lördag 27 januari 2018

Interview with Seb McKinnon

Made for www.svenskamagic.com. Offical Swedish version found here.


August: Hello, Seb. Thank you for accepting this interview! Would you like to introduce yourself to my readers?

Seb McKinnon: Hello readers! I’m an artist and I illustrate cards for Magic the Gathering, among other things. Thanks for having me, August. It’s really cool to be asked for an interview from the Scandinavian MtG community.

Au: My pleasure!

According to the mighty internet, you’re from Canada. To be honest, I would have guessed the British Isles.

SM: Haha, because of my family name?

Au: Actually not. I guess because your work outside of Magic makes me think of things such as Arthurian legend and British folklore. Were in Canada do you live?

SM: Ah I see! Well I’m currently in Montreal, Quebec. Though sometimes I do wish I lived in a cabin in Ireland or Scotland – somewhere rugged and desolate, with moody weather all year round.

Au: Yeah, that sounds more like the image i had in mind!

You’ve done some work for Ixalan and the latest set, Rivals of Ixalan. Wizards had you painting vampires exclusively. The vampires of Ixalan are quite different from what we’re used to, being some sort of mix between conquistadors and church. Did you enjoy painting them?

SM: I really did. The Spanish conquest of the New World is a time in history I find quite fascinating. I’ve read a lot about it. So when I received the MtG styleguide and saw the Ixalan’s art direction was drawing from that, I was incredibly excited! The design of the vampires really struck me the most, so when the wonderful art director Dawn Murin asked me how many pieces I was available to take on, I expressed my desire to paint those vampires. I’m really thankful she assigned those three illustrations to me (Twilight Prophet, Duskborne Skymarcher, Sadistic Skymarcher). They are among my favorite pieces I’ve done so far for Magic.

Au: They're awesome! In fact, Twilight Prophet is my favorite illustration from all of Rivals of Ixalan. The character is ghostly and mysterious and the dark color palette contrasts to the serenity and beauty of the image. I love it!

Can you tell us more about this piece?

SM: Thanks so much! Very happy to hear that. So as mentioned, Dawn Murin was my art director for this one, and after seeing my proposed sketches, she asked to make sure there were warm sun rays present in the image, so I juxtaposed that with a dark palette to create the luminous effect. I personally like to reach for simplicity in an illustration, with a focus on the feeling of a moment, rather than the details. I imaged this like a scene of a film in slow motion, with her coming from the shadows into the light – the more the sunlight revealed her, the more we would notice she’s actually gliding, her bottom half almost made from the shadows she came from.

Au: Oh yes, it's certainly got that slow motion feel. Majestic!

What’s your opinion of the Ixalan setting overall?

SM: I love it. All of it. The concept, the art, the look – one of my favorite planes for sure. Felt like something fresh. I’d love to join the concept art team at Wizards one day to dream up a new plane. Would be so fun!

Au: You’ve made some great alternate art for popular cards such as Entomb and Abrupt Decay. One that I hadn’t seen before was your version of Stasis, so far only available on Magic Online. It depicts a girl picking a flower from a petrified knight on a battlefield frozen in time. It doesn’t look like a typical Magic card. I like it a lot!

What can you tell us about your version of Stasis?

SM: The original Stasis art is one of the most controversial pieces of art in the game, in the sense that some either love it or hate it. I’m actually a fan of the really early artwork for Magic, so when I was asked to create a new version, I felt some pressure to deliver something that would please both fronts. I got into Magic as a kid because I fell in love with the artwork – I think a part of me channels the feeling of those days while painting, my hand guided by my childhood in some way. I’m really happy with how this piece turned out, and have received a lot great feedback from the community about it. It is too bad that it only exists for Magic Online, but who knows? Wizards might print physical cards one day. Hopefully I’ll find the time to get some Stasis playmats done this year. Do you think players would like that?

Au: Definitely. I wouldn't mind owning one!

Seems we got into Magic in the same way. When I discovered the game back in 1994 I didn't know the rules and the art was definitely what got me interested in the first place. I'm also a big fan of the early art (in fact, it's one of the reasons I started working on this series), although I'm not particularly fond of Fay Jones Stasis.
If you could choose freely, what other classic old school cards would you like to take a stab at?

SM: Word of Command would be fun to re-imagine. Though those eyes staring from total blackness totally make it what it is. Pretty bold.

Au: It's certainly minimalist!

Your work, especially outside of MtG, seems to be heavily influenced by fairytale and folklore. Is this true?

SM: It is true. Fairytales and folklore I adore.

Au: Actually it reminds me a lot of the Swedish artist John Bauer. Are you familiar with his work?

SM: I am. He’s an artist who’s paintings and drawings directly reach to the bottom of my heart. Feels like a kindred spirit.

Au: A fair-haired girl is a recurring character in a lot of your work. I’m thinking of the quintessential young princess or fairytale heroine (such as Tuvstarr in John Bauer’s work). What is the significance of this character?

SM: This is a character that has wandered my thoughts for several years now. I’m afraid I can’t really explain why she started occupying my imagination, but I can tell you when:

It was during a backpacking trip in Scotland a few years ago. Some deep inspiration struck me there in the Highlands, and ever since I’ve felt compelled to somehow depict this character. I try not to question these things. What is that saying… the artist is but an instrument ?– I simply act and bring to life whatever comes through me to the best of my abilities! What I do know is that this character is part of a larger story I feel the need to tell – and I’m doing that through my project called KIN Fables.

Au: Yes, you are also a film maker. “The Kin Fables Trilogy” is a short film trilogy you made with your brother. These films certainly have that fairytale element mentioned above, with characters such as the aforementioned fair-haired girl and a knight. I’m curious about the context in which this trilogy was made. Would you care to tell us more about it?

SM: I knew I wanted to make films since I was a kid. After the backpacking adventure in Scotland, I decided it was time to throw myself completely into it, even if I didn’t really know how. Luckily my brother was a naturally gifted cinematographer, like some kind of prodigy. With his help and artistry, we crafted the KIN Fables trilogy together. There is now a feature film based on this work I am currently developing and seeking financing for it.

Au: Cool!

You also make music under the name CLANN. In fact, CLANN made the soundtrack for the Kin Fables Trilogy. The music is very evocative and atmospheric. What are your influences?

SM: I have many! I suppose my influence is the music I enjoy listening too, so I can say I enjoy very much Bonobo, Massive Attack and Sigur Rós. I also love the soundtracks of The Village, The Fountain, and Interstellar. Anything with violin and cello, really. My music is really closely linked to my film work, so it has a certain cinematic quality. Making music conjures so many visual ideas within me – it’s my well of inspiration.

Au: Illustration, film, music – do you consider any of these art forms as your primary?

SM: Not really. For me they are all intertwined together!

Au: In April, MtG will return to the classic setting of Dominaria. Will your art be in the set?

SM: I think I might have a piece or two in there, yes. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Au: Glad to hear it!
As someone who's followed the game for a long time does it feel special to work with a classic setting (compared to working on modern ones)?

SM: It is pretty special for sure. But I have to say my dream setting to return to would be Lorwyn/Shadowmoor. I really hope Wizards will take us back there. I feel it would probably make me create the best artwork of my life, painting faeries for that world. Just my personal artist's dream!

Au: I certainly wouldn't mind a return to Lorwyn/Shadowmoor - and yes, your style would certainly be perfectly suited for the dark queen Oona and her mischievous subjects.

Question from my wife: If you could choose any historic person to discuss art with, who would you choose?

SM: Ah that's always a tough question. Probably the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

Au: Haha, you get that question a lot? I gotta admit I never "got" Tarkovsky.
Anyway, it's time to wrap up the interview! Thank you and good luck with all your projects. I'm looking forward to that feature film!

fredag 22 september 2017

Interview with Melissa Benson

I was on a break from these interviews, but when I unexpectedly received a message from Melissa Benson I knew that was about to change. It is with great pleasure I present an interview with another one of the original artists of the greatest card game in the world!

As usual, the official Swedish version is found on SvenskaMagic.


August: Hello, Melissa. Thank you for accepting this interview! It’s always an honor talking to one of the original artists.
Back in 94, my cousin traded me his Lord of Atlantis for my Tundra. It was eleven years old and it never occurred to me that I was being cheated since Lord of Atlantis just looked so damned cool.
Indeed, the art was what got me into the Magic the Gathering in the first place. 23 years later I’m still playing the game and the art remains a great interest of mine, but the early art will always hold a special place in my heart.
There’s others like me and there’s also a rising old school trend within Magic. The original art, your art, means a lot to a lot of people. Is this something you have noticed?

Melissa Benson: Hello August. Actually, I can’t say that I have noticed any more interest in my art from the Magic community, but the fans who do contact me are always so enthusiastic. It is good to hear that I was able to add to their enjoyment of the game.

August: Of course! In my opinion, the art was instrumental in the early success of the game.
Before getting into MtG, I’d like to talk about how it all began. You studied art at Paier College?

MB: Yes, I did. Paier college of Art had degrees in Illustration, Graphic art, Fine Art and Photography when I was there. Each discipline put an emphasis on working professionally, which made it especially attractive to me. Most of the instructors are still working professionally in the field, so they know what is currently going on in the industry.

Au: Before that, what started your interest in art?

MB: Reading and classical music. The stories I read had great descriptions of fantastic creatures and locations, but the accompanying illustrations never matched what was in my head. I wanted very badly to see them, so I started drawing.

Au: Yeah, I know what you mean. It's the same reason that people aren't satisfied with the casting choices for the Lord of the Rings movies and so on. The imagination of others can never compare to their own. But I'm curious, what stories are you referring to?

MB: Any Greek myth that revolves around anthropomorphic creatures, Grim’s Fairy Tales, Norse mythology, Dracula, Frankenstein. That was a VERY long time ago.

Listening to classical music created great emotional images as well.

Au: Well, you actually studied music. Can you tell us more?

MB: The plan out of high school was college, join a symphony as a bassoonist, then become a conductor. I received my associates degree from Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport CT. The music program was about to begin, and my mother worked in the business office. This meant I got a break on tuition which made the choice of college easy. Most of the students in the program had a jazz orientation. This was because it was Sonny Costanzo who began the program there in the mid ’70's.
Sonny’s brother Sam taught the music theory class. I was already very familiar with the subject. My fellow students didn’t have a good grasp on these basics, and Sam asked me to tutor them through the college tutoring program. He said everyone would flunk if I didn’t.

So I put out a shingle for basic music theory and later on, for the harmony classes. I had as much work as I wanted. Tutoring is great because it is one on one. I don’t think I would be any good with a roomful of people though.

Au: There’s a great old interview from the Duelist where you talk about how you went to a comic book store to copy some game developer’s addresses. How did you come up with the idea to illustrate games?

MB: I was getting no traction with paperback book cover work. That same interview goes into more detail about that. My husband is a big comic fan and was a dealer back in the day. The comic shop we went to had some games. I began writing down manufacturer contact information to send my query letters to. One of the contacts told me he wasn’t a manufacturer, but he had a list of gaming companies that he would send me. It was a huge list. I went through every one.

Au: Well, it eventually paid off!
Jesper Myrfors told me that the portfolio you sent him was a triptych. He says he fell in love with it and kept it at his desk until the work with MtG began and he gave you a call. What’s your take on this?

MB: That’s so nice to hear! Yes, he did call and said there would be work soon. I thought it was really nice of him to call, but I had my doubts about ever hearing from him after that. I was so thrilled when he did call! Those triptychs were a real work horse for me.

Lughnasadh Goddess.
Au: How did you perceive Magic when you first heard about it?

MB: I had no idea what to expect. None. I am not a gamer. I still don’t know how to play the game. When I watched kids play it, they went too fast for me to pick it up. To me it looks like a combination of War and Go Fish. Many fans tell me that isn’t too far off.

Au: Lord of Atlantis, Nightmare, Fire Elemental, you’ve done so many classic cards. Do you have a personal favorite?

MB: I don’t really. I have favorites within expansions, but not one favorite over all.

Au: Well, please excuse my persistence, but could you mention some favorites from certain expansions?

MB: Let’s see… Alpha: Holy Armor; Legends: Ragnar; Fallen Empires: Hand of Justice; Ice Age: Fiery Justice. I’m talking about the idea behind them more then how successfully the art came out (or not). I had to do the Kjeldoran Dead three times because of materials failure, however, I really like the idea for that one. But I digress… Portal Second Age: Alluring Scent; Unglued: Spatula of the Ages.

Au: Thank you!
The big one back in the day was Shivan Dragon. It was almost mythical. I remember a friend saving the money to buy it, only to immediately lose it to me in the sadistic game of ante (I felt bad about it and gave it back).
I bet my readers would love to hear more about good old Shivan. Does it have any special meaning to you? Got any stories about this piece?

MB: To tell the truth, no.
I can say that if I had realized the card was going to have a red background, I don’t think I would have made it a green dragon. I will say that because we had so much freedom then, it came very close to being a Chinese dragon. I didn’t think it would work as such a small image. When I did a Chinese dragon, it was used for a Shadowfist expansion.
The important part of Shivan Dragon to me was the pose. I wanted it to look like the last thing you saw when you met it. I tried to make it look as though the light was coming from the viewer holding a lantern. I could pull that off better today than I could then. Seems to have worked though.

Au: I think it's great!
What is your best memory from working with Magic?

MB: Probably meeting the other artists. It was great to put a face to the colleagues I was working with. I met Quinton and Mark Poole at a show in Burlington VT. We three did a piece together. Each of us drew one of our characters, and Quinton said to us, if you want, I can ink this. Mark and I couldn’t say YES fast enough!

Au: I'm feeling very curious about this piece! You don't happen to have a link somewhere?

MB: I don't. It was never published. I think we gave the original to the organizer of the show. I do have a copy somewhere in the labyrinth that is my studio. I'll see if I can find it in a timely fashion.


And now, you lucky devils, it's my pleasure to tell you that Melissa did find her copy. Probably for the first time ever online, here's the piece she did with Quinton Hoover and Mark Poole. Quinton drew the faerie from Earthbind, Melissa herself did Xira Arien and Mark did Jedit Ojanen.

Are you ready for this? Ladies and gentlemen, "Mischief in the Mountains"!

"Mischief in the Mountains", collaboration between Quinton Hoover, Melissa Benson and Mark Poole.

Isn't it amazing? Back to the interview!


Au: You’ve got one of the most iconic artist signatures I’ve ever seen. How did you come up with it?

MB: Two things were at play. At that time, it was still hard for a woman to get work as an illustrator. I wanted a genderless signature to avoid influencing the first impression of the art.

Secondly, publishers want the public to associate the art they see with the company, not with the artist. It was, and still may be, common to omit the artists’ name from the work on a book cover. So I made the “M” see-through and placed it where it would be a real pain in the butt to edit out, so not worth doing.

Au: If I’m not mistaken, the last art you did for MtG was in Urza’s Legacy. Was it your choice to quit working with the game?

MB: The company and I had… issues. Most revolved around copyright and what the artists could and could not do with their own images. After Urza’s Legacy, the contract had changed yet again, and I could no longer live with the restrictive terms of subsequent contracts.
It went from being a supportive partnership between company and artist, to being a confrontational “Us vs. Them” relationship. I imagine the suits at the company suggested that I no longer be contacted for work. That’s what my sources said anyway. I’ll leave it at that or I’ll start to rant.

Au: Sorry to hear that. I've heard similar accounts in previous interviews I've done.
Are you familiar with how Magic looks today? How do you feel about it?

MB: Honestly, I don’t like the look it has today because there is no variety of style anymore. All the art so homogenous. It all looks the same. When Magic started you could easily pick out Quinton’s art from Drew Tucker’s art. The different styles of so many artists made it exciting.
Now it all looks slick and sterile. There is a “company” look. Hm, seems like I said something similar earlier in this interview…

Au: Returning to my first question. Today there’s a MtG format called 93/94 were you play exclusively with cards from those years. Have you heard about it? It’s got a very dedicated community. Have you noticed any increase in the interest of your old work for MtG?

MB: I like that idea, but no, I was not aware of it. And since I only sell my artists’ proof cards and not regular playing cards, I have not noticed any increased interest in my old work. I had an increase in recreating Magic cards that I had done. Perhaps it was sparked by that format.

Nightmare and Mesa Pegasus, yin and yang.
Au: What are you up to today? At your website, you write jokingly that most of your work is DnD character commissions. Is there any truth to this?

MB: Not a joke. Most commissions I do are of rpg characters.

Rpg’s are great fun because I like translating someone’s character description unto paper. Everyone sees their character in a unique way and it is wonderful to be a part of that vision.

I don’t do a lot of portrait commissions since likenesses are not my forte. They are a real labor for me. I will do them, but I have to have a very good photo to work from. I practice doing portraits all the time, usually as warm ups.

Au: You also make pagan art. Care to elaborate to my readers what that is?

MB: Sure. Paganism is any non-Abrahamic faith. Often Pagan beliefs are Nature or Agrarian based, and very often more than one deity is involved.

There is a rich variety of paths and traditions in Paganism. Each tradition’s stories, symbolism and mysteries are unique unto themselves. They inspire a lot of ideas that I turn into images that mean something to myself and others.

I would like to note that “Paganism” and “Wicca” are not interchangeable terms. All Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan. Like Zak said on the Big Bang Theory, all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.

Personally, I gravitate towards natural forms and colors rather than mechanical ones. I am drawn to Pagan concepts, feel a connection with them, and identify as a Solitary Eclectic Pagan. I also feel that there isn't enough Pagan artwork represented or available today, so I am doing my part to make it more main stream.

Hopefully, I will be doing more commissions with Pagan subjects as I connect to more Pagan groups and individuals.
Green Man with Oak Beard.
Au: In the early 90s, you worked with Vampire the Masquerade and the associated card game, Jyhad. What do you prefer, vampires or fantasy?

MB: Now THAT, is a tough question. I was sorely disappointed that the vampire game was set in modern times. I was looking forward to the gothic costumes, gadgets and architecture… But fantasy has creatures and landscapes, magic and mystery…

Don’t make me choose or this interview will never get done!

Au: Haha, ok, I'll let you off the hook! 

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!

måndag 31 oktober 2016

Interview with Titus Lunter

I had actually taken a pause from doing artist interviews, but this opportunity just sort of fell into my lap. Enjoy, peeps!

Offical version published in Swedish at SvenskaMagic!


August: Hello, Titus. Thank you for accepting this interview!
As I understand it, you are Dutch but currently live in Sweden. Please tell us more!

Titus Lunter: Yes! That's right, I live in the sunny south in Malmö. I lived here in 2014 for a year when I was working for Ubisoft, went away, and now I'm back!

Au: What are you doing in Sweden? How do you like it here?

TL: I was working in Denmark until March of 2016, now I'm just relaxing. I love Sweden, it's very similar to the Netherlands so it's not difficult to adjust. Although, speaking Swedish is very difficult. You guys are too nice, all speaking English. Hard to learn when you don't have to haha.

Au: Reading your Facebook, I get the impression that you play Magic yourself. Is that correct?

TL: Oh yes. Love playing MtG. I've been playing since around late 2010. One of my best friends got me into it, he's been playing since 1997. At that time infect was just coming around and the world of Mirrodin and the Phyrexians got me hooked instantly. Been the most amazing wallet drain every since. I pretty much tweet about Magic all day every day.

Au: Good to hear! It's great talking to an artist which is also a player!
Was it playing MtG that led to the job as a MtG artist or was it the other way around?

TL: I was already an artist at the time but I didn't really know a lot about the game until I started playing. When I fell in love with the game I started trying to get into MtG straight away. It took 3 years of submitting my work before I got in. One of the proudest moments of my career for sure. I will however, remain (casual) player first - artist second.

Au: You started working with MtG in Khans of Tarkir. I remember I noticed your work immediately, since I liked the artwork for Frontier Bivouac a lot.
You did quite a few lands for that block. What are you thoughts on the environments of Khans?

TL: Khans was really cool and at the same time a bit of a odd duck. MtG had done Theros before but wasn't all that big on 'familiar places'. At that time, still, I thought everything moving forward would be Zendikar-esque. That being said, Temur was right up my alley. Cold desolate mountainous regions are the best. Despite it being somewhat of a real world place the world feels very diverse which made for some crazy illustrations done by my colleagues. It also allowed me to do a mountain which is, to date, still one of my favorite illustrations that I've done for MtG.

Frontier Bivouac
Au: That Mountain is awesome indeed!
You did Part the Waterveil from Battle for Zendikar. I think it's kind of a pity it's presented in such a small scale, since it's got some great details with the waterfall, hedrons breaching from the rock and some out of focus birds in the foreground.
Do you ever regret the scale of the trading card format?

TL: I think the size brings a lot of cool challenges with it, getting across grand ideas on a thumbnail is painfully difficult sometimes. Adding too much detail can even ruin a card, making it unreadable. Walking that fine line is one of the most interesting things. So, personally I don't mind the format - I would love to see some more big cards like what they had for Planechase and Archenemy. For me, I like making the illustrations fairly rich in detail because there is just so much to say. So many micro-stories can be found in some of the cards, I think it comes from love for the game. You play it, know it, want to do right by the people playing it and the lore team so you add tons of stuff to enrich it.

Au: That's a very admirable attitude, I think. :)
You did a cycle of the famous expedtions, namely the Battle for Zendikar duals. Being a player yourself, you're aware of the hype surrounding these lands. Were you excited about the assignment? Did you feel any extra pressure to deliver?

TL: Oh yes, these were absolutely huge for me. When I got the art brief I saw in the description that the resolution was all wrong, then I read "full art" and I just lost it. Doing full art stuff is living the dream as far as being an artist goes. The rarity of them is almost secondary, although, you won't hear me complain about it. I don't even own a real copy! I just wish the pro's wouldn't mind the full foil thing, I'd love to see a expedition being played at a GP or pro-tour.

Au: You've got a couple of pieces in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. For this set you've done new artowk for Burgeoning. Have you seen Randy Gallegos original art for the card?

TL: Yes, absolutely, I loved Burgeoning long before I got to do the remake. I'm a big fan of green ramp, especially with hydras. Even though it's hard to get it to work properly in competitive - but maybe that's just me. For the art direction on that one they wanted the same kind of explosiveness where nature was really on a rampage and in a flash of a instant took everything over. Randy's piece has this wonderful sense of motion to it, you can really feel nature taking over. The one regret I have with mine is that it's too static. I was going for a morning after vibe. Guy opens window, and is like "Wow what?!". Maybe I should've done it more as it was happening. I often look at old school magic cards, for any piece, because even though art direction was less back then, those illustrators set the bar. They made the original atmosphere and I would like to respect that.

Au: Good to hear!

I really like your version with the overgrown castle! Please tell us more about this piece! Did you enjoy making it?

TL: It was a massive project. I modeled the whole thing in 3D - the entire castle complex, just to find the right angle. I usually sketch on paper or digital, in lines, pick a composition and go for it. This time however I couldn't get the right amount of complexity into the sketch so I decided to move to 3D. Once it was all in place it was all about painting convincing daylight, and let me just say, that's one of the most difficult things ever. It was a lot of fun and also a dream come true. Give the guy who plays green ramp a green ramp card? Yes please. Artist deck here we come!

Au: You also did Throne of the High City. It looks quite awe-inspiring with the drapes, the stairs and the lion statues! Did it present any challenges?

TL: The statues. Wow. They took a long time hahah. Cynthia, the AD, had to push me quite hard before I got it right. As for the rest, the styleguide had a lot of amazing designs in them done by some of the most impressive MtG artists ever. I just looked at what they did and painted it, not having to design it saves a whole bunch of time. As for the design of the room, I was at a castle in the UK which had a pretty elaborate royal bedroom and I took a lot of inspiration from that. Really get that regal decadent feeling. Throne of the high city, that's not a place to take lightly. Especially when taking Marchesa's personality into account.

Au: Soon we're off to Kaladesh, a mystical world of magic, science and inventions. I have not seen your name in the spoilers so far. Will your art be in the set?

TL: Yes. Though not as much as in Khans. When Kaladesh was made I was working full time so I didn't have a lot of time to do cards.

Au: How do you like the Kaladesh setting?

TL: Love it. To look at it at least, painting it was a challenge. So much detail. It was a bit overwhelming. At the time, looking at the guide and seeing vehicles, I remember thinking that this set was going to be huge. It's doing a lot of new things, in terms of the game but also how the art is approached. More vibrant, more detail, a tighter direction to keep it all on track. I have no clue how the AD's pulled it off but they did a fantastic job keeping it all coherent and on track.

Au: Tell us something about your other work as a concept artist (aside from TCGs)!

TL: I used to work in house for game companies as a environment concept artist. I did stuff like The Division, worked on the Killzone and God of War IPs, Forza Horizon 2, and a whole bunch of other games. Working as a concept artist is great for training problem solving skills but not great if you want to become better at the craft of painting. So now I'm taking a break from that and focusing on illustration doing only MtG. Some other work includes writing about art, including MtG, and the artistic process over on project-discovery.com Other than that I play magic, I enjoy Overwatch and MMO's like World of Warcraft and EVE - since there is more to life than just working!

Au: Some questions to you as a MtG player!
What format(s) do you enjoy playing?

TL: Mostly limited since that's pretty much all I have time for these days. Aside from that I play a lot of casual which I guess Modern comes closest to, kitchen table magic. Because my play group is pretty limited we make up a lot of rules ourselves to keep play interesting such as; nobody plays protection from creatures and stuff like that. That being said I do have a few standard decks that I enjoy playing.

Au: Green ramp seems to be your clear fav. What do you enjoy about this archetype?

TL: I just love those really big hydras and eldrazi, what can I say. Hard casting them is even more fun. I guess I favor them because there isn't a whole lot of clever strategy involved and you force your opponent to just deal with the board. I haven't played green ramp in a while but here are 2 decks. 1 green ramp and 1 I constructed in a challenge to make a deck with only specific sets.

by Titus Lunter

Creatures (17):
2 Deathcap Cultivator
4 Duskwatch Recruiter
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Mina and Denn, Wildborn
3 Ulvenwald Hydra
2 Atarka, World Render
1 Omnath, Locus of Rage
1 Void Winnower
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

Other spells (14):
2 Oath of Nissa
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Nissa's Pilgrimage
4 Explosive Vegetation

Planeswalkers (5):
1 Domri Rade
2 Arlinn Kord
2 Xenagos, the Reveler

Lands (24):
4 Cinder Glade
3 Evolving Wilds
8 Forest
4 Mountain
1 Rogue's Passage
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

by Titus Lunter

Other spells (34)
2 Dark Ritual
2 Disrupt
1 Gaea's Blessing
2 Legacy's Allure
2 Downdraft
4 Grim Feast
2 Mana Web
2 Ashen Powder
4 Death Pits of Rath
4 Barbed Foliage
2 Lobotomy
2 Desertion
4 Nature's Revolt
1 Time Warp

Lands (26)
2 Gemstone Mine
2 Ghost Town
4 Forest
5 Island
4 Pine Barrens
2 Quicksand
2 Skyshroud Forest
5 Swamp

Au: Cool! I like the Mirage/Rath deck.

If I was an MtG artist and player, I wouldn't be able to resist the urge to pick up a card while playing a prerelease or FNM and say "I painted this you know". How is it to play with cards that you have illustrated?

TL: Oh wow yeah, well. I try not to be in people's face about it, mostly because during those times I'm in the zone to try and build a good deck or win a game (this rarely works btw). The feeling is hard to describe. I've been playing for nearly 6 years, illustrating for 3, working in the industry for 6, it's been part of my life for a decade. Seeing that come to life, someone being happy with a card that I just happened to do an image for, crazy. I don't just have it with my cards. Being part of that Wizards family and see it being a comfort, outlet or social glue for so many people is one of the most rewarding feelings for me as a artist. Even though all I do is paint the pictures people tell me to paint.

There you go man, great questions - love answering this kind of stuff =D

Au: Thank you, man! It's been great talking to you. Best of luck in the future. :)
We will end with a comment from Randy Gallegos.


Au: Hello, Randy. Welcome back! What are your thoughts on Titus' version of Burgeoning? He's a big fan of the original version.

Randy Gallegos: I find it amazing that anyone would like the old Burgeoning art!
My Burgeoning was a last-minute panic call from the Art Director requesting the illustration due in 24 hours, back when I was quite young and not up to the task of emergency art! It is one of a small handful of pieces that I've really found painful to look at its entire life. The idea was to show nature actively reclaiming the desolate Rath landscape of that first "story block." A fine idea, but with no time to think it through, it went nowhere.
So I am thrilled to see Titus' interpretation. He's an amazing artist. I don't know if his art brief looked anything like I just said but it certainly takes a similar interpretation albeit in a different setting and with much better technique than I was capable of back then, for sure. As a skilled concept artist, it is really wonderful how some sections are slashed in quickly but accurately and other areas really lend themselves to eye-lingering detail.


Thanks to Randy Gallegos and Samuel Nilsson!

tisdag 22 mars 2016

Interview with Cliff Childs

It's been considerably delayed, but here it is - my interview with Cliff Childs. Enjoy!


August: Hello, Cliff. Thank you for accepting this interview!
Would you please introduce yourself to my readers?

Cliff Childs: Hello! My name is Cliff Childs and I was born and raised mostly in and around Utah in the States. Drawing has always been a passion of mine since I can remember. Some of my interests are video games, exploring beautiful places in nature, and inspiring designs such as architecture and vehicles.
At a certain point when I was younger, I found out that there was such a thing as being an artist for video games and that became my goal. At art school, getting to know certain teachers with careers in the game and movie industries eventually led to internships and now a full time concept artist and freelancer. I started out at Sony working on the God of War franchise with some fellow teachers and now I am now at Respawn Entertainment and also a pretty steady MtG artist.

Au: You have mostly made land cards for MtG. The last interview I did was with Vincent Proce. His name is also strongly associated with lands within Magic, but he told me that prior to MtG he was actually specialized in character work.
What is your background as an artist? Have you always been an "environment guy"?

CC: That is very interesting because I had originally wanted to be a portrait painter at one point after high school. I couldn't have gone in a more opposite direction with the subject as well as the medium. It was experimenting with photoshop in school and discovering how varied and complex environments are that really got me interested. I like playing with scale and depth and lighting and it ultimately became more exciting. Although I do the occasional creature or artifact,  I am at a point where I don't want to be a specialist so I am starting to warm up to creatures, characters, and even some 3D.

Au: As I'm writing these questions, Oath of the Gatewatch is two weeks away from release. Are you excited?

CC: Definitely! I don't know too much about the game itself but I had the privilege of illustrating some unique cards and it's always exciting to get the artists proofs and booklets to look through all the great art.

Au: You've got quite a lot of cards in the set. For instance, you've made the new dual land cycle. I gotta say I really like Submerged Boneyard. Actually, it's one of the most evoking MtG illustrations I've seen in the last few years!
Were you told that these cards would belong together? Did it affect your work process in any way?

CC: Thanks, I really appreciate the kind words! Actually the only thing I really know when these cards are commissioned to me is pretty much a basic color association, a brief description, and some reference places/people/images from a MtG style guide. I don't know the uniqueness or importance of a card sometimes until I get e-mails form fans asking about more of certain cards than others!

Au: Hissing Quagmire is what players call a "manland", a land which is also a creature. Arguably, I'd say you managed to create an environment which literally looks like it's about to walk away, but how does one go about envisioning such a thing? Did it present any new challenges?

CC: I think this one for me depended on the balance of environmental structures and creature shapes. I tried to convey swampy growths in a way that created silhouettes and masses of something like a ancient giant crustacean. The giant "Never Ending Story" turtle came to mind at one point but that was obviously too much creature, so the major challenge was to do about 60% environment and 40% creature. It was definitely an enjoyable one.

Au: I was introduced to your art through Innistrad. In my opinion, Isolated Chapel and Sulfur Falls were among the standout pieces for that set! What are your thoughts today about your first pieces for MtG?

CC: Oh no, the early ones! Haha. Well, I think some are okay, like the ones you mentioned, but I think I was more of a learning beginner at that point. They are mostly too complex and don't have the contrast and easy to read shapes. The small and more square aspect ratio and trying to convey everything clearly on a tiny print proves to be very challenging. I still have a lot to learn but I feel I am constantly growing as an artist so that I can hopefully keep it up with so many of these other artists out there.

Au: Later this year it's time for Shadows over Innistrad, and I'm guessing you'll be tagging along. Am I correct?

CC: Yes! I want to have a continuous presence more or less in each set depending on how much extra time I can squeeze in at the end of the day. I hope to be around for a while and I feel I'm just starting to get my stride in the MtG artist community.

Au: Your style seems really well suited to gothic horror. How do you feel about returning to Innistrad?

CC: Innistrad was very enjoyable! Dark and moody is just plain fun for me because I can really push thick atmosphere and interesting lighting. Something bright and cheery is also a fun change of tone so I wouldn't mind bouncing back and forth.

Au: Among your art for the original Innistrad block was Cavern of Souls, a card which has seen a lot of tournament play. I've always found that image very atmospherical and eerie. Can you tell us more about what is going on in this piece?

CC: If only I had known it was a more used card! The name itself evoked something of a more dungeon like or sacred place, so I just went with something that felt very thick and dense with the illuminated ground fog. I thought that would help sell that this place weighed heavy with trapped souls or some type of long looming presence.

Au: My favorite among your work is undoubtedly Godless Shrine. The stained glass windows and lighting is amazing. It sure looks like dozens of hours of work. How much time do you usually spend with an image for MtG?

CC: Thanks! Yeah this is another one of those few unknowingly popular ones. The print doesn't quite show the lighting as intricate as I had wanted but I usually start with darker shapes and build up the light in layers. I would say maybe closer to a dozen or less hours but if I had know this would be used as playmats I would have gladly spend another dozen to really sharpen and design out the silhouettes more to make it a better blow-up piece!

Au: The playmat still looks great though!

Let's talk about something else than lands. You made the art for Mizzix of the Izmagnus from Commander 2015. That is one cool steampunk goblin, and it sure is different from what you usually do! Did you enjoy making it?

CC: It was equally as enjoyable as it was challenging. Possibly a bit frustrating haha because I was trying to smooth rough edges out of character designing. It doesn't come as naturally as lands but I would do anything like this again when the opportunity comes just to better myself in other areas. My process is more slow and painterly for characters so I think this took much longer than Godless Shrine.

Au: Reading your blog, I learned that you were a concept artist for God of War Ascension. Considering your work on that title, it's kind of weird you were almost left out of Theros. Apparently, you manage Greek mythology with ease! What were the reasons for your inactivity with Magic throughout the Theros block?

CC: Hmm I have no idea really! There are certain times where I request less or take a small break to focus on the full time thing. It could possibly be that I was crunching on God of War and simply just didn't have the time. Either way it is a strange coincidence because I was definitely "greeking" out around that time.

Au: Your blog hasn't been updated for a while. Have you done more work within the video game industry? Tell us about your latest Project!

CC: I wish I could tell you about it all but some of it was a cancelled project unfortunately, the art was pretty amazing from the whole team so it's a shame that lot's of images will never be seen. I have a solid year or more on the cancelled project, another year or more on the next "announced but unofficially announced" God of War which was looking pretty sweet before I left Sony, and also nearly a year and much more to come on Titanfall 2! I'm doing a lot of sci-fi these days so it's a fun change of pace from ancient mythologies. There is definitely a ton of work. Much will come flooding in years after their making like usual in the game industry. I should confess that I really am aching for some personal work to keep the blog updated and to create a new website. I get so busy I forget about the blog so thanks for the reminder to update!

Au: Haha, don't mention it!

Thank you for the interview, Cliff. I'm looking forward to seeing your work in Shadows over Innistrad!

måndag 15 februari 2016

Calcon 2016

Även i år arrangeras Magic på Kalmar spelkonvent, Calcon, av mig och Joakim "Binkabi" Heining. Calcon går av stapeln 26/2-28/2 och vi har fem turneringar bokade.

Fredag 26/2
19:00 - Tiny Leaders

Lördag 27/2
10:00 - Modern, Vintage
17:00 - Legacy, Pauper

Besök konventets hemsida för ytterligare information! Turneringarna hittas även på SvenskaMagic och i Facebook-gruppen "Magic i Kalmar".

Hoppas vi ses!

(Props till Martin Volmerson för den fina bilden på Liliana.)

torsdag 26 november 2015

Interview with Vincent Proce

My latest MtG artist interview! As always, the official Swedish version is available at www.svenskamagic.com. Enjoy. :)


August: Hello, Vincent. Thank you for accepting this interview!
Would you please introduce yourself to my readers?

Vincent Proce: Hello, my name is Vincent Proce, I have been a professional artist for most of my adult life. I have worked in almost every field of 2D art. I got my start in Graphic art then moved onto comics (Comico Comics), 2D animation (WB, Animaniacs, Hysteria), video games (Psy-Ops, MK, Stranglehold), tabletop games (D & D, MtG) and movies (Pacific Rim 2). I love all the arts and would do all of them if I could, but unfortunately we only have one lifetime.

Au: You live in Chicago, Illinois. Writing this, I realize I don't really know anything useful about Chicago. Is it a good place to live?

VP: Chicago is a great American city that has an incredible history and beautiful architecture. Every part of the city feels like a different city in the US with many different kinds of people and cultures. The city is vast with lots of green space and there are tree lined boulevards that cut through it, connecting parks and neighborhoods together. The lake front wasn’t destroyed by industry like most cities in the US, it was preserved and restored. It stretches the entire length of the city and has all of the major museums on or close to it. Plus, the George Lucas museum was just approved to start construction there.

Au: I think I'll add it to the list of places I'd like to visit some day!

Are you from Chicago originally?

VP: Yes, I was born here and I raised my son here. I have been here all my life, but to be honest I am ready to move on. My heritage is from Italy and I would like to move there one day.

Au: I've talked to about twenty of your fellow Magic the Gathering artists by now, and they come from all sorts of backgrounds. Many have sort of a "geeky" prediposition, growing up with comic books, roleplaying games and the like, while others aren't into that stuff at all. What about you?

VP: Ha ha well, I suppose there has always been a level of geeky in my life. I was really into classic monsters, Star Wars (I saw it 33 times in the theaters back in 77’) and Doctor Who (the Tom Baker variety) but never really got into the roleplaying games. My life became really crazy in my teen years so I wasn’t really into anything in particular but I always loved great stories and art. I played Magic for a while when my son became old enough to play, but I was never really good at it.

Au: If I'm not mistaken, the original Zendikar block was your introduction to MtG. Have you enjoyed revisiting Zendikar?

VP: The Zendikar concept art push was my first job with MtG. I had a job at the time so I had to use all my vacation time to go to Seattle and work with Mark Tedin, Richard Whitters, Matt Cavotta and Jeremy Jarvis, but it was worth it! I learned so much and it was the best introduction one could get working in the Magic universe.

I love being back in Zendikar, I think it’s one of the coolest planes in MTG.

Au: You've made a fair amount of land cards for the game. Do you enjoy painting lands?

VP: It’s interesting that before MTG I was almost exclusively a character guy. I did TV character animation and character concept art for games and I never really felt that I had a good sense of environment. Zendikar is an environment block and I was hired to really focus on the epic environment aspect of it. I would like to do character cards, but I never get them. It’s OK though because I love being challenged when I work, so if I get something that seems like it would be hard to do, I look at it as an opportunity to strengthen my abilities. Sometimes no matter what I do, I can’t make a card look right and I end up sending a piece of art in that I am not happy with. Later, when it comes out people almost always love it and I can sleep at night again.

Au: Imagine you're your own art director. What character from the MtG universe would you most like to get your hands on? How would you design it?

VP: That’s hard to say. I’m not very familiar with the recurring characters of MtG. But when I do concept pushes I am often given the opportunity to work on any of the characters I like. Most of the time my versions of characters in the MtG universe are a bit too twisted to make it in the set, but every once and a while I get one in. I guess it would be cool to do any of the planeswalkers, twisted and hardened from constant battles and the absorbance of magic spells…

Au: I'd love to see your battle-hardened version of a classic planeswalker!

But let's get back to Zendikar! I imagine the fullart format for basic lands is more enjoyable to work with. Any thoughts on this?

VP: It’s not more enjoyable, it’s just a different format. I like it because I know the fans do. The process of doing art is the same only I am doing a vertical, more book cover like illustration.

Au: I would have thought it more satisfying to see your own art in a larger scale on the card!

The Zendikar landscape is pretty bizarre, with floating rocks and crazy proportions. Do you find that more interesting than realistic environments?

VP: There is more opportunity to do interesting things when you have interesting guidelines to the world you are painting in. However, as an artist, it’s my job to find the fantastic in the everyday. So if something strikes me and I want to paint it, it doesn’t matter where the inspiration comes from, what matters is the vision in my head that’s trying to get out.

Au: Much of your work has a certain gritty, rusty quality which I really like. Tectonic Edge is a good example of this.
Can you tell us something about your influences?

VP: I have a very rusty and gritty background of my life; I suppose it comes from there. Honestly, it’s hard for me to get a handle on where this shit comes from man. I sometimes will paint something and realize much later what my subconscious must have been wrestling with for me to have produced it. I really work a lot of stuff out through my art.

Au: I understand. I use music in a similar way myself.

Speaking of inner demons, you've also done a fair share of monsters and other creatures. Personally, I like Lotleth Troll. He just looks so putrid and menacing! Got any personal favorites among your monster designs?

VP: The Scythe Specter in Commander and the eldrazi designs I did for Zendikar.

Au: Man, I love Scythe Specter. Especially that nightmarish insect-like bat creature it's riding! It was the first time I really noticed one of your pieces.Why is it your favorite? Please tell us something about the design!

VP: Since I am a concept artist and illustrator, many times MtG art directors will send me a description with no concept art attached. (All magic sets are accompanied by a concept art bible that defines the world) With Scythe Specter they simply said: “What it rides is up to you -- could be an undead or skeletal drake or bird, or something much stranger (as long as it flies).”
I was thinking a flying monster that has a little bit of hell inside its body. If you look closely, you can see the tortured souls trapped behind its rib cage, burning in unholy fire. The Specter is surrounded by, and carries with him, the nightmares of the foes he has vanquished with his mighty scythe.
I really like it because of the freedom I had doing the art, and it’s a really creepy monster.

Au: To be honest I never noticed those details before, but I now have a new level of appreciation for the art. Truly a masterpiece of horror!

Browsing your homepage, I was pleasantly surprised to find some concept art from Mortal Kombat. Much like with MtG, my love for that franchise has lasted over 20 years. Those pictures were from Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, right? Please tell us more about your work on this project!

VP: After I was an animator for WB I got a job at Midway games as a concept artist. I worked on a lot of titles there and several of them were MK titles. On MK vs DC I did the end paintings and worked in the cinematic dept. I also did some concept for MK 9 which didn’t ship until after I left Midway. Before I left, I created a pitch for a reboot of the Game. I reworked the mechanics and characters making them more modern and gritty. These concepts can seem on my web site.

Au: Cool! I really like those character designs. I could easily talk about MK for hours, but since this interview is made for a MtG website, I'd better not!

Your name is awfully similar to that of a certain legendary horror movie icon. Given the pictures you've posted on social media, I know this coincidence isn't lost on you. What are your thoughts on the great Vincent Price?

VP: Ha well, I suppose getting associated with the characters of Vincent Price could make me out to be a dude that can’t be trusted and always has something up his sleeve in the form of insanity or murderous intent. That association does keep people on their toes… I suppose my art has a certain Vincent Price appeal in tone and theme, but that also is a product of coincidence and not intent.

onsdag 26 augusti 2015

Doom drabbar Casualhörnan

Den mänskliga faktorn slår till och inlägget "August vs Joakim: Mill i Tiny Leaders" har raderats av misstag. Dr Dooms inblandning kan inte uteslutas.
Beklagar verkligen detta och ska försöka förhindra att det inte händer i framtiden. Hoppas att några av er hann läsa det!