Skirmishers of Mu
Recently a Collector Arthouse Patreon supporter asked me if I could collaborate with Sorcery: Contested Realm TCG artist, Vincent Pompetti, to write a 'Behind the Art' feature story about Mr. Pompetti's "Skirmishers of Mu". I was delighted to do so, as this is a beautiful artwork and one of my favorites from Vincent from Sorcery's Alpha debut. Vincent was gracious enough to provide some interesting insights on the artistic direction he received from Sorcery creator Erik Oloffson, and how Vincent crafted that direction into his vision for the Skirmishers of Mu illustration.
Here are the words of Erik for this card : ""Horseback Archers" Fast and agile looking horseback archers (2 or more). Vertical format." "Some sort of mountainous Mongols would fit a little better than Ottoman "
Decomposing this artistic guidance provides several insights into Erik's art direction process, and overall design philosophy for Sorcery TCG.
Erik has been on record describing his "top down" design philosophy, which harkens back to the approach employed by Magic the Gathering in the early 1990s for their Alpha set debut. Often times a card design starts with a title, which establishes an overarching vision for the card illustration that then mirrors the gameplay mechanic to bring the effect to life via flavorful experiential game play.
In this case, Erik provides context for the focal point of the illustration: "Horseback Archers".
Through amplifying description - "Fast and agile" - he provides context for their posture and the 'story' they will convey, as mirrored via the gameplay mechanic.
And indeed, this is proven out in the latest gameplay mechanic description that we see in the most recently revealed 'Alpha' version of the card design:
During basic movement, Skirmishers of Mu may perform a ranged strike from any location along their path.
The "Ranged" mechanic and "ranged strike" are fitting for 'Archers'; and being on horseback fits the "Fast and agile" art description and the gameplay mechanic qualifier of "During basic movement, ..."
Erik's specification for "mountainous Mongols" ensures a certain visual appeal that he deems fitting for his game/set design as opposed to a potential different interpretation of "Ottoman" archers.
Vincent describes his interpretation of the art direction as follows:
I immediately thought that in my "ancient astronauts" files, I was inspired by some mongols horseman, so they look like mongols but with a slight fantasy style. You can also see that the composition of the three knights looks like a step-by-step movement of a unique character, and this gives a dynamic move.
In an interview I did with Vincent, he described the challenges of conveying 'movement' in an artistic composition, and how the artist must thoughtfully ensure it is comprehensible to the viewer.
In this case, I believe he has captured this masterfully through the posture of the horses, with the galloping stride in the position shown, and the position of the archers logically responding with relation to the movement of the horse. The archer on the left is adjusting position and moving in stride with his fellow mongol soldiers who are postured at the ready to engage in combat.
And lastly, the watercolor composition with the splashy surface and the murky background expertly accentuates the movement effect while accenting the horses and the leading archer with skillful light and shadowing touches.
These are the Skirmishers of Mu...