Hello dear friends and fine folk of the internet all around. It's that time of the week again where we gear up for the weekend and look ahead to the holiday season. Before I look ahead however I want to, just like the last 'The long road' article, look back. Yesterday marked my 3 year anniversary of starting to work freelance for Wizards of the Coast and Magic: The Gathering in particular. And between me, Noah Bradley and Victor Adame Minguez playing at GP Rotterdam last week and Worlds in Rotterdam this weekend I thought it was high time to talk some more Magic. Last time I walked you through all the steps of the journey and how I got there; this time I'd like to talk a bit more about what the game means to the people I meet in the community, what it means to me and also how it's affected the way I paint and think about art.
Before we begin I'd like to give a shout out to all my Vorthos friends who have been crucial in informing me and keeping me on my toes.
Six years of magic
One of the main reasons I got into magic is because my friend and co-writer of this blog Robin got me into it back around the Scars of Mirrodin block. It wasn't the first time I started playing, back in 2004 when I was a very poor 18 year old I got a few packs of Darksteel and built a massively illegal deck because I didn't quite understand the rules. The card I remember, and valued, most from back then was Mephitic Ooze.
Little did I know that the Arcbound Ravager that I also got and traded was actually worth a bit more. Like I said, I didn't know a single thing about the game. Not a whole lot has changed but I do try. Actually, that's not true at all. A lot has changed.
Thanks to Magic I've:
- Met and talked to more people than I ever would have otherwise
- Laughed and got salty more that I ever would have
- Pushed myself harder
- Relaxed more
- Sleeved faster
- De-sleeved even faster
- Read more about rules, architecture, design, color theory, brush economy and stack interaction
- Grown as a person
The beauty is, my story isn't a unique one. Every GP I meet more people who all share the same sentiment. Whether it is because they've played since '96, '06 or '16. The sentiment is the same but the stories are different, so if you have a good story please share it with us in the comments.
Out of those 6 years I've had the fortune of illustrating for the game for 3. I showed some of the Khans of Tarkir stuff before (I honestly don't know how I got work after that) but I never really talked about my personal favorites. Let's remedy that.
Magic has a impossibly large pool of art to choose from and there is no way to objectively determine which are best. A lot of this comes down to personal taste and on top of that because of the nature of the game the quality and play-ability of the card influences this as well. This top 3 doesn't really do justice to the total pool and if I get into honorable mentions this article will go indefinitely so take this with a pinch of salt.
1. Lux Cannon
These pieces appeal to me because they are hugely expressive. The literal representation of what it is becomes secondary to the feeling they invoke. The feel of the brush strokes, the color economy, explosive swirly and dynamic compositions. All of it combined make for very compelling images and it's something I've been trying to get into my work since I've started. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it looks. With more and more great artists streaming in it's increasingly hard to choose, though, some of the older more crazier work will always hold a special place for me. This is the point where I actively have to stop myself since I can go on and on about art forever and I didn't want this article to become only about that. At least not this time.
Even as an artist, the art of Magic isn't the most important to me. Playing is. That sense of community it creates. Of course, it's not all rainbows and unicorns, there are times when the community shows it's ugly side but you'd be hard pressed to find another hobby with a competitive edge where there isn't any drama. The important thing to remember is the micro stories it allowed for.
There are two very important aspects of the community for me. One, interaction as a friendly and fun place where I can goof around, make weird decks, go competitive if I want and have people teach me how to play. Two, the pressure to do better and better work because I know what this game and in a small part the art means to so many people. Magic has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Yes, there is clever marketing. Yes the game has changed a bit but more than anything else the game has gotten more inclusive. The community and game design have come together to create a atmosphere where a lot of people feel at home. We've gone from a stigma that only smelly nerds play this game to a open LGBTQ friendly community that invites people from all ethnicities, genders, sexuality, you name it to come out and have a good time. Is there room for improvement? Of course. There always is. But the game and its community have come a long way.
The art plays a minuscule role in the big picture. It's only one of the factors that binds people. It's importance ranges from conversation starter, to unnoticed to the reason why people play and that pressure is tangible.
I feel it every time I get commissioned and paint a piece. Every time I want to do the best I can. And so do a lot of my colleagues. It's a passion project.
I'd like to thank the community for six years of fun as a player and three years of support as a artist. Looking forward I hope I get to do a lot more paintings where I can focus on showing off the world as best as I can. Starting off in January when I will return once more to do a push.
I'll leave you with some of my favorite moments from last week's GP Rotterdam which sum up pretty perfectly how I feel about the game. Thanks to everyone there who showed me a great time while playing, had some super fun matches!
So to everyone out there having fun, watching worlds, playing FNM, doing online draft leagues, analyzing art, analyzing cards, speculating about future releases, predicting the lore, doing fan art, doing fan frames, critiquing, inviting new people, missing triggers, reminding people of their triggers (!!), mulliganing down to 3, shuffling and reshuffling, getting cards signed, hanging up prints, judging, score keeping and fans alike I hope you have a awesome weekend and thanks for treating me so incredibly nice (Yes, even you R/W vehicle players, even you).