Monday, October 15, 2012

Gandalf: A Light in the Dark

Gandalf: A Light in the Dark
oil on board, 20" x 24"

"The last thing that Pippin saw, as sleep took him, was a glimpse of the old wizard huddled on the floor, shielding a glowing chip in his gnarled hands between his knees. The flicker for a moment showed a sharp nose, and a puff of smoke."
A Journey in the Dark, The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien 

This painting is my offering in a trade with a friend and fellow artist Raoul Vitale. I asked for a painting of Bilbo in front of Bag End. You can see his piece on his blog here. Raoul has sent me a picture of the finish, and it's spectacular.

From me, Raoul requested a painting of Gandalf. I chose a moment during the Fellowship of the Ring's trek through the mines of Moria. Unsure of the way, and weary from the long journey through the dark, they have stopped to rest. The fate of the mission rests on his ability to remember the way and lead them safely through. In his anxiety, and perhaps troubled by a prescience of the challenge he will soon face, Gandalf needs a smoke.

Though the wizard is an immortal spirit of unfathomable power, in Middle Earth he is bound to clad himself in the body of an old man, subject to the pains, the cares and fears, and the weariness of an earthly existence.

On a side note, The passage from Tolkien that begins this post mentions a "glowing chip". The only thing I knew about how those in Middle Earth would light their pipes is that they didn't use zippos. Tinder boxes are sometimes mentioned (maybe that's from my D&D days, I'm not sure).  Either way, I had no idea how they actually work. I found this video on youtube that answered the question for me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


oil on paper mounted to board, 12" x 16"
©Wizards of the Coast

Dynacharge is the fourth of four cards I illustrated for the Return to Ravnica expansion set. Here we see Izzet guild soldiers protected by surging electricity. I remember using Christmas ornament ballsto determine the color of reflections in the armor. Also, this piece also gave me a chance to use a cool looking visor-ed burgonet helmet I had wanted to use since I saw it in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

There's no substitute for seeing the real thing

The other thing I remember about this piece is that, ironically, this is what I was working on when my computer was damaged by a surge of bad, or "dirty" electricity as it was described to me. I have my computer positioned next to my easel so I can use it to look at my reference, studies, and all that. I don't print it out anymore. I get up to refresh my ever present cup of coffee, and when I return my computer is off. I try to turn it back on, and nothing. Not another outlet, not after 10 minutes, nothing. Completely dead. To make matters worse, it just so happened to be the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. I'd have to wait a day, and then trek to the Apple store in the Cherry Hill Mall on what ominously known as "Black Friday". To anybody reading this who might be unaware, it's regarded as the opening day of the Christmas shopping season. The stores are packed. I remember handling it about as well as George Costanza would.
It actually turned out to not be as bad a I feared. I got lucky, it only took me a half hour to find a parking spot, and I had kept the box, so the computer was safe as it was bumped around as I lugged through the crowds.  After about another half hour or so,  it was looked at and it turned out that only some sort of internal battery had to be replaced. The afore mentioned "dirty" power shorted it out, preventing it from turning on. Nothing else was lost or damaged, and everything was still under warranty. 
My wife and I also decided to get back-up batteries (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) for both computers as well. If the power goes out, the computer will stay on, allowing you enough time to power down safely.