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 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 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!

fredag 7 augusti 2015

Interview with Jesper Myrfors

Jesper Myrfors might not be a familiar name to many MtG players, but he was instrumental in the early success of the game. He was the first art director for the game, brought together the original 25 artists and co-designed the iconic card back.
Over a year ago I sent him and email asking for an interview, but I didn't get a response. Then, some months ago, I logged onto Facebook an early morning and noticed I had a friends request from one Jesper Myrfors. Drowsy as I was, I took me a good 10 seconds to realize who that was. An IM asked me if I still wanted to do an interview. I sure did.

As always, the official Swedish version is found at


August: Hello, Jesper. It's such an honor to have you with us. Thank you for getting in touch with me and making this interview possible!

Jesper Myrfors: The honor is mine. I am so thankful and happy that people still have an interest in those early days and what I and the other artists are up to. It means a lot to me.

Au: I have so many questions I barely know where to start! I read somewhere that you're born in Sweden and I know you speak Swedish. I'm curious about the Swedish connection, and I bet my readers would love to hear about this. Please tell us more!

JM: I was born in Stockholm win 1964, my father was an officer in the Royal Swedish Navy, my mother is also from Sweden, and she ran a Swedish newspaper here in the states for many years. We moved to Washington State when I was two years old, but I have always kept my Swedish citizenship. It’s something that I am proud of. My daughter Seraphia, who was born in the states is being raised with full knowledge of her Swedish heritage and attends a Swedish summer camp each year.

Au: What was your introduction to the worlds of fantasy and gaming?

JM: Dungeon and Dragons, back in 1979. It was right after the Monster Manual came out and right before The Dungeon Masters guide. I was hooked from the first time I played it. Dungeons and Dragons was the first time I really felt I could stretch my imagination. Interestingly, my grades in school began going up the more I played the game. It fostered a real interest in history and mythology. This was also during the time of “The Satanic Scare” here in the states, so I had a lot of prejudices to deal with concerning fantasy gaming, it’s not like it is today, some people really viewed it as a threat to belief systems. I remember some of my friends were forbidden from playing “those devil games”. Here’s a link to give you an idea:

Au: We had a similar outburst of moral panic in Sweden. The horror roleplaying game Kult caused some strong reactions, and the book "De övergivnas armé" (translates as something like "Army of the Abandoned") pictured roleplaying games as violent and dangerous.

Before Magic, you worked on some other games at Wizards of the Coast, such as the pen and paper roleplaying game Talislanta. Can you tell us more about your work at Wizards prior to Magic?

JM: The entire reason I ended up working at WotC was because of Talislanta. It’s a game world I have always liked, kind of a grown up version of OZ, but weirder. I had gone into a local game shop to find out when the next book was coming out only to be told that the game had been sold, but sold to a local company. I got their contact information and put it in my pocket. I almost forgot about it. This was the summer between my junior and senior year in art college. Now every teacher at that college thought that there was no future in wanting to do fantasy art and told me I would never find work. So I promised myself that I would prove them wrong. I sent off several portfolios, which is how I ended up doing work for Vampire: The Masquerade as well. Lisa Stevens, the woman currently art directing for WotC said she really liked my work but the look and feel was wrong for Talislanta, I said I would do an illustration on spec, if they didn’t like it they were under no obligation to use it. She gave me a week to turn one in, two days later I turned in two and the creator of Talislanta liked them so I was hired to do art for the game. The ironic thing is that once I was made art director for the company I rejected those pieces I had done as not right for the look and feel of Talislanta. So they were never published.

Au: 21 years ago collectible card games weren't really a thing. What was the first thing you ever heard about Magic?

JM: To be fair, Steve Jackson games in the UK had come out with a collectable trading card game before magic. It was a scratch ticket style game with limited replay-ability, but they were first. But to answer your question; when I was first brought into the company the others would sneak off for secret meetings I was not invited to. Being the new guy I was not yet trusted fully. Eventually they invited me and I saw Magic for the first time. After my first game I said “stop paying me, I want everything in stock”. I knew it was going to change gaming forever.

Au: How did you come to be the art director of Magic? Did you apply for the job or was it offered to you?

JM: I just kept showing up to the company, volunteering to do whatever needed to be done, I was also one year away from my illustration degree, so they asked if I wanted to take over as art director. It wasn’t really what Lisa wanted to do. I jumped at the offer. They had said when I first showed up with my portfolio that if I kept showing up they would put me to work.

Au: You're one of the original 25 MtG illustrators. How was the other 24 appointed? Did you handle this personally, was it handled by someone else at Wizards or did you place ads? You and Anson Maddocks studied together at the Cornish College of Arts, so I guess you're the one who brought him in!

JM: I handled it personally. I hired some people I had grown up with like fellow Swede Tom Wanerstrand, and others that I went to art school with. For the rest they were recommended by the artists I already knew. After the first set I started looking at conventions and requesting portfolios and the artist pool began to broaden. I met Anson Maddock, Andi Rusu, Amy Weber, Sandra Everingham and Cornelius Brudi at college.

Au: What was it like working as both art director and illustrator?

JM: Busy, and fun. The only downside was that I ended up doing a lot of last minute artwork when an artist had to drop out due to emergencies or if a card was added at the last second. It lead to me having work out there that I am not proud of. I tried to make up for that with The Dark, which I wrote so that I could do the type of art I wanted to do for the game.

A 4"x4" re-imagining of Tundra. From Mini Magic Art.

Au: Nowadays most Magic artists work digitally, but you actually made the first digital illustration ever in Magic. Please tell us more about Circle of Protection: Black and why it was made digitally!

JM: Deadlines. It had accidently been left out of Alpha and by the time the mistake was noticed Beta was about to go to press, that same day. So I had to create an illustration with no art supplies on hand. So I broke my own rule and did it in Photoshop so that the product could go to press. Not a proud moment. Not a good result.

Au: Let's say you would revisit Circle of Protection: Black today. Without time pressure and with access to any materials you need, how would you paint it?

JM: I certainly wouldn’t have done a rushed digital piece. I think I would have done a variation of an authentic magic circle of protection with shadowy black shapes on the periphery. I don’t think I would have put a figure in the circle as it would have made it too busy at the small size.

Au: Sounds very atmospheric! I wish could have seen it..

Together with Christopher Rush, you designed the iconic card back which remains to this day. That's your work on every MtG card that's ever been printed! Can you tell us anything about the design process (of the card back)?

JM: Chris designed the outline for the words “Magic: The Gathering” on the card back, I did the rest including the coloring of the text. The card backs developed as follows: I wanted something timeless looking and not standard “gaming”. A few years earlier I had tried to get a gig painting backdrops for a photography studio and had generated a bunch of background samples. One of these I had always liked and since it had never been published I used it as the base for the card backs. The thin blue circle is scanned from a painting that a religious zealot called “Joe the Ant” had given to Lisa when she was in college, apparently he was “an ant for god” and was giving away all of his things. The painting was not very good, but she dared me to incorporate it into the design, so I did. Thank you Joe the ant, wherever you are.

Au: Joe the Ant... Priceless.

JM: Because the background was so busy I needed a calm section to place the Magic logo on, so that’s how the blurred section came to be. The “Deckmaster” was added last minute on orders of the CEO, he wanted all the future card games to be branded “Deckmaster”. It’s pretty embarrassing looking back on it, and it’s stuck on the cards now, there’s no going back without a full reboot. “Deckmaster”…it sounds so 90s.
The final element was the “mana balls” they were put on there as a guide to show how the different types of magic complimented or opposed each other. I’ve seen people with that design tattooed on themselves, that’s so weird to see.

Au: Not long ago my wife made an interview with Randy Asplund. He describes the early art assignments as pretty loose and undefined. According to Randy, the illustrator rarely got more than the title of a card, and then it was up to the artist to make up the rest. What was it like from your point of view?

JM: My goal was to use as much of other artists creativity as possible. I knew the more I allowed others to input their own vision, the stronger the game would be. We were designing a world and a world is a big place, open to many influences. I did not want to the game to only represent my vision, which by default was narrower than allowing 25 people their own visions. I really liked the diversity of the early game.

Au: You were the lead designer of The Dark, a flavor focused set with a strong horror theme. Obviously The Dark tried to decrease the overall power level of the cards, but I'm curious the hear more about the design process. What was your vision for the set?

JM: The Dark was really about religious intolerance, which is a theme I return to often. It was the horror of puritanical America. It was also heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted a chance to do dark brooding artwork, the type I love to paint. I had been doing a lot of work for Vampire as well as Magic and my love of light and shadow was really growing as a result. I had also had requests from other artists that they wanted to do darker work.

A recent re-intepretation of Armageddon. From Mini Magic Art.

Au: Speaking of horror, I have detected some lovecraftian influences in the early years of Magic, specifically in your work and that of Anson Maddocks and Mark Tedin. Nightmarish cards such as Phantom Monster and Maze of Ith or ominous, surreal things like Basalt Monolith and Cyclopean Tomb. You come across as quite a fan of HP Lovecraft, so I have to ask - am I on to something here?

JM: Yes you are. I am a huge fan of his work, though not his racism. I am actually sitting next to a hand written poem by Lovecraft that he wrote to a friend while traveling, as I answer this question. He captured a dreamlike feel in his work that has yet to be matched. You can find Lovecraft references in a lot of early magic if you look for it. Sunken City is a Deep Ones city, Cosmic Horror, Elder Spawn, Living Wall, there are many more.

Au: Ha, I knew it. :)

Pick five favorites among classic MtG illustrations (1993-94)!

JM: That’s a tough question. I really like different pieces for different reasons. I really liked Hurloon Minotaur by Anson Maddocks, Dandân by Drew Tucker, Chaos Orb by Mark Tedin, Underground Sea by Rob Alexander and anything by Quinton Hoover.

Au: Quinton was truly one of the greats! Would you share your thoughts about him as an artist?

JM: Quinton was an amazing artist and an amazing gentleman. The very first time I saw his work I knew it was a cut above the rest. I have always loved art nouveau, and he had the style done perfectly. The amazing thing is that he really made it his own and brought modern fantasy art sensibilities into the mix. His use of line and color was astounding and everything he did felt alive. The thing about Quinton was that when I commissioned artwork from him I knew I was going to get a stunning piece. It’s as if he just didn’t have off days. I miss him greatly and not a week goes by where I do not think of him. Magic would not have been Magic without Quinton Hoover and the game was greatly diminished when they stopped hiring him.

Au: Thank you for sharing that.

Let's talk about one of my favorite illustrations! How did the Atog come about?

JM: People really seem to like the Atog. My goal in designing the image was to come up with a destructive creature that didn’t look outright evil. I wanted something friendly and sort of silly looking. As it turns out it looks very similar to a British children’s show character, a puppet I think. I forgot it’s name. I had no knowledge of the puppet character, but I have to admit they do look alike. As a side note, it took 20 years, but a fan recently noticed that the Atog is indeed on a ship. The story in my mind was that he was captured for transport to a rich buyer when he escaped and ate most of the ship, disappearing into the wild to cause trouble in a new land.

Au: What do you think about the current look and art direction of Magic?

JM: I think the art is fantastic and the artists are very talented. However, I also feel that almost all of the art is ill suited for the small space the cards allow. The images turn to mud if not viewed from a very close distance. One of the driving mandates behind the early art was that we wanted each image to be focused and iconic. I wanted someone walking by a game of magic to be able to look down at the table and make out what was on each card. Now they have the equivalent of book covers on each card and the work does not hold up at a distance. They make for great prints and posters, but not good cards.

Au: Today style guides are used for visual coherency, but you were part of the team that put together the first style guide ever for Magic, the one for the Rath Cycle block. Who came up with the idea of a style guide and how did you go about making it?

JM: It was a group decision. As soon as they began wanting to create an actual intellectual property there came the need for a consistent look to creatures and environment. At first, even though we were creating a world with Magic it was not a real world, it was a world hinted at. That changed when the company wanted to start making an identifiable world and one they could license to others. I know a movie had always been the dream of a few people who had started the company. The style guides themselves were fun to make and went smoothly, much of it done in house.

Au: I was surprised to learn that you continued to work with Magic after you stopped illustrating for the game, but you actually remained as an art director for quite some time. Why did you decide to stop illustrating for the game?

JM: The company flat out lied to the illustrators. They promised “royalties for life.” There was a lot of talk about how they were going to make sure artists were well paid and respected. That went out the window when the game got successful and the suits came in, outsiders who saw that they could raise their own pay by stealing from those who had made the game successful. I refused to paint another image for the game after that. Not only did they get rid of royalties, they hired artists to redo the old pieces so that they wouldn’t have to pay the original artists any longer. It was disgusting and greedy, a real betrayal. I apologize, for sounding bitter. I realize that it’s not very attractive, however those are the facts of what happened.

Au: I'm very sorry to hear that, Jesper. I had no idea..

When exactly did you leave WotC and Magic and what were the reasons?

JM: I left twice, the first time was due to total burn out and mental collapse, I had been working 21 hour days for months and just couldn’t take it anymore. The game was doing well and with my royalties I seemed in a position to leave. The second time was because the company had sold, it was too big, too political and it was no fun to be there. I was hating every day, I was hating the meetings were people were trying to figure out what cheap plastic garbage they could put the magic logo on to sucker people out of more of their money, I was sick of people who had never played the game telling us what to do to “take it to the next level”. It really had become a sort of twisted hell compared to how it had started. I think one of the moments that really killed my love of the company was over Weatherlight. Originally the main character and captain of the ship was a strong black woman. We were told we had to make the white male first lieutenant captain because our customers “didn’t care about black women”. They actually used those words. So in a fantasy world where non humans were accepted in roles of authority, putting a black woman in power was just too much for the frightened suits and their bottom line. It went against everything I stand for and made leaving later much easier. I also received a payout from the sale of the company so when that happened I bolted.  I would like to point out that the company is under new management, the people who made that call are long gone. There is no need for anyone to take out any anger on the current Wizards of the Coast. In fact they now do a great job of representing diversity.

Au: What was your first project after leaving Magic?

JM: I art directed a game called Shadowfist, with many of the original magic artists involved. It is an amazing game and I think they still make it today, though it has changed companies. I have to say in all honesty that I enjoy playing Shadowfist more than I enjoy playing Magic, but that comes down to play styles and the fact that Shadowfist was designed for multiplayer. It still would not exist with out Richard Garfield’s brilliance. He changed the world.

Au: A couple of years ago, you and about 35 classic MtG artists got together and released the art book "The Gathering". Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy, but I think it was such a great idea to showcase and celebrate the classic Magic art! It remains popular to this day and trust me when I say I've heard dozens of people say they prefer the way the game used to look. What are your thoughts on this?

JM: Jeff Menges and Pete Venters put that project together and they did a great job. 
As for how the game looks, I see it this way. The technical ability of the current magic artists is way above what we were doing back in the beginning, but it all does tend to look the same, and not just the same within the game, but the same as other companies projects. There are standout artists and stand out pieces and many people I really admire work on the game, it just doesn’t feel very original anymore. And I stand by that it’s too cluttered for the size the art is reproduced at. That said, there are some pieces I have seen for the game that make my jaw drop at how good they are. The bottom line is that the game sells, so what do I know? It works for them.

Au: You have a project called Mini Magic Art, which is about re-interpreting and recreating your classic Magic pieces and making them available for a small price. A fantastic idea, I'd say! Why did you start this project and what has the initial response been like?

JM: I get a lot of requests for my old originals, which for the most part sold 20 years ago. It occurred to me, as an art collector myself that sometimes people really just want to own something from the hand of the person who created something meaningful to them. It’s the same reason I own that Lovecraft poem. This really became apparent when I did a mini version on a tundra, just to see if I could paint one really small (3.81 x 3.81 centimeters). I had multiple request to buy it from me the day I posted it. 
The original paintings from alpha all sell for over $10,000 US these days which puts them out of reach for the average fan of the game. So I thought if I did smaller versions of my magic art, people could afford it and it might be a nice little business. Which it is turning out to be.
The sad truth is that my family lost everything when Hidden City Games went under, not only our business but our house as well. So we are trying to rebuild our lives at this point. I missed painting a great deal and needed a project so Mini Magic Art was born. I really want to thank everyone who has been supportive of the project and who has bought artwork from us. It really has made a difference in our lives, as have the many words of encouragement. I am deeply touched.
We are currently expanding the idea beyond just my own artwork to include other original magic artists. We will also be offering non magic related artwork by those same artists for sale as well. We try to keep the prices below $100 US for most pieces. The very small ones are $20, and the bigger ones (10.16 x 10.16 centimeters) are $80. We are working on a website, but in the meantime we have a Facebook page: 

As well as Mini magic, Brian Snoddy, another of the original Magic artists and myself are also making games. Our first game Deadfellas, is on it’s 2nd edition. It’s a non-collectable zombie mafia game for the whole family. You can find more information at this link.

Au: Haha, "a zombie mafia game for the whole family" - that's not something you hear every day! I'm a fan of Brian Snoddy though (Helm of Obedience being one of my favorite illustrations of all time), and I'll be sure to check it out.
I'm glad to hear that Mini Magic Art is doing well and that it has brought a positive change to your life! I'm incredibly happy with my Elves of Deep Shadow, which now holds a place of honor on my living room wall.

Question from my wife: "How would you design yourself as an MtG card?"

JM: As far as art, I would paint myself mostly in shadow as I do try to avoid the spotlight. As for stats…Cost would be one mana of each color. Ability would be to draw a card from the top of your deck and put it in play immediately. You may draw as many as you like, you may stop drawing at any time but if you draw a card with art by an artist already drawn or a duplicate card, you lose all creatures and enchantments you have in play.

Au: That card seems pretty good! Is there anything you'd like to add in conclusion?

JM: I do sign cards and do alters, I’m also happy to do larger commissions. All you have to do is contact my agent, Daniel Chang. He can be reached at:

Minis are a separate thing. Those go through my wife.

Au: Thank you, Jesper. This interview has been special to me. Good luck in the future and lets hope Mini Magic Art conquers the world!