"It is vain to do with more what can be done with less." -William of Occam (1300-1350)
It is curious that novice artists commonly hold photorealism as a sign of great skill while more experienced artists rightly see it as otherwise. Why? As your artistic skill increases you begin to understand how difficult it can be to render complex subjects so when you see someone who can do it with few lines it is very impressive. Think of figure skating, the world-class skaters make it look simple and effortless, as if anyone could strap on some skates and dance across the ice. Yet, we know that even the simplest move they preform takes great skill. Likewise with art.
Say I painted a flower and it took me a hundred strokes to do it. Then someone else does the same flower with the same vibrancy and life with ten strokes. He would have demonstrated superior skill as every stroke of his had to do what ten of mine accomplished. He who does the same with less must exercise more planning, purpose and accuracy with every stroke. Perfection is neared not when nothing else can be said but when nothing else can be taken away without losing the essence.
So, when someone puts crazy detail into an image and thinks it makes them something I think of the song, "That don't impress me much."
Let's be clear though, I have nothing against details and use them regularly but I don't fool myself by thinking it makes me a good artist and know that they are no coverup for core flaws in the piece. I'd even go so far as suggest students do a couple of photorealistic pieces from reference, not because you'll produce great art but it will be an excellent lesson in observation. When you have to obverse and render every nuance of a subject it can be very beneficial. Details have their place and whenever they cease to support the subject and become the subject then they've lost that place.
We've all been there. You look at your piece and something just feels off, something just isn't working. At that point we have a choice to either stumble around changing things hoping it will magically start working or we can actually identify the issues and correct them.
Feelings in this case are not worthless but they're not overly useful either. They're like that ambiguous "Check Engine" light on your dashboard. Sure, it lets you know something's wrong while not giving you a clue what the problem actually is. That's when you take your car to the shop and have a diagnostician trace the source of the problem and it's exactly what we should do with our artwork.
We can feel the image isn't "happy enough", "awesome enough" or just feels "off" but that's how WE feel about the piece, not the piece itself. Step back at that point and determine what is prompting that warning light. If the piece feels dull check if the values aren't broad enough and the colors saturated enough. Maybe you feel the piece isn't cohesive so look at whether the lighting or perspective is inconsistent.
Our subconscious are great at being able to scan a scene and notify us if something is wrong even when we consciously don't perceive it. The subconscious however can only communicate through emotions and not words so by equating your feelings into specific issues real progress can be made. This sort of problem-solving gets better with time and practice. One good way to improve in this is to get still from movies with good cinematography or other artwork and figure out how they convey the mood/feelings of the scene using only the viewpoint, composition, lighting, values and color. No sound or acting. Once you can begin to quickly define what core features equate to what emotions and impressions you can use that information to create and problem-solve your own work.
For the Magic: The Gathering Core 2012 (M12) set. I noticed they also used the image on pg. 11 of the Players Guide as one of three cards to represent the Black deck. Nice to know they liked it enough to use elsewhere.
The brief called for two vampires who look like they're hunting in tandem (which is a little hard as they have no weapons to hunt with). They are baring their fangs as they stealthily follow the scent of blood. They wear faded noble's attire, as if they might have been aristocracy in another life.
Be sure and follow my blog as I continue to release more Magic images.
Completed this illustration for Magic: The Gathering last October and it's just been released in the new green Commander set. The original brief's scene was more complicated than this which caused things to be really small to fit in so the art director allowed me to change it to this.
As a kid I always enjoyed the illustrations from Magic: The Gathering even though I didn't have much interest in playing the game itself (Brom, you are awesome). I thought it would be cool to do work for them when I got older so when I sent them my portfolio last year and they brought me on on-board I was stoked. They commission work to be started about a year out from the time they're actually released which means that I and the other MTG artists have to sit on pieces a long time before being able to show them off. Movie concept art can be even worse with the delay often being multiple years. This is the first piece they released that I produced for them.
The brief was that she's a priest that's been taken over by the Phyrexia and now lives to cast blessings over the furnace fires. Looking at it now I would do some things differently but it has a decent cores and I'm pleased with the results based on where I was at at the time.