Rob Alexander's Magic art career spans the entire history of the game. A landscape specialist, he has contributed over seventy pieces of Magic card art from Taiga and Underground Sea in 1993 to Beacon of Immortality and Honden of Life's Web in 2004. Rob's work can be seen on such cards as Demonic Consultation, Volrath's Gardens, Spawning Pool, Lesser Gargadon, Llanowar Wastes, Shivan Reef, Lava Blister, four out of five of the Onslaught Wooded Foothills (all except Windswept Heath), and three out of five of the Mirrodin artifact lands, among many others.
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 Rob for Heartbeat of Spring:
Action: Show a particularly lush part of the forest, except that each object seems to have a ghostly, slightly displaced double image, in unnaturally saturated colors. This spell is an enchantment that represents the land being supersaturated with mana (magical energy).
Mood: This is a magical location, and strange things are possible
Next the artist submits one or more sketches with his vision of the art description.
Here's Mr. Alexander's initial sketch submitted for Heartbeat of Spring.
Obviously, it's hard to get across the feeling of "unnaturally saturated colors" in a black-and-white sketch. This sketch only served to show the general composition of the piece: a quiet forest scene with a woodland stream, moss-covered trees and thick underbrush.
It's in the final art that you see the explosion of color Rob created.
The sense of an explosion of mana is clear here. The piece is rich with color, and the trees, rocks and stream glint with an iridescent sheen. On the trees in the background especially, you can see a suggestion of that double-exposure effect mentioned in the art description: this is a glade where mana is being magically doubled.
And here's how you'll see the card in its final state, in booster packs of Champions of Kamigawa. Have fun doubling your mana at the prerelease!