Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moxy Makeovers: Stoneforge Mystic

In the last article I mentioned how I used to have this prejudice against Stoneforge Mystic, who's since become my bosom buddy. Miss Mystic simply had the misfortune of being everywhere on the scene when I decided a few months back to really get serious about being a contributing member of the Magic community. If I see anything enough times, it gets irritating, no matter how benign, interesting, or desirable it was initially. The exceptions to the rule are my son's face, my husband's face, and maybe Angelina Jolie's face. Oh, and porterhouse steak. And NY steak. Or rib steak. Okay let's say the rule doesn't apply to food...steak.

Certainly it did apply to Mystic's face. Right off the bat I didn't like the art, partially for the mood and partially because of individual elements in the piece.

Yoga-ing vegan chick about to be smashed by two red-hot all-beef meatballs.

I mean, there are plenty of Mike Bierek works that I do really like, such as these:

And one of Elliot's favorites:

It may be petty, catty girlfight type-pickiness (it absolutely isn't @mikelinneman-style "Annals of Academia" art critique), but I simply had a visceral reaction to Bierek's depiction of Stoneforge Mystic. She's proven herself to be a true butt-kicking babe, so something inside of me resented her being represented as a public accountant in lotus position. The practical way to solve this problem was of course to reason with myself: "MJ, you used to be in public accounting. Why hate? Mystic has the same haircut as your auditor friend Sherry. In fact, she looks a damn lot like Sherry. You didn't hate Sherry. Sherry did yoga every morning when you shared that hotel room during training, remember? You didn't mind that, did you? How could you? You were already downstairs in the hotel bar having a Bloody Mary with breakfast."

The reasoning worked well enough so that I could deign to play Mystic, as is obvious from Poisonblade. However, I've always enjoyed impractical solutions as much as I depend on the practical ones, so this time my inner voice said, "Just paint a new freakin' Mystic if you have to complain so much about the old one!" This was followed by a snicker, and a "Ha! See if you can do better," to myself, under my own breath.

Vanity works in mysterious ways...not so mysterious here. The fact is, I couldn't identify with Bierek's Mystic and I wanted one I could identify with. In general, I've found that every artist has a decent amount of vanity, so that he or she often incorporates autobiographical personal themes and regularly makes aesthetic choices from a gut-preference standpoint in their work. If it's not as obvious as creating a Sim City avatar that wears the same style of clothes as you, or playing Amazon in Diablo II Expansion (wow, am I dating myself or what?) because she's blonde too, then it might be simply that when you draw a hot babe, she usually has tilted eyes and dark hair (guess what, you're an Asianophile like the rest of us!). In other words, color theory and art history aren't the only influences on artists. Sometimes, the moon is big because it just looks cool. Sometimes the corrupted angel is standing that way because a girl who broke your heart stood that way, once, and it's emblazoned in your memory. And sometimes (and this is the sinful height of vanity...), sometimes that fern/lock of hair/piece of cloak/urn/shadow/cat inexplicably in frame/huge mountain/cloud...?/burst of fire is there simply because the artist messed up, and the !@#$% needs to be covered because we don't want you to know. The great thing about being an artist (and don't you deny it) is playing God with your creations that are at the mercy of your crayons.

I have a strong preference in art, aesthetically, for women with delicate facial features, expressive (almost aggressive) eyes, long hair, and voluptuous builds (whether petite or amazonian). I was terrified to start painting my Mystic because it's been years since I took up a brush. And my compositions never turn out simple or straightforward; I regularly, almost willfully, push my concept beyond my capacities. This is great for growth, but hard on my spouse (I turn into a raving harpy) and hard on myself, as I usually find myself feeling burned out after just one project, and physically drained.

Here's to seeing if age has made me more resilient. While I do have a limited fine arts background, this is actually just my fourth time doing an oil painting. Unsurprisingly, I made all kind of newbie mistakes. With this project, my main error was jumping ahead to do too much detail (I always want to touch their faces prematurely) before I was entirely happy with 1) the background, then 2) the body shadows/paint coverage and 3) the lightning/lighting on the Hammer. Luckily I was working with oils, so I could go back and erase/blend as many times as I needed to. As I tweeted last week, for a couple days I thought I'd biffed so hard on her facial shadows that I had concluded she'd have to have a Phantom of the Opera-style metallic mask and I'd just change her outfit and boots to be more Mirrodin-like to hide the error. I elected instead to wipe the offending shadows off, and redo the face.

Turns out the whole debacle improved her visage quite a bit, and at the end, everything came together just fine.

Let me know what you think.
Till next time, may Magic be your sword.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing job! I loved that painting. If i could buy it i would definatly put it on my wall.