From July 13th to the 16th, TokyoMTG was lucky enough to host Lucas Grasciano for an artist event! This time wasn’t just the usual signing and sketches, but Lucas also did a live oil painting session in store, which a lot of people stopped by for! I would like to talk about the art event itself as well as Lucas’ time here in Japan.
A Family’s Visit to Japan
After 6 years this trip was Lucas’ second time to Japan; this time with his family alongside him. We all took a stroll and went sightseeing before the live painting, as well as lunch and dinner during the event.
While we were all together I was surprised when Lucas’ wife and daughter asked to take a photo for them or where the bathroom was in Japanese; it seems they were studying Japanese through an app to prepare for the trip. His daughter was practicing using chopsticks and had this cute little Minions trainer she used for support. She barely used it while she was here and able to use chopsticks without the trainer for most of the trip! Jumping in and learning the language and culture from a foreign place is so amazing to me; I travel overseas a lot and want to try and do the same thing instead of just relying on English to carry me through.
A Lively Live Art Session
On the 15th Lucas did a live art oil painting for a large group of art enthusiasts. Before the painting he gave little talk on himself and his work up until this point.
Then came time for the awaited live session where, while working on his canvas and oils, he was able to give us all the rundown on his process. There were tons of questions from the crowd and he filled us in on his painting methods, work style and painting materials he uses. I want to go over a couple of the questions and answers that I can recall from the event.
Q: How long do you normally paint in a day?
A: 6 hours at the longest. Anymore than that and I get pretty exhausted and won’t be able to focus; that’s about the limited.
Q: Where do you normally start when painting?
A: It honestly depends on how I’m feeling, but I would say I generally start with the focal point of the piece. There’s normally a deadline so it’s difficult to do the most important parts when time is running out (haha).
I honestly can’t believe he was able to finish this in a mere two hours. All I can say is this is certainly a warmer piece compared to the original.
I’d like to hand all the art talk off to Brian now!
Hey guys, Brian here!
On display in it’s new home at the TokyoMTG store was one of Lucas’ early Magic: The Gathering pieces, and of course the theme of his live painting, the promo art for Grave Titan.
I’d like to dig into both pieces as well as the process of painting the original promo piece!
His third commission was for the Duels of the Planeswalker promo Grave Titan. The Titan cycle of cards has made a huge impact in competitive and casual play. I remember playing standard back then and every deck that could was playing titans; my personal favorite just so happens to be Grave Titan.
Let’s take a look at the art description for Grave Titan that was given to the artists from Wizards of the Coast.
“This titan represents the power of death and darkness. He's huge (about 25 ft/8m tall), muscular, and armed with black plate armor (though its open around his ribs and stomach) and a jagged scythe, ornamented with dangling human and not-so-human skulls -- a breathtaking and terrible sight for tiny mortals. His chest cavity is stuffed with various corpses, that slowly fall from his exposed rib cage as he moves.. an army of undead that fall from him.”
Lucas painted this piece as a tonal painting. A tonal painting is one where the color palette is more limited and relies more on the how light or dark the paint appears by manipulating how bright the color appears in relation to other colors, warmth, and how light or dark colors are, value. From the art description, we see in the painting, an army of undead that has fallen from him is starting to form. There is still the mass of zombies bursting from the chest cavity showing off the card’s ability to make a horde of zombies. The titan figure fills the composition and the scythe from the art description makes an appearance to really frame in the chest focal point.
I asked Lucas if he had any progress shots of the piece and he found some scans of his pencils; check them out below. I love seeing the elements from both sketches used in the final, like the shoulder pads from one and the scythe from the other. The pose of the character and the ominous half seen skull face lasted all the way from the very early concept.
Unlike the actual card art, this time we see a close-up of the titan from the chest up, or a portrait. So where before the focal point was the chest, bursting with zombies, showing off the titan’s ability, now the focus is on the face. Gone is the shadow obscuring the details and we get to see the grim visage in full detail. From within the skull comes a red glow that you can see shining light on the neck and in the eye sockets of the skull. You have a hard time knowing what is scarier; the ominous unseen hint of something terrifying from the original, or the monstrous visage fully revealed.
The original Grave Titan art used a very limited palette, Burnt Umber as the base color, and Cadmium Red and Yellow Ochre added in for skin tone and shadows, Black White and Grey added for value. I think this newer painting has a very similar color palette, but we really get to see the color intensity turned up. Instead of using Grey tones, and just mixing in red and yellow for slight variation, you really get to see the red and yellow as their own colors. The yellow of the background works as a bright halo around the head so it stands out, and the red in the neck and torso really making the shadows add to the threatening nature of the titan.
Here’s a little diagram I found online to show the levels burnt umber can get to.
I even asked Lucas myself about it here:
Pretty interesting huh?
Another definition for the word “Titan” is “One that stands out for greatness of achievement”. As an artist, having one of your first pieces turn out to be a Promo, which was also a very popular card itself, is quite a big task. I think almost 10 years of working on Magic: The Gathering art shows that Lucas Graciano stands out as a titan in his own right. If you haven’t had a chance to stop in and see the original art you should. Grave Titan is one of the few paintings out of thousands of Magic: The Gathering pieces that have been featured in Spectrum, a showcase of some of the best imaginative realism art created each year. I’d like to leave you with Lucas’ own words on the subject:
“This was my 3rd assignment for MTG. My first two cards were commons from M11. I was very honored to get Grave Titan early in my career. Though honestly, I didn't know much about Magic and didn't know how big of a card it was. To this day though, [Grave Titan] remains one of my most favorite illustrations I've done for Magic.”