Friday, November 5, 2010

The Grand Prix and Me

Villa it says in the picture.
©Steven Belledin
This past weekend, I got the opportunity to go to Germany as an artist guest for Magic’s Grand Prix tournament in Bochum.  One of the weird coincidences about this opportunity was that my wife and I had to cancel a trip to Germany last year and were planning on rescheduling for this year.  So, when the offer was made we jumped at the chance and tacked on two weeks of travel to my appearance.  In short, it was awesome.

Berg Eltz...well part of it, anyway.
©Steven Belledin
I will forgo any discussion of the vacation.  No one likes sitting through anyone else’s vacations stories.  Unless of course, those stories are about how terrible the vacation was.  As the vacation was everything I’d hoped and more, I will sum it up thusly: we ate a lot, drank a lot, drove a lot and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Germany’s a great country, and the place that my family once called home.  I look forward to going back again soon.

Neuschwanstein Castle
©Amy Belledin
So, about that Grand Prix…

For the uninitiated, Magic: The Gathering has a very strong organized play community.  These organized events are held all over the world and consist of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people playing Magic for cash and or valuable prizes.  That this organized play is still running strong after 17 years of the game’s existence is phenomenal to me.  To be asked to appear at one of these events as a guest was even more phenomenal.

©Amy Belledin
The event took place in Bochum — a mid-sized town just 45 minutes northeast of Cologne.  A fun fact about Bochum is that the musical play “Starlight Express” has been running there consistently since 1988.  By now, I would expect that every German citizen must have seen it at least once.  Just next to where “Starlight Express” plays 6 times a week was the home of this particular Magic Grand Prix, the RuhrCongress.

What the organizers expected was around 1,000 Magic enthusiasts vying for a variety of prizes.  What the organizers got was over 1,800.  To the layperson, that may not seem like a whole lot of players, but trust me when I tell you that it is.  Especially when many of those fans have stacks of cards an inch thick for you to sign!

The Playing Masses
©Amy Belledin

This is the first time I’ve ever been to an event where security was necessary.  Not because folks were tearing my shirt off or anything.  Rather, they were there to shut the lines down so that we could get a lunch break in, or go to bed at night.  It was pretty surreal for me. 

As a fan of many things, I understand the desire to get signatures and meet the people responsible for the things I love.  I just don’t understand it when it applies to me.  I’m just some guy who bumbled into being an artist on Magic.  It never occurred to me that there would be fans attached to that.  It never occurred to me that someone might want me to make an appearance.  I’m just some guy.  A guy who happens to paint the weird and wonderful from time to time.

Ah yes, the magical ropes...
©Amy Belledin
Nevertheless, there I was in Bochum.  With a line.  A line that wound its way back and forth between ropes.  And there was security.  I just kept rubbing my eyes and looking about in wonderment.  It was amazing.  Why?  The fans!  Some of them fans of my work.  Some not.  But, forget whether they like my work or not — they’re fans of Magic!  They’re fans of the game!  A game that I still giggle about getting to work on!  After all, it’s a dream job, and the Grand Prix a dream!

I met many great folks while there — folks from all over the world.  Germany, Luxemburg, Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, the U.S.  All there to play the game.  There to have fun.  Even the ones who’d lost were enjoying themselves.  It was a great crowd.  Seriously.

Signing away the hours...
©Amy Belledin

I chatted them up, got interviewed twice, drew a whole bunch and signed until my hands hurt.  All the while, I sat there in awe, blown away by the path my life and career had taken.  It was a blast!  I mean, really.  Most folks would dread having to work the last two days of their vacation.  I loved every minute of it and would do it all over again!

For the opportunity I have to thank Dieter Schoeters and his crew.  How they pull off and coordinate these events is something that lies beyond my realm of understanding.  You guys treated me better than I deserve and I thank you all.  To the people of Germany, I thank you for accepting my meager attempts at speaking to you in German, and I also appreciate your willingness to stoop to English when I failed miserably to get the message.  I do not know if I’ll ever get a chance to appear at another tournament in some other foreign land, but I sure am happy I even got this one!


  1. Bravo, Steve!
    Congratulations on all your achievements.

  2. There is something very good about a universe that puts together a set of circumstances like you've experienced. Dang, I'll have to rethink my distrust of the universe...

    Great job sharing the experience too, that was a fun read.

  3. @Amy - Security, indeed. Weird. Who'd have thought?!

    @Sean - Man, I can't tell you how lucky I am. I guess that's the overall theme of the blog to begin with. Getting to push paint for a living is just about the greatest job for someone who likes to push paint around!


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