Frequently asked questions

Card Alterations

Your naming scheme leaves me puzzled and angry. I want to punch you. But I also want an explanation before I smash your talk-hole.


My Spawn, My Names! Unobtainium alterations are super-high-detail miniature oil paintings involving many hours, a gigantic magnifying glass, and painstaking scrutiny. They break out of their frame, and often include subtle effects like interacting with the card elements, shadows, burnmarks and anything else I can think of to make them awesome. Nigh limitless in scope, each one is unique, and will not be recreated. Dalekanium alterations are also high-detail miniature oil paintings. However, the artwork stays mostly in the original art-box. These are also unique, not to be recreated. Platinum alterations (aka “a Single”) are the base level of card artwork. If you follow me on social media, it’s most of what you see tumbling through your feed. They’re paintmarker and Sharpie, one major change or addition, with no or minimal breaking of the frame. Diamondillium alterations (aka “a Double”) are the most I can do with my “convention kit” of paintmarkers, Sharpies, and Copics. They completely transform the card. Extra characters, new backgrounds; pretty much only the name and the casting cost remain intact. Wonderflonium alterations, now discontinued, were acrylic alterations with basic shading. Sometimes including detailed linework. Adamantium alterations, now discontinued, were in-between Platinum and Diamondillium.




I WANT MUST HAVE CANNOT LIVE A DAY LONGER WITHOUT a Steve Argyle altered card. Make it easy for me?


My daily schedule is pretty rigid. Around noon, I arise clumsily like a hungover zombie. For the next hour or so, I stare agape in disbelief at whatever fresh hell is trending for the day. I then self-medicate with kitten gifs for at least a half an hour. Then I find an inane post on Facebook to verbosely and vehemently protest. Often this is also kitten related. I refresh every five seconds for the next hour or so, ready to parry any feeble counterattack. Once I am assured that I am the ultimate winner of the internet, it’s time for me to get caught up on Netflix or engage in my video game routine. (It’s important to my work to be up to date on popular culture and maintain my dexterity.) As you can see, there is very little time in that rigorous schedule for commissions.

Joking aside, I really do have an almost perpetually full schedule. If I don’t have time to do a job, I don’t take it. So I don’t keep any sort of “when you’ve got the time…” lists. I’d love to say that I occasionally have a couple spare days to take mail-in orders, but since that’s been a few years now, it’s safer to just say that I don’t do them at all.

So, with rare exception, the way to get cards altered, or artist proof sketches, or playmats vandalized, is to come see me at a show. Or, better yet, I do pre-orders for shows.

Pre-orders open roughly a month before the show starts. There’s a list of events I’ll be at, along with when the pre-orders will open for those shows, on my Calendar Page. For more information on pre-ordering, visit Convention Pre-Orders.

If planning ahead isn’t your thing, I also do them on the spot at events. But even those are scheduled. We start a mighty list fresh every morning, first-come-first-served style. You drop off your cards/playmat/sketchbook/dry-erase-kitten, and we’ll give you a rough estimate of when it will be started. (In case you want to watch, you dirty watcher, you.)

I can hear it echoing in your head. You’re thinking “rare exception huh? That’s DEFINITELY ME.” Well, don’t trade in your magic beans just yet, John Everyman.




What can I have altered? Will you alter my child into one that doesn't vampirically scour my soul of all light and hope?


I’m an artist with very little in the way of shame or pride. But I do respect other artists...mostly. So when it comes to what I’m willing to defile with my colorful vandalism, the first caveat is that it must be my own work. So I’ll only alter cards with my art on them.

I also have some mildly begrudging respect for my all-powerful corporate overlords. And they don’t much like to see their creations…let’s just say “behaving out of character.” So there’s pretty much a PG-13 limit on content.

“But I swear, if you draw me a *censored* absolutely *censored* with a *censored* and also *censored* EVERYWHERE, I promise I’ll never show anyone!” Well, still no. Because you’re totally lying. Stuff does find itself mysteriously posted, and the internet, along with its collective wrath, is forever.

While it should go without saying, I don’t alter counterfeit cards or proxies.

The last little caveat is for Unobtainium and Dalekanium alters only: there are no repeats. Those are essentially tiny original paintings, and they’re pricey. Part of what you buy with those is the exclusivity of having the only one. And the protection that comes with it. More than a few stolen card collections have been recovered because it had an Unobtainium alter in it. Jerks who steal a binder and put the whole thing up on eBay don’t usually do their homework, and several have been busted posting pictures of the stolen altered cards included in the collection. Hooray for justice!




I've never done this before. Do I have to know what I want? Can I make requests?


So you're considering casting aside the hum-drum of the commonality of collecting simply mint cards, and careening face-first into the pandemonious whimsy that is collecting Card Alterations. Excellent choice, if I may say so. Visit Dire Consequences of Your Choices for a complete rundown of what you need to consider before diving in.




I've seen you totally stonewall someone haggling for "cheap, super quick whatever" alters. Are you just a tar-hearted jerk?


Every event there are a handful of folks who ask for an alter, balk at the price, and then say "no, no, nononono, not like one of THOSE alters. Just, you know, add a moustache and top hat. Or write some lame obscene thing about my friend so that I can make fun of them when I use this on them."

---Two things are wrong with the above. ---

There's a line of people behind that person, patiently waiting. Nobody should have to wait for me to haggle, negotiate, argue, or delicately explain how I do things. So usually I offer a terse, but polite, "I'm sorry, but I don't do that. These are what my alters look like, and this is what they cost."

Which I will repeat for each annoyed counter-offer.

"But, like...I don't want something super crazy, just something fast. Whatever you do for free.”

"I'm sorry, but I don't do that. These are what my alters look like, and this is what they cost."

"Would you do it if I tipped you a couple bucks?"

"I'm sorry, but I don't do that. These are what my alters look like, and this is what they cost."

"Ppphff! Dunno why you can't just do it. Would have been done by now anyway."

The line exhales embers as they stare needles into the frustrated haggler, who unloads a few impotent insults and then asks for “just the free signatures then.” Which I politely do and move on to the next person in line.

The second problem is my reputation. They end up posted. Always. Doesn't matter in the slightest if I ask them not to. In fact, the more I express 'this is a thing I don't usually do for people' the more likely it'll end up on eBay with a grossly exaggerated price the next day.

So I have some dont's. For example, I don't do violent, racist, sexist, or mean-spirited alterations or sketches. But most of all - I do not do cheap work. There's a level of quality I am adamant about staying above. Cheap work haunts. It's always there, the counterargument to your body of work. The rebuttal a fan gets from a chronic-pessimist. It decimates the confidence of future patrons. It's not worth doing, ever. And I regret the few I’ve been talked into in the past. So why in the world would I do it anyway at half-price?




I alter cards too! ...Including some of yours. Should I fear some kind of retaliation?


I think it's awesome when people pick up a brush/pencil/crayon for just about any reason. Art makes life better. Art like nobody’s watching. As often as you can. I consider someone altering my cards to be a study of my work, and I'm honored by it. (Well, usually.)

If you're painting it by hand, then it's an original and unique work, which is classified as “high art” and protected as free speech. It's legit legal. HUGE BUT: reproductions are not. For example, if you scan that in and print them.

Digital alterations start to fall into a grayer area. Once you're talking about printing things, stuff becomes sticky.

If you're doing a study, trying to add things to the image and match the context, extending the work, changing the setting or lighting - I think that's a great way to study and practice.

Printing a single copy for yourself - not technically legal, but also not really a big deal.

Opening an eBay store and selling printed proxies, or cards with stickers of your alter overlaying them, or anything like that is where it becomes a problem. You may have heard somewhere that if you change something enough: not only is it not infringing on the original author, but you can copyright it yourself as a new work. That's complete bupkis. I could get into the history of how that all-too-common myth came about, but that's a long, long, revolting tale. The reality is that ANY unauthorized use of a copyrighted work, or trademarked character, logo, etc. is infringement. No matter how much you modify it.

Yes, I see your wagging finger and hear your protest: “there is fair use, educational exemption, and parody!” But these are exemptions more misunderstood than quantum orgasm. Using the original artwork for a printed alteration or proxy won't really ever fall under any of those.

So when you see those printed alters on eBay that are foil stickers on a Liliana, only now she's been poorly photoshopped out of most of her clothes - don't buy them. Not legal, not playable, not cool.





Convention FAQ

I just want to buy something. Do I have to wait in this stupid line?


No! If you want to buy something, congrats! You skip the line. Purchase of prints, paymats and other items will get your stuff signed immediately. For alters and sketches, I'll sign during your appointment.




I really like that playmat and maybe that print but I don't know if my fistful of crumpled dollars will be enough.


I have a pretty standard pricing system to make math easy. Playmats: $40 12x18 Prints: $25 20x30 Prints: $65 For pricing of other stuff like sketches, paintings and alterations, ask one of my friendly booth helpers!




I have a bunch of cards you must sign so that I can lord it over my bff! What do I need to know?


> Signatures for up to 4 cards is free, after that it's $1 per card. > A single color for all cards can be requested or I'll just do my thing. > "Shadowed" signatures are $2 per card. Sorry, no dropping off cards for picking up later. Conventions are hectic and I cannot be responsible for keeping track of your property too!




I see people in line handing you wads of paper with weird symbols on them. I choose to destroy our planet with plastic. Can I buy stuff too?


Yes! We accept cash and credit cards.




I totally missed the deadline to pre-order my card alteration before the convention. Am I screwed?


Not screwed but your gonna have to wake up early and get in line. We start a mighty list fresh every morning, first-come-first-served style. You'll need to drop off your cards/playmat/sketchbook/dry-erase-kitten, and we’ll give you a rough estimate of when it will be started. (In case you want to watch, you dirty watcher, you.)