Brian Smith's "Whirling Blades" looks to be a staple card in Earth Element decks in Sorcery: Constested Realm's Alpha debut release. The card is of "Ordinary" rarity, allowing four copies in decks. True to form for Sorcery card design, the illustration is perfectly fitting of the gameplay mechanic in enabling a "vicious vortex" that ravages opponents. The spell allows an ally to move two steps and strike all enemies on each site it enters.
At the request of a Collector Arthouse Patreon supporter, I reached out to Brian Smith to inquire about the art direction he received from Sorcery creator Erik Oloffson, and how Brian came up with the illustration concept.
Here is the story of Whirling Blades in artist Brian Smith's own words:
Whirling Blades was an especially tough painting that went through tons of revisions and corrections. I’m sure there was more to it, but I can only remember the request being for a kind of vortex of swords. I imagined something like the Tasmanian Devil from Bugs Bunny cartoons....maybe a spinning cloud with a bunch of swords flying around.
That gave me a sense of direction, but I knew that painting movement like that would be tricky….and that a bunch of swords meant having to paint a bunch of hands to go along with 'em. And those are never easy.
I was so focused on the painting, that I started losing sight of the space that’s needed at the top of the card for the title-box. So I ran out of room. I probably could’ve fixed that in photoshop, but I don’t think it would’ve looked right. So I had to paint a second, little, 3 inch strip on a separate panel, to extend the image at the top. Then the two panels had to be digitally stitched together at the seam. I’ll include a progress pic of that. It was probably a weird way to fix that problem, but it worked.
So it was a challenging painting with a lot of earlier versions that just weren’t good enough. I threw those image files away, along with gigabytes of other Sorcery rejects. haha. Anyway, I finally managed to get through this one and I was happy with it. I liked the guy's crazed expression….he looks like a real lunatic.
In an earlier interview that I had done with Brian, he described working with Erik and how much respect (albeit also very frustrating at times) he had for Erik's design integrity and how focused he was in staying true to his vision for card design. This often resulted in MANY re-paintings for Brian. Brian elaborated that it was likely a result of him never having done card illustration before. So while other artists may have had experience with spatial awareness for text box placement and related considerations, this was new for Brian and rather than start with sketches and/or marking spacing to help with cognizance of where the text boxes would lie within his illustration, he often skipped that step and dove right into painting.
In the end, Brian has delivered many incredible illustrations for the game, and his signature style is unmistakable!