Sunday, August 31, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions 12

Why are your prints so expensive?

Those aren't prints. They're original oil paintings.

Wait, you work in oils? I thought you worked digitally.

Nope. Oils.

But I thought you had to work digitally to work on Magic.

"Could you rephrase that in the form of a question? After all, this is 'Frequently Asked Questions.'"

Oh! Okay. Ahem.

Do you have to work digitally to work on Magic: the Gathering?

Why thanks for asking that question, good sir and/or madame. Allow me to address it in some sort of official blog-type capacity:

It is my belief that artists hoping to get work doing art for Magic can work in any medium. Okay, well, maybe not cast bronze or wrought iron. Let's say any 2-dimensional medium that can be reproduced well. Watercolor? Yup. Oils? Absolutely. Acrylic? You bet. Pastel? Why not? A mixture of several types of media? If it meets the criteria of reproducing well, then yes.

Obviously digital art isn't a problem. Just look at the virtual who's who of digital artists who either currently work or have worked on Magic in the past. There are some amazing folks who've produced some absolutely gorgeous work. But the digital medium itself wasn't why they managed to get their foot in the door. It was the quality of their work. It's my belief that if any of them had done equally good work in a traditional medium, they'd have met with equal success.

So, if getting an opportunity to work on Magic is your goal, then I suggest the following: stop worrying about the medium and do good work.

Seriously. That's it.

Okay, that's not entirely it. I confess that there is some specificity lacking in that statement. I should say, rather, that you should do good work that's appropriate for Magic: the Gathering. This means that it should be fairly realistic and in the fantasy genre. Stylization is not out of bounds, but the end result should still be a fairly realistic take on an imaginary world.

Now, I could elaborate on the best way to go about accomplishing realistic fantasy work, but that would be a little off topic and redundant to hundreds of posts scattered throughout the internet and a bunch of really good books available at bookstores everywhere and perhaps even at your local library. There are more free and low-cost resources out there for you to consume than ever before and I encourage you to seek them out.

However, if the part about making work appropriate for Magic is where you're falling short then I urge you to really look at recent Magic work and figure out what is lacking in your work that is present in the Magic art before you. Is it a matter of design? A matter of readability at reduced scale? A lack of a decent figure/ground relationship? I could go on, but going into depth about what makes a good Magic image would likely take longer than the entirety of this entry and therefore warrants its own article. The short version, though, is that if you put your work next to the work of that which gets printed currently on Magic cards, it should feel at home.

All in all, the most important thing is quality. Medium, I assure you, is not the determining factor. How do I know this? Well, for one, the current lead art director for Magic is a water color artist. Water color, I'm sure you're aware, is a traditional medium. I find it extremely unlikely that such a person would discriminate against his fellow paint pushers.

But why listen to my conjecture? Why don't we look at some facts to back up my claim? With each new Magic set, there are typically one or two new artists brought into the fold. Off the top of my head, here are three new additions to Magic's roster that work traditionally: Lindsay Look, Mike Sass and Scott Murphy. All three use real, live, brushes (some of which even have real hair in 'em) and paint that comes in tubes (some of which is highly toxic and should not be spread on toast and taken internally). And they're not even the only three. So clearly, traditionally produced illustration is not dead in Magic. But I have to confess that it sometimes feels rare.

Of course, this is due mainly to the fact that illustrators who work solely traditionally are rare (at least when compared to the numbers of folks who work digitally). It's becoming less and less common to see folks leaving art school with a portfolio that is completely full of traditional work. Obviously that increasing infrequency is reflected in the ranks of Magic's current artist roster. But like I said, the medium really doesn't end up mattering. 

Look, I have no doubt that there are companies out there that require artists to work digitally. Magic just happens not to be one of them. And I don't think that will change anytime soon. So if you're looking to work for Magic, feel free to rock whatever medium it takes for you to do your best work.