Oct 102013
 

You’re probably all too aware by now that this year is Magic’s 20th anniversary. Well, today is my own little Magic-related 20th anniversary:

On Oct 10th, 1993, at Philadelphia Comicfest, I first met Magic art director Jesper Myrfors. I’d actually been trying to catch up with Richard Thomas, art director of White Wolf Games, and when I finally tracked him down he was with Jesper and both of them were happy to take a look through my portfolio.

It’s fair to say that little piece of happenstance was the biggest career-changing event in my life… thus far. Both of the art directors liked my art but it was Jesper who followed through with work. Two weeks later I was painting my first Magic card, by April 94 I was making my second-ever trip to the U.S. to visit Wizards of the Coast. In June 95 I moved to Seattle and worked full time at Wizards on the Magic backstory and met a great deal of new friends (many of whom I still know today), and my lovely Jilli who became my wife in Oct 97.

And all because of my timing at Comicfest 93.

Ah, it all makes me a bit melancholy thinking back on those crazy early days of Magic. There was that crazy rush of something new and unprecedented. Magic tournaments are still fun to attend but the electric buzz of those first few years can’t be beat.

I’ll leave you for now with a look at a couple of the sketch cards I produced for The Gathering Kickstarter.

Sketches20th

Aug 172011
 

Sage from Antiquities

Continuing the previous theme of cards from Antiquities, let me tell you about the Sage of Lat-Nam…

The Sage was the first human I got to paint for Magic and his card was my first taste of the off-beat groups of gamers growing up around the game: It was at the Essen toy fair in 94 or 95 where I met a young French guy who not only collected dozens of the Sage of Lat-Nam, but the card had become the official mascot of his gaming group who had named themselves “The School of Lat-Nam”. He was delighted at the opportunity to get a boatload of Sages signed.

I’ve no idea what became of that group but I did think about them when I was working as story lead on Alliances, where I reintroduced Lat Nam. Hopefully it gave them all a big grin.

Anyway, jumping to 2005, I did a private commission of the Sage and this time I got him up out of that seat. I figured he’d be grateful after being stuck in it for twelve years. This piece was done entirely in pencil. Scanning and making the image look good for the web makes the pencil work look darker than on the original piece.

Sage of Lat-Nam Sketch

Here’s a nice close up of his face. I think that facial expression tells you all you need to know about the wisdom of pestering the Sage while he’s reading… several books… simultaneously.

Sage of Lat-Nam Close Up

Aug 032011
 

Waaaaay back in the dawn of time, well, early for Magic the Gathering but the rest of us know it as 1993… okay, that really does seem like a long time ago now. Damn.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, in October 1993 on my very first trip to the United States I accidentally met Jesper Myrfors, art director for Wizards of the Coast, at Philadelphia Comic Fest. A month later I was working on my first Magic cards.

Due to a peculiar set of circumstances, Antiquities, Legends and The Dark were all being assigned at the same time but had a staggered deadline a scant few months ahead of the card sets hitting the shelves. This was seat-of-the-pants set production. I feel sorry for the editors and whoever was working pre-press. Actually, the latter was likely Tom Wånerstrand who’s a great person so I guess it didn’t do him too much damage. Probably. But he does smile a LOT. Hmm…

AntiquitiesOkay, apparently my brain is set to “off topic” today. Anyway, during early November of 1993 I worked on my six pictures for Antiquities. COP: Artifacts was my favorite for play value – I mean, how cool was it to do the one missing COP? – but my favorite image belonged to Gaea’s Avenger.

The power was nothing special, but this was my first rare card (or ‘Uncommon 1’ but let’s not get into that) and it was my first card where the creature was demanding your attention. The finger pointing out of frame is kind of an accusation or threat aimed at your opponent. This was a trick I’d do a few times in the future, though most notably with the Demon Token from Mirrodin.

I got to revisit Gaea’s Avenger three times in other pieces. Once in Drawn Together from Unhinged, once in a promotional image that’s never been seen by the public – but that will change sometime in the future – and once for the Duelist Magazine.

Here’s the Duelist piece which was painted in 1995. No idea what article it was for but you might notice that I’m up to my old tricks of tucking my signature into the image again.

Gaea's Avenger for the Duelist

Jun 242011
 

Today I have a really weird piece for the comic book fans among you. But first a little backstory;

From 1985 to 1997 London was home to the United Kingdom Comic Art Convention. The UK didn’t have many comic cons and this one, while far smaller than many American shows, was eagerly anticipated every year by UK comic fans as an unprecedented opportunity to talk to the major comic companies and to rub shoulders with British and American creators, though in the case of the creators, you usually had to track them down in the on-site bar. No, really.

These were amazing cons. I got to meet Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben during the height of their work on Swamp Thing and was at the talk where Moore first revealed his idea for a little upcoming comic called Watchmen. I got to chat to Brian Bolland, whose linework I’d long worshiped on such strips as Judge Dredd. Anyway, I could goob for days but let’s get to the point of this tale…

Like most comic cons, there was an accompanying con-booklet bursting with new images from fresh and established talent. One year I decided to give it a try because I’d gotten a mad idea that didn’t want to shut up and leave my brain.

Tidbit #1; By now you’ve probably heard of Neil Gaiman. At that time, he was mostly known for his comic book Sandman which features Dream, the personification and master of dreams and his six siblings collectively known as The Endless. The most popular and enduring of these personifications is Death, who appears as a cute gothy girl with an unusually sunny disposition given her rather harsh vocation.

Tidbit #2; 2000AD has been the most popular comic in the UK for decades. And no character is more popular than Judge Dredd, the toughest cop in the harsh Mega-City of the future. From a rich rogues gallery that’s been developed over 34 years, no enemy deserves the rank of nemesis more than Judge Death, a member of the Dark Judges, a dark mirror to Dredd from a dimension where it was decreed that all crime was committed by the living and so their perverse logic made life a crime.

See where I’m going with this?
Stare into the face of…