Pokémon Art Appreciation, Day 4: Drapion V GG49/GG70

This post is part of a series for WeblogPoMo 2024. Each day in May, I’m sharing my appreciation for my favorite Pokémon card art. View all of the posts in this series.

Today’s card is Drapion V from the Crown Zenith Galarian Gallery (a sort of set within a set). It’s card GG49/GG70, released in 2023, and illustrated by Yuka Morii. Here it is:

The Drapion V GG49/GG70 Pokémon card from Crown Zenith (Galarian Gallery)

Morii is a rather unique artist in the Pokémon world, using a combination of sculpture and photography instead of traditional illustration. When I first saw one of her cards, I thought that it was digital art, like a a high-quality 3D render of some sort. But no! She sculpts all of her Pokémon with clay, by hand, and then photographs them in a specific setting appropriate for the creature. In that respect, her art could be regarded as twice as complex as a typical card illustration. Producing detailed recreations of Pokémon in physical form seems hard enough on its own, but choosing (or even creating) a setting and then capturing the perfect photograph is a whole other discipline with its own set of unique challenges. Morii is a prolific contributor to Pokémon art, having created more than 200 of her sculpted and photographed card pieces since 2000.

In this card we see Drapion, center, with a couple of Skorupi (Drapion’s base form) very close by. The trio are on a sandy hill, with rocky crags visible in the background. The dirt looks freshly disturbed, as though some or all of the creatures were recently digging around in it. (Skorupi and Drapion are known burrowers who dig holes and hide in order to catch their prey.) The light in the scene suggests that the sun is at a low angle, possibly early morning or late afternoon/evening.

This card is a fun “slice of life” scene, and I love how much it conveys in a single snapshot. The two Skorupi appear to have playful or even slightly mischievous looks on their faces, with the left one taking an interest in the dirt and the right one seemingly watching the other. Drapion, however, looks more skeptical or even somewhat annoyed—it seems to be glaring at the Skorpui in front of it on the right, and might even be ready to make some kind of move toward (or even against) it. Drapion are known for their aggressiveness, and they’re very territorial, so it’s entirely possible that something is about to go down here.

The sculpture in this piece is top-notch (as is always the case with Morii’s work), and the many points of articulation in all three Pokémon make it all too easy to imagine a stop-motion or claymation version of this scene. While the Pokémon are meant to be main subject here, I can’t help but be even more impressed with the scenery and light in this art. Most of Morii’s cards aren’t “full art” like this one, and so they typically feature a single Pokémon as a prominent subject within a smaller rectangular view. This card is different, though, with so much more of the scenery visible than usual. And its scenery is somewhat complex—I can’t even imagine how difficult it would have been to manipulate that dirt without disrupting the balance of the sculptures. Ultimately, the lighting might be the most compelling detail in this piece, with its low position casting lovely shadows and providing a warm, golden hue. The light makes the large area of sandy dirt in the foreground glow beautifully, further adding to the realism of the scene. Unlike the environments depicted in more fantasy-style card illustrations, this one looks like a place that you could walk up to and explore, right here in our own very real world.

Needless to say, I love what Morii did with this card. The Drapion and Skorupi models were featured in a mini exhibition last year. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to attend one of her workshops!

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