Artist James Ryman is a relative newcomer to Magic illustration, but he's not taking it slow: He started with Lightkeeper of Emeria in Worldwake, and as of Magic 2011, he's got nine cards to his credit.
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 James was given for this latest, greatest Basilisk:
Color: Green creature
Action: Show a basilisk, a six-legged lizard with a deadly gaze. I want the halo death screen here... we see the basalisk in a very dutched camera shot, as if we are laying dead on our side viewing it. the viewer's own petrified hand can be seen on the ground in frame.
Focus: The basilisk
Mood: One look, and you die.
With that art description to work with, James submitted a sketch to Magic's creative team:
The creative team thought the composition was great, and suggested a little smoke around the basilisk and a stonier texture on the hand in the foreground. These details would help drive it home that you, the viewer, are now a piece in a basilisk's statuary.
Presto: A POV shot of a critter you don't ever want to be that close to.
And here's what this scaly monster looks like in Magic 2011 packs: