A few years ago, I was approached to do some art for a Magic: The Gathering set called Modern Horizons 2. They wanted to see a sentient forest of giant trees, with signs of ancient artifacts that the forest was taking over. The world guide, an in-depth file with backstory, concept art, and more, described the forest floor to be knotted with so many twisting roots that the ground could not be seen.

So much has happened on Dominaria that in addition to what I was given, I went out in search of more information.  At this point in the story, a violent past had driven the forest to be aggressively unhospitable, so many of the sketches I explored early on showed an unnavigable landscape. I also read that the magnigoth trees of this place were about 2000 feet tall. With the trees dominating the landscape but sharing it with equally enormous artifacts of fallen civilizations and past wars, there wasn’t much to use to put the trees into scale. I played around with rough thumbnails, at least 20-30 of them early on, trying to get a feel for something that conveyed the forest’s proportions. I think C achieved this best, since cropping an object implies it is too large to fit into view. I liked A too, imagining a Niagara Falls-sized waterfall could help establish the size of things…but perhaps not at card-size. Since the violent past involved the Phyrexians, I was glad when C was chosen, which heavily featured a Phyrexian ship being consumed by the forest. I was keen on the the designs of the Thran artifacts too, which were huge geometric metal objects- fortunately a year later, I had the chance to do a painting entirely focused on one!

At this time, I had been painting everything over grisaille…I’d glaze color over a black-and-white painting. I had occasionally found that I miscalculated and a color would end up less vibrant than I’d have liked, and I didn’t want that to happen on this painting, so I opted for a mixed approach. Grisaille on everything except the sky, which I’d go straight into color for.

On the ruined Phyrexian ship, I first sculpted a rough maquette and then painted the ship without the sunlight, in greytones.  Then, over that I painted in oranges and then umbers to get a gradient in the area. This lightens the darks too, which was desirable nearest to the sun, but I needed to go back in to add shadows to most of the area.

To create atmospheric perspective, I went over distant, dark areas with zinc white many times. It’s a very transparent white pigment that has a blue cast when glazed. It has the added benefit of slightly softening edges with multiple layers, adding to the distanced effect. The whole forest couldn’t be giant magnigoth trees, so I imagined that dirt would collect between and on the giant twisted roots and normal-sized plants would grow there. Hiking through would be like hiking in steep mountains, but without a single rock in sight. All slippery moss and sudden steep drops. I imagined that down near the actual ground, it was like a cave system, with sunlight almost never reaching under the arching roots.

After the painting was spoiled, it was pointed out to me that although it was a green card, the sunlight and resulting flare brings areas of red and white in, both of which are ally colors to green. As someone without a long relationship with magic, it’s funny to me how often these kinds of accidents happen, and that they’re often assumed by MtG fans to be intentional decisions.

And here it is finished, 18″ x 24″ acrylic on wood. Thank you for taking a look!