. But I could make a better Lion. I changed its face and posture. I raised him up so that he was rearing back, as if in a mid jump, roaring and showing teeth. I gave him horns, one broken to show how old he was. I even sketched in an ethereal glowing crown hovering above his head, but abandoned the idea because it would collide with my plans for the lightsource.

I was super happy with the new drawing and started painting a color comp. I tried 2 version. My ususal purple and blue, and a bluishgreen with a hint of warm brownish. I knew I would like to paint the purple one, but the card was a Green/White card and the second rough would do that way more justice. So I chose the more difficult one.

I painted it and sent it to Mark.

When I got the mail asking for some minor revisions my heart sank. First off, the horns was making him look too much like a demonic creature. “ Argghhh, Jesper. You should have known, he is right”, I cursed at myself. And painted away the horns. The second revision was harder. Mark was really liking the more stoic lion from my first sketch, and he asked if I could put his lifted foot down to make him less attacking and more regal? “I know, Mark” Palm to forehead. “ I went to far from the first sketch. Actually I looked at the old one again and found that what I liked about it in the first place was the regal pose…

I sucked up my nervousness, tightend the belt and painted the whole leg away. Mind you, this is acrylic paint on top of a complete final painting. Lets just say I held my breath a lot. I repainted a new leg pulled in under him a bit, added a cliff and some rock to rest on, and painted some the leopards in the background so they would match the new leg. Also; after I removed the horns the weight of the movement of the whole body seemed a bit shifted, so I removed a couple of fur strands. I am super happy with the final result. And a bit embarressed that I had to go through so many changes of heart. But it was mainly because I was nervous of not doing a great job.