Perplexing Sketches

Posted in Feature on November 10, 2005

By Wizards of the Coast

The blue-black transmute spell Perplex represents House Dimir's harsh idea of countermagic. Since Dimir guildmages are dedicated to secrecy, the choice they provide to their victims is simple: stop your activities, or lose your mind.

The art for Perplex underwent quite a progression from initial sketch to final art. Follow artist Tsutomu Kawade through three artistic stages in this interactive look at Perplex's journey to illustration.

Perplex
Perplex art by Tsutomu Kawade

Click on the smaller images below to see a larger version appear above.

Step 1
In this first sketch, there is definitely a sense of the looming presence of a Dimir spectre or wraith. Deadly illusions terrify the victim. But we don't really see this as a counterspell; the fact that the victim has his hand out in front of him may be too subtle to indicate that he's trying to cast a spell.
Step 2
Here you can see that the imposing spell is actually interfering with the victim, literally stopping his hand. The tendrils reach from the Dimir spell and tangle up the hapless mage. The last issue is that the spell looks very Black with the skulls being so prominent -- it needs to have the essence of Blue as well.
Step 3
In the final art you can see that the spell-heads have evolved into horrific manifestations of nightmare, more clearly Dimir than the skulls of the previous sketches. Now the victim is both trapped (countering the spell by interrupting crucial gestures) and terrified (representing the threat of mind-blanking horror).

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