Welcome to our interview series number #47!
For this piece we talked with artist Dmitry Burmak, who is part of a new generation of artists working on the game. Here's what Dmitry told us.
Hi Dmitry. Tell us ga little about your journey into art, and how you got started on Magic more specifically.
Hello! Thank you very much for inviting me.
I drew at school as many kids do. I come from Russia, so this was back when the west pop culture just appeared. I was a big fan of the ninja turtles, star wars, video games and other things like that, and I was very interested in drawing them. But I only became serious about drawing much later, after I graduated from university with my engineering degree.
I worked on computer games and painted video game covers until I eventually started working as a freelance illustrator from home. I mainly draw for board games. As for Wizards, I just wrote them an email back in 2011 and attached some of my pictures.
Dawn Murin, one of the art directors, found me suitable for Duel Masters, a card game Wizards of the Coast is publishing in Japan. I have been drawing for this game for several years, and I still do from time to time.
After a while, Dawn switched to Magic the Gathering, and invited me to illustrate the cards for the Unstable set, and that’s how it turned out. After some time, my wife Kate joined the team of MtG artists too. She is a very talented illustrator and you can find her cards in some of the released sets.
Were you familiar with the game?
I discovered MtG in the early 2000s, and I was amazed by the quality of illustrations. Even though I did not play, I even bought a huge box of cards just to look at the pictures, as it was the only way to see the illustrations without using the internet. I haven’t started playing since then, but I still like to look at the pictures.
Give us a brief description of your painting process for Magic cards.
The task is usually a brief description of what is happening in the illustration, sometimes they also send us several images for reference. I draw digitally and start with 3-4 quick thumbnail sketches. After that, the art director chooses one of them, and based on that I create a more clear color sketch. When it’s approved I move it to the final.
Unstable was the first expansion you worked on, and you painted nine cards. What were the challenges and fun parts of working in such goofy and colorful environment?
I love funny MtG sets, and I felt lucky to be part in the creation of a new one. It was a lot of fun, the card Some Disassembly Required took most of the work, I think. This is the Holiday Card of 2017 and it was not easy to show the gloomy laboratory of a mad scientist in a light and humorous mood.
What can you tell us about your new cards from M20?
Sure, I’ve got three cards there - Audacious Thief, Colossus Hammer and Bag of Holding. I really like Audacious Thief. This card also has a cheerful mood, nobody fights or casts spells, and it was very interesting to draw the group of characters in the background.
On the Colossus Hammer I was told to draw a really huge hammer. I decided to make him look like a spaceship, great and powerful. Bag of Holding is a calmer picture, and I wanted to draw a classic MtG illustration.
By the way, in this set there is a card with my wife Kate - Gauntlets of Light.
Colossus Hammer looks great. How did you make sure the perspective and dimensions looked right, did you take some photos for reference?
That was tricky. To draw it right I made a 3D model of the hammer and painted over it. I do it quite often with things like buildings and other artificial objects, it helps a lot.
Is there any creature type you would particularly like to paint?
I don’t have a particular preference, because the subject is not that important. It’s an exciting challenge to draw any new creature or character in an interesting way.
What’s something unique to working on the Magic: The Gathering IP?
I think it's the community: it is extremely unusual to draw an illustration knowing that it will be seen by players throughout the world.
Was there any art description that made you scratch your head and think, ‘how on earth am I going to paint this?'
Haha, that's a good question. I think it happened with the Retrofitter Foundry for Commander 2018. The picture was in the Kaladesh setting, a world of extremely intricate and elegantly decorated mechanisms. On this image I had to portray how one mechanism pulls a part out of another, and inserts it into a third one. In fact, it takes time to recognize the purpose of each mechanism. I could not figure out how to draw it for the longest time.
What's the favorite work you've done for Magic so far?
I really don’t know. One of my favorite pictures is Chivalrous Chevalier for the Unstable set. I enjoy painting characters like this - funny and whimsical.
What was the most challenging card to paint so far?
Captive Audience, of course. Depicting a lot of people with different emotions is a very difficult task for any artist, but it's that's also what makes it interesting.
Where can our readers find more about your work?