Grand Prix Los Angeles Guest Artist Week: Howard Lyon!

See? I told you that we’d have some of my art again today! They look unhappy, though.

I’ve wanted to ink and color this for over two months, and have had a copy of the pencils sitting on my studio desk for about that amount of time. Also…one of my best friends got me a complete set of these fancy gel pens, and I wanted to try them out…although honestly, they scared me a little. Markers are one thing, but “gel”? What does that even mean?

The gel has glitter in it…which is @#$%ing awesome. From jump, that made me happy.

They are super hard to use, though. It will take a whole lot of practice for me to get it right. I’m glad that the art for today came out okay, but I was often discouraged on the way to the final color product, and they scanned very differently than they look in person. All of these are things to practice, and get used to.

I felt like it was a good piece to do for today though because it pretty much describes how I felt getting into the later rounds of the Pauper GP Pro Tour Qualifier. There were wins and losses through the day, but it was grueling. With ten to fifteen minutes between rounds, we were constantly reshuffling, looking for standings, looking for postings of the next round match ups, shuffling, and playing. It wasn’t bad, by any means…Channel Fireball runs a great event, and that ensured a massive amount of play. It was just tiring.

I actually got a text during one of those later rounds from Howard Lyon’s table in artists’ alley. It was a friendly reminder to pick up my loot from his table, as he was planning to leave at six PM. Howard Lyon is a more recent MTG Artist than Poole or Tedin, but his art style is beautiful. I first really became aware of him as an artist from the “Amonkhet” set, which featured a planeswalker card by him of one of my least favorite characters. With that said, the art is so beautiful, I wound up liking it. I even got a large print of it, which he signed for me:

Nyssa the planeswalker, in the Egyptian inspired Amonkhet setting.

Time for the book report! Apparently, Howard Lyon has been doing game related art for some time, and I just didn’t know it. His Dungeons & Dragons work includes Monster Manual III (2004), Player’s Handbook II (2006), Monster Manual IV (2006), Tome of Magic (2006), Tome of Battle (2006), Cityscape (2006), Complete Scoundrel (2007), Rules Compendium (2007), Elder Evils (2007), and the 4th edition Manual of the Planes (2008). That’s a whole lot of work over the past ten years, although to be very fair, I don’t really play Dungeons and Dragons, so it obviously slipped by me. The came company that owns Dungeons and Dragons owns Magic, so the transference is pretty clear.

Also…as a side note…the same friend that gave me the glitter pens would find the art right above really neat. A nature wizard in some kind of Egyptian magical setting? All it’s missing is glitter…and he signed it with a gold glitter pen, so we are covered.

Back to the book report. It turns out that in terms of gaming Lyon is best known for his work on the “Magic: The Gathering” game. That’s a big statement, because Lyon has also worked in the video game industry as an Art Director and as a concept artist and also as a freelance illustrator for Blizzard Entertainment and Electronic Arts. That’s a big resume, for sure!

He came all the way from Utah for the GP, which was neat (and explained his six PM close time…he’s got to be tired)! Lyon is member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and alumnus of Brigham Young University, Lyon shifted his focus to religious art when the video game company he was working for closed. Obviously, he still does fantasy art, but the focus is now elsewhere.

He was amazingly pleasant and kind. When I explained the artists’ proof concept, he was IN….except his wife reminded him that he wouldn’t have time to do it that day. Which was fine…I know all too well that drawing takes time, and it’s not like I can’t contact him. His enthusiasm was such that he needed to be reminded about time…that’s really my point! Obviously I got that large print, and another one…and then hearing that I was a teacher, he signed and just GAVE me two prints for the club, and two signed but not sketched on artist’s proof cards.

That kind of kindness and generosity is just…amazing.

Let’s check out the front of those proof cards, just to show his beautiful art off. He does a lot with color, and tends to be focused less on the conflict in a fantasy setting than on the beauty in it.

See what I mean? Beautiful colors and settings. Kind of a feeling of peace.

Also, Mana Cylix is just a straight up GOOD card.

One of the signed prints he gave me showcases that same idea of color and beauty, in things that just don’t happen in our world. Mana Confluence is really just a tornado of color and energy, and shows a magically distorted landscape. Check it out:

The vortex of color and lightning, with the swirling ground is just…cool.

That’s not to say that Lyon can’t do the more typical fantasy art, demonstrating conflict and the brooding danger and darkness of fantasy settings. In this piece the card art for “Death’s Shadow,” we get precisely that, with a horrible monster sneaking up on an adventurer, and a much darker, muddier, gloomier color palette. He still signed it with a glitter pen, which I completely love.

dude…don’t look now, but I think that might be a Phyrexian Monster of some kind behind you.

The other print that I bought is WAY too large to scan and put together from multiple images…I’d drive myself crazy. It’s currently on the wall of my classroom, in an inexpensive frame that fit it. The art is from “Octopus Umbra,” a fantastic card that also shows the real beauty and power of nature as Lyon seems to see it. It’s also a legitimately good card, which does a whole lot for its mana cost. I especially like the sort of “floating” flight posture of the wizardess in the spell effect. It’s like she puts no effort into flying, and graceful like a dancer of some sort. Check it out:

I think that would be intimidating…a sudden glowing, giant, magic octopus energy construct. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Meeting Howard Lyon, obviously, was unexpectedly great. There was another artist in artists’ alley that I had been in touch with for the past month that I was looking forward to meeting, and his name is Pete Venters.

Venters has drawn some of my favorite cards in the game, and has been excellent to deal with by e-mail, in trying to set up a commissioned sketch. When we met him, he seemed a bit stressed, a bit pressed for time…but he had the composition sketch done and ready, which looked pretty cool. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed, it was a piece of art that seemed the most likely to materialize, since we had talked about it for weeks.

We squared away on the piece, and in theory, it will be arriving via mail soon enough. We will see when that comes down, and have a final, random Guest Artist day. It did prompt me to draw this…

“Um…I guess we aren’t getting new costumes from Mirrodin today, Sunset…”

Here, I wanted a to capture a sort of “Oh well…I guess that’s what it is” posture on Cap and Sunset’s part. Honestly, not getting the piece from Mr. Venters was more disappointing than any game that I lost that day…which is a pretty big indication of how much upside that there was to the GP.

I also got to meet the Professor, who hosts Tolarian Community College. TCC is a fairly comprehensive “Magic: The Gathering” YouTube channel which covers pretty much everything in the game. He has a sense of humor about the content, and has a very well produced channel. My students love the channel, and I’m a pretty big fan as well, so when he turned out to be as friendly and kind as I would have expected, that was great. I got a photo op with him (now up in class!) and he even recorded a message to the school club. That was his idea, and they lost their minds when I played it on the projector. He signed a card for one of my students, and was just generally terrific.

He was in the same Pauper event as I was, so we saw each other through the day. Neither of us was Top Eight, but we both were pretty happy with our performance.

If there is a GP event near you, I strongly recommend attending it. It was a fantastic time, and a good week’s worth of content here!

Next week…we are back to School, WASC, and other usual Adequacy nonsense! Be there, True Believers!

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2 thoughts on “Grand Prix Los Angeles Guest Artist Week: Howard Lyon!

  1. You’ve given me a lot of material to comment on in this post, so here goes.

    First, I can’t help help but noticing that Nyssa the Planeswalker shares some design elements with Cap (female, pointy but non-elfin ears, pupilless eyes).

    Second, I love the gel pen coloring! The colors seem more nuanced/blended than when you use markers. And the palette is great.

    Third, without knowing anything about the underlying MtG card, I don’t interpret Death’s Shadow to portray a giant monster sneaking up on an unsuspecting victim. To me it looks like the guy has summoned his personal ID monster (think Forbidden Planet) to wreak havoc on his enemies.

    Finally, a question: Just how many large ones did all this personalized swag set you back? If you don’t want to give me an exact figure, an estimate measured in “number of trips to the auto mechanic” will do.

    • So…yeah, comment by comment.

      Weirdly, Nyssa usually does have pupils. And although RK Post emulated Nyssa’s ear style, her are more outward than Cap’s just…BIG ears. Cap was kind of designed by accident at a meeting, so…there’s that. With all of that said, yeah, I see your point.

      Second…thanks about the gel pens. They are SUPER HARD to deal with, and they scan differently than they look in the real world. With that said, since they don’t blend, they demand a kind of hatchwork that is pretty compelling, at least in the final product.

      Third…fair point on Death’s Shadow. Varying interpretations and all…

      In terms of “trips to the auto mechanic,” my car is crazy expensive on that front, so not even close to one trip. With that said, it was about six hundred bucks worth of swag all told, including the most expensive piece (the one from Pete Venters, which he actually hasn’t sent yet). Not a killer…kind of what I would expect from a trip to a comic convention or Disneyland.

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