September 10, 2021

Art of the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies Expansion

The latest Pokémon TCG expansion showcases works of art with distinctive styles.

Everything evolves in the Pokémon world, from skies filled with powerful Flying- and Dragon-type Pokémon to Eevee evolving into eight different forms. The artwork in the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion captures the beauty of Pokémon Evolution, along with the rich humor, personality, and color of the Pokémon world. Soar through some of this expansion's highlights, and pick out some of your favorite cards.


Observe Outstanding OKACHEKE

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The artist OKACHEKE excels at capturing fleeting, though highly memorable, moments within the Pokémon world. The artist's impressionist style makes use of broad, distinctive brushstrokes and vivid, diverse colors to create a blurred effect, creating a sense of poignancy. This moment—this Pokémon—is ephemeral, and therefore worthy of notice. Flaaffy's stunning evening of stargazing is a perfect example of the sense of awe evoked by OKACHEKE's style. The Wool Pokémon is set against a dazzling display of flowers and an equally beautiful, if fuzzy, night sky.

The epic quality of the natural scenery is paralleled in the illustrator's depiction of Flabébé in the foreground of a rainbow of hazy blossoms. OKACHEKE's thoughtful and realistic attention to lighting and shading gives the Single Bloom Pokémon a rich, lifelike quality that draws attention toward its face. The scarlet petals captured just before they fall to the ground suggest a possible breeze.

There's drama in OKACHEKE's fleeting moments, as well. Take Slakoth dangling precariously from a cliff. Despite the fact that the Slacker Pokémon finds itself in a dangerous situation, it apparently can't seem to summon the energy to care beyond its casual expression and head tilt. With the art's broad brushstrokes and muted colors, Slakoth almost blends into the background that's riddled with rocky crags and sparse vegetation. What happens next is anyone's guess, but given that OKACHEKE's style is grounded in capturing a distinctive moment for all posterity, Slakoth's future might not be a subject of too much concern.


Eevee's Evolutions

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The Evolution Pokémon is a well-named category for Eevee, and its eight possible Evolutions capture the unique strengths and qualities of their respective types. Each of these eight Evolutions is on colorful, playful display in the Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion. Kicking off the Eevee appreciation tour is illustrator You Iribi's Leafeon V resting appropriately in a pile of autumn leaves. The Verdant Pokémon's expressive eyes match the tone of the leaves, and the artist's rich, warm color palette calls to mind brisk autumn weather while also paying homage to Leafeon's reputation for smelling like fallen leaves—a scent that people from Galar love so much, they make perfumes to capture the delightful aroma.

Narumi Sato's Glaceon V echoes Leafeon's casual pose, chilling contentedly on a frozen bench with its head propped on its paws. Whether the Fresh Snow Pokémon played a role in creating the winter landscape or is merely enjoying its effect is unknown, but its mood is undeniably catching. Much like Glaceon, Umbreon V appears right at home, though in this case it's within the narrow confines of a lit alleyway. Illustrator Teeziro's Moonlight Pokémon stands sentinel, prepared to take on any challengers and fueled by the power of the moon as it delivers a Mean Look.

However, some of Eevee's Evolutions are captured in the midst of equally enthralling indoor adventures. Illustrator sowsow's Espeon V is living every introvert's dream, perched in an armchair and surrounded by colorful books flying in all directions under the Sun Pokémon's psychic powers. Espeon's literary tastes apparently run to subjects including the sun, moon, Ditto, and Eevee in an atmosphere so cozy, it's tempting to leap right into the card and join it. Sylveon V's tastes run to the sweets in Yuu Nishida's vivid confectionary dreamscape. You don't need special Pokémon powers to see how happy the Intertwining Pokémon is balancing on a dessert display case, surrounded by colorful delicacies.

Each artist highlights an Eevee Evolution's most pronounced qualities and quirks; getting to see them all in the same expansion is quite the treat.


Dragon Types Come Roaring Back

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Dragon-type Pokémon have been absent from recent Pokémon TCG expansions; the last expansion to include them was Pokémon TCG: Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse, which released in November 2019. But Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies has brought them soaring back into the spotlight with a diverse array of attacks, attitudes, and art styles. From illustrator sui's serene Altaria gliding across pastel skies to kodama's Salamence delivering classic Dragon-type vibes while perched on a bluff, these new Dragon-type cards have an undeniable presence.

If it's difficult to capture the raw power of a Dragon-type Pokémon in a Poké Ball, the task of encapsulating it on a small piece of paper must be all but impossible, yet HYOGONOSUKE's Deino has all the rage and character one would expect of the Irate Pokémon. HYOGONOSUKE's trademark artistic style exudes energy and emotion, with shards of shape and color seemingly emanating from the Basic Dragon-type Pokémon. And illustrator ryoma uratsuka manages to capture a Bagon mere moments before it uses Headbutt on a tree. It's an activity the Rock Head Pokémon is known for, but the flat, illustrative style offers an almost playful interpretation to the highly aggressive act.

Of course, not all Dragon-type Pokémon are wrathful beings filled with fire and rage. Tomokazu Komiya's Drampa is a chaotic and joyful whirlwind of color and shape. The Placid Pokémon's playful, friendly, and compassionate spirit is heightened and celebrated by Komiya's trademark primitivism. The card is a vibrant visual feast befitting the wonder and power of Dragon-type Pokémon.


Kicking It with Kyoko Umemoto

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Artist Kyoko Umemoto adds a bright, evocative touch to the Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion with three cards that share a distinctive, detailed aesthetic to express different moods. Take Golduck floating peacefully through lavender-tinted water rich in bubbles and floral patterns. Here Umemoto's style translates into a relaxing image that could almost lull the viewer to sleep. Even Golduck's glowing forehead, indicating its telekinetic powers are in use, is more hypnotic than alarming.

Umemoto sticks to the water with Carvanha, though the Savage Pokémon is predictably delivering fiercer energy than the more relaxed Golduck. Surrounded by bold jewel tones and plenty of details, including diamond patterns and dots, Carvanha still manages to dominate the image with its aggressive expression. In fact, Carvanha's combative personality is almost at odds with the background's pop style, until you consider that a less intense background could easily disappear with a Pokémon as intense as Carvanha.

Then there's Thievul, who strikes a sly, humorous note as it poses with its presumably stolen and highly colorful berry hoard. Umemoto's love of background details appears once again in the form of ivy leaves. The Fox Pokémon's berries come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and Thievul's expression of pride as it poses dramatically with its loot is difficult to forget. The fact that Umemoto's style can communicate peace and tranquility, ferocity, and cunning in three distinct cards is part of what makes Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies stand out.


Background Pokémon Set the Scene

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A single Pokémon is great, but a card that features two is double the fun, and three Pokémon triples the viewer's delight. Several artists in the Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion leveraged this logic, creating cards teeming with friendly, curious, and even helpful Pokémon. Artist Mitsuhiro Arita's Raichu is a vivid and perhaps electrifying presence, standing boldly in the foreground at a 3/4 profile angle. Raichu's dominant physical presence makes it even more exciting to discover the additional Pokémon concealed like Easter eggs in the right side of the art. Rotom hovers just above Raichu's shoulder, appearing characteristically helpful and ready for action. But Sewaddle is more difficult to spot because it's looking in another direction entirely, drawing the eye across the entire card for further clues about what has captured the Sewing Pokémon's attention.

While Eevee's Evolutions dominate the Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion, the Evolution Pokémon itself is full of personality and character. In fact, Atsushi Furusawa's depiction of Eevee appears to show the same awe and sense of wonder about Pokémon that's felt by people around the world. Perched on a rooftop, Eevee tracks the glorious flight of Rayquaza with an undeniable smile on its face.

Oswaldo KATO's Golurk V has plenty of work to do, but that hasn't stopped the Automaton Pokémon from offering a friendly shoulder to a Nickit eager to oversee the Pokémon's work. A fluffy Swablu has even landed on the log Golurk V is carrying, and the enormous Pokémon doesn't seem to mind the added weight or company. The richly detailed illustration captures what could have been an ordinary day at work transformed into a playful moment thanks to a few Pokémon friends.

Finally, there's an unforgettable Medicham, courtesy of KIYOTAKA OSHIYAMA. The Meditate Pokémon leaps boldly above the viewer, presumably in the act of delivering a devastating Yoga Loop or Smash Uppercut attack. The Pokémon's elegance and power is so stupendous that a handful of Pokémon across the card have paused to observe the battle. From Plusle to Minun, Skiploom to Jumpluff, or Cloyster to Centiskorch, the viewer could easily miss a Pokémon hiding among the rocky crop of crags and crevices. And while there's no denying that Medicham is the star of this particular show, it's still fun to make a game of finding all of the card's many background Pokémon.





Find your own favorite card and explore artistic themes with the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion!

Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies
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