“Nut Collector”, from Magic the Gathering Dominaria Remastered. When ever I get the chance to de a new version of a card that has already been printed before, I try to come up with a scenario or an angle that allows me to give it something new or personal. With the Nut Collector I was asked to do a guy with a bunch of cages filled with squirrels and a pet squirrel he is feeding with a nut. I was immediately excited for the interaction between them. In my first sketch, the one that was approved, I had the guy somewhat smiling generously and the squirrel looking a bit angry at how his fellow animals was captured. But when I started sketching it onto the board I grew annoyed with the gesture and interaction. There was not much drama or conflict. So I resketched the guy, and turned him into a more sly and sinister character. “What if he was not just feeding the friendly squirrel but also asking for a favor or try to strike a deal?” all of a sudden things made more sense. The way he holds the nut he is offering signals that he is holding a bit back, waiting for an answer. Perhaps:” Sooo, my friend. You help me catch some more squirrels and I give you this hassle. Deal”? But that would change the whole demeanor of the pet squirrel. He would need a hat or something like his master, to show that they are together, and also he would be hesitant to accept. It would mean betraying his kind, but the nuts are sooo tempting. Hey; then i got an idea. If the pet squirrels was a red one and the captured ones was grey/brown squirrels then they wouldn’t be completely his kind and the deal would be less cruel. Also the brown squirrels has a history of pushing out the red squirrels in areas where they interact so its kind of like making things right again. for me at least. In Denmark we only have the red squirrels so I was kind of sad knowing that they are being out competed by the brown ones. But it all got to a point where I really liked the story. It was no longer “just” a guy feeding a squirrel. It had a more intriguing narrative and a ton of meaning I could tie the gesture up against. While sketching the new guy and his expression I turned up the dial on the stylization and gave him a bigger nose. I wanted the painting to be light and happy as a contrast to the story. And I really like it when I can get into painting heavy sunlight and explore all the many bounce light effects. It just reads very appealing to the eye. I added a couple of brown squirrels outside the cages, as if they somehow escaped or was just crawling around him trying to find some nuts. Mostly because I didn’t want it to look overly cruel.
If I could change something, it would be the details of the background. I got very caught up in the details of the birch trees and fell in love with how beautifully I could render the leaves and the light. The figure is masked out when I am doing the background so its very easy to almost forget about him and just double down on the landscape painting, forgetting that it is “just” the background. I see now how he would read easier had the background been more desaturated and slightly painted out of focus.
On my insta you can see a longer video of me painting this image:
Can we also talk about those beautiful trees back there?
Trees aside though, its awesome to hear about the process of fleshing out the whole story. Great stuff!
Lovely painting as always, and thanks for sharing how the narrative evolved and became clarified as you worked!
Wonderful. Thank you very much indeed.