Welcome to our weekly interview series, There's No Magic Without Art!
This week we talked with artist Adam Rex, who has illustrated more than 100 Magic cards since the Mirage set.
Here's what Adam told us.
Tell us a little about how you got into art, and Magic more specifically.
I've always been an artist, kids are artists almost by default. I just didn't give it up like most kids thanks to some key encouragement along the way. The first of which I remember was overhearing my older brother complain, "It's not fair, Adam's only five and he can draw better than me." I made a choice then and there to keep drawing for the rest of my life if only because it seemed to upset my brother.
Were you familiar with the game before?
I think so? It had only been around for two years before I got my first assignment (on Mirage or Visions), so I think regardless I probably learned it existed and then started doing work for WotC in pretty short order.
Give us a brief description of your painting process for Magic.
If I were to paint a card now I'd probably do it all digitally, in Photoshop on my aged Intuos tablet. The last cards I painted were more than ten years ago, and at the time I was often starting paintings in Photoshop and finishing them traditionally with oils. Like, I'd lay in some general color and values on the computer, but then I'd print that out, mount it on watercolor paper or illustration board, seal it up with matte medium, and then keep painting over the top of the print.
This process (and probably all my processes) was born out of a certain amount of laziness. Other artists do color studies as separate, discrete paintings. I wanted a way to do a color study in the quick-change experimental space of digital painting, but then keep building on that study instead of starting the final painting over from scratch.
What are the ingredients of a great art description?
Oh, that's a good question. I guess the general answer I'd give is it should tell you as little as possible, yet just enough that you don't waste too much time taking wrong turns. But that's hardly an answer at all. I don't know, it's easy to say I wanted as much freedom as possible, but the truth is sometimes it was nice to be referred to a specific page in the style guide and just be able to concentrate on composition and dynamism and value and color.
Your Terror card is one of my absolute favorites, it looks quite a challenging painting. How did you do it?
Thanks! It was a fun challenge. I have a couple skeletal models in my studio, and somewhere there are photographs of them posed like the skeleton in the piece. Somewhere there are photos of me to which I had to apply my studies of anatomy in order to translate them into the skinless figure. Every illustration I make starts with a lot of planning and hunting and gathering of information before I even think about painting.
Do you recall what were the most challenging cards you painted, and why?
Well, Terror does qualify. It was a complicated composition, and a subject matter that's hard to get right but with which we're all familiar enough to know when it looks wrong. It's always a little easier to paint an entirely fictional monster or whatever - a knowledge of anatomy and natural reference material can help you make that monster look plausible, but when it comes down to it people are less likely to tell you any part of it looks "wrong". Who are they to say there isn't a kind of dragon that looks like that?
Of the art you made for Magic, can you name some favorites?
Skyrider Trainee and Horde of Notions come to mind. And it probably isn't a coincidence that both of those pieces represent a kind of fantasy that wouldn't look out of place on the cover of a book for young readers, or a Miyazaki movie. That kind of thing is more my speed, despite apparently getting a reputation around the WotC offices for being good at zombies and gross stuff.
Will it be possible for us to see another work of yours for Magic?
Good question! I'm too busy to jump back into it in any dedicated way, but I've often thought if they asked me to do a single piece for an anniversary or retrospective, I'd want to do it.
Where can our readers find out more about you work, since you haven't painted a Magic card for over a decade?
For the last sixteen or so years I've been writing and illustrating kids books, including a novel that was adapted into the DreamWorks animated film, HOME. You can see some of my books here http://adamrexbooks.tumblr.com/: