Artist Jon Foster has illustrated nineteen Magic cards over the past few years.
The first step of the creation of a card's art is its art description. The art description tells the artist what the card will do, what its flavor is, and what the mood of the illustration should be. Here were the instructions given to Jon for Essence Scatter:
Action: A troll (or coolio creature of your design) becomes a burst of small birds (maybe something between a bluebird and a sparrow) that fly off in every direction. There should be more birds than troll.
Focus: The disintegrating troll.
Mood: The troll that never had a chance to be
The next step is for the artist to submit sketches of his or her vision of the art description.
Here's Jon's initial sketch.
This first version wasn't ideal, because the troll seemed too happy about what was happening to him. Jon provided another angle on the concept.
This was better, although the creative team wanted to be sure that the troll was losing more of his body.
For the final art, Jon made more of the troll turn into birds. Note that the holes in the troll's torso are bird-shaped!
And here's the card in its final state, as you can find in booster packs of Magic 2010!