Thursday, June 23, 2011


Today I'm bringing you something a little different. I got a lot of great questions in response to my recent article on GatheringMagic. So good in fact, that I thought I'd post them FAQ style.

Do you use Photoshop with every card you alter?

I do for most cards that use source imagery - which is pretty much everything I do. Making a mockup is not only useful for playing around with composition, but necessary for the carbon copy process.

I read through the article that outlines the process you go through with every alter. I think the carbon transfer technique is a very innovative technique. Do you ever use carbon paper instead of applying graphite to the back of the printed image?

Carbon transfer has been used for a long time - I can't exactly take credit. A lot of the old masters used to use a similar technique during the Renaissance (sorry, the art historian in me). Carbon paper will yield the same result, you'll just have another layer you're tracing through. It's more set up and another supply cost to deal with.

You mentioned more than once that you use 'liquid acrylics.' What brand do you recommend and in your experience how much of a difference does this make in contrast with using acrylics out of a tube?

Golden Fluid Acrylics are essential in my opinion. You can get by with other heavy body acrylics, but you'll be creating more work for yourself with regards to thinning them down and having to mix more often (heavy body acrylics tend to dry faster).

Because you use liquid base acrylics, do you dilute your paints much? And does your base coat consist of the same type of paint (liquid acrylics) or do you use something else?

Only when the paint is starting to feel tacky and hard to move, and even then, very little. The base coat is the same paint (white and black).

I was wondering if you wouldn't mind recommending a scanner.

Anything by Epson has worked great for me. Mostly because they're set up in such a way where you can import directly into Photoshop.

I own a set of the pens you suggested in your article and I'm having difficulties with using them to outline my image. The ink doesn't seem to flow well.

I suspect what's happening is the pen is picking up little bits of paint and the tip is getting clogged. Make sure you're clearing the pens out often. You can do this by scribbling a little onto some thick paper or cardboard. Roll the pen to make sure all sides get cleaned off. I do this dozens if not hundreds of times over the duration of a single alter.

You mentioned your cards take an average of 4 hours, and the most time you've spent on a card so far is 14 hours - referring to the Black Lotus. What kind of advice would you give to someone who spends more than 20 hours on a card with end result being an unsuccessful alter?

It's all about practice (I've been painting all my life and altering 3-4 years). Though I find the more I improve the longer I spend on cards. I'm always looking to make each one better than the last. I know a lot of artists give up too quickly because the project isn't quickly becoming what they envisioned. But a lot of painting is about slowly building up, so you have to be patient. I know most of my cards look pretty rough until all the elements come together. You just have to take it one step at a time and have faith you know where you're going.

I think once you have developed a process/style that works for you, every piece going forward seems so much easier. Did you find this to be true for you as well?

Absolutely. I'm very rigid and regimented when it comes to process. Probably why the tedium of altering is so appealing to me.

That's all for now. Thanks to all of you who have voiced your support!