As much as I love art, and in particular the art of Magic: the Gathering, it’s a little surprising to me that I have never really talked about altered Magic cards. There is a whole, thriving subset of Magic players that buy, sell, trade or create Magic cards with altered artwork. Usually this is done via paint and ink, but there are digital techniques out there as well. The ins and outs of the culture are byzantine, and would take too long to expound upon, but the main point is that these cards are NOT proxies. If you have a custom-painted Ghave as your general, it is assumed that it is a real, actual Ghave card, just with a coat of paint. Usually some portion of the original card – name, mana cost, P/T box, and often the rules text box are still visible and unobscured enough that you can verify that your opponent’s sweet Library of Alexandria painted to look like Jabba’s Palace is in fact a legitimate copy of that very expensive card. Digital alters are a bit of a different animal, and while I definitely appreciate the medium of digital art, and have seen some sweet digital alters, I greatly prefer hand-painted alters by a huge degree.
But I don’t really want to get into the digital vs traditional debate, or the proxy debate, etc. I just want to display some fantastic alters that I consider to be amazing displays of creativity and talent. Here are a few samples from some of my favorite artists.
First up, a few pieces from one of the masters of altering technique, Eric Klug. One of the things I love about Klug’s work is that he can emulate various classical painters like Van Gogh or Picasso, recreating an iconic piece of Magic art through the lens of an iconic painting style. I myself am a HUGE fan of Mucha and the Art Nouveau genre, and Klug is particularly adept at emulating this style. Here are a few stand-outs:
Yes, that is a real Black Lotus that he painted over, and yes someone paid him to do that. I’d be mortified if it weren’t such a damn fine piece, but it’s absolutely gorgeous.
Klug is far from limited to the nouveau style, of course. You can check out tons upon tons of quality work over at his blog, here. Here’s one more alter, one of my favorite non-nouveau alters:
Seesic is a favorite of mine for his very unique and instantly-recognizable style. I probably wouldn’t want to play a deck full of Seesic alters, because his washed-out colors and abstracted designs makes individual card recognition a bit of a chore from across a table. But as collectible pieces of real artwork, I think they are absolutely amazing, and I would love to have a few pieces just to have them.
As you can see, this talented artist has an original distinctive style that is all his own. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but I find it tremendously appealing myself.
I know this artist has produced an abundance of quality work, but for today I wanted to highlight one stunning alter:
That’s right. Gandalf on a Force of Will. The likeness is incredible, yes, but the detail and the rich use of color is mind-blowing, when you take into account this artist was working on a “canvass” measuring roughly 2” wide. I’m sure I’ll feature more of Demonium’s work in later installments, but I’m just too enamored of this one to look around for more right now.
Another well-established name in the altering community, Yawg07 is a regular at the EDH forums. Yawg is a more practicle sort of alterer, in that he generally leaves the original art intact enough that you’ll easily recognize the card at a glance. Sometimes he just does simple border-extensions, and sometimes he goes all-out and completely redoes the art.
By the way, that’s gold leaf behind the top, so it’s shiny! Magic players tend to like shiny cards, right?
Anyway, we’ve barely dipped our toes into the world of altering, and there are dozens of talented individuals producing hundreds of great alters every month. I’ll try to make this a recurring feature here at The Command Zone, because great art deserves a spotlight now and then, and art is one the few things I passionately enjoy as much as I do Magic.
If you’ve got a tip on a favorite alter artist, drop me a comment and let me know. I’ll check ‘em out and if I like what I see, I’ll feature their stuff in a future column!