Welcome to our 50th Magic: The Gathering artist interview!
Today we bring you a very special guest: Mark Rosewater, head designer for Magic since 2003.
Mark illustrated one card for Magic: Look at Me, I’m the DCI, for the Unglued set back in 1998.
Look at Me, I’m the DCI is one of two cards in Magic's history where the art, name, card design and flavor text were all done by the same person (the other is Elves of Deep Shadow, done by Jesper Myrfors - who we also interviewed).
Here's what Mark Rosewater - the artist - told us.
Hi Mark. Thank you for joining us for our special 50th Magic artist interview! Let’s get started. Your career in art was short-lived, some might even call it a one-hit wonder thing. How did it feel to see your painting printed on a Magic card?
I often talk about how a designer has to think outside the box, but as an artist, I always like to look inside the box, the crayon box. As a longtime admirer of the crayon medium and a fan of Magic, I was honored to be able to bring the two together.
Let’s talk about ‘Look at Me, I’m the DCI’. What was your source of inspiration for painting such masterpiece among the stick figure genre?
It’s hard to pick just one influence: Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Michelangelo’s David, the game of Hangman. I was inspired by so many different sources. I think the thing that motivated me most thought was the underrepresentation of stick people in popular culture.
Illustrated people always have so much detail. I just wanted to get things back to basics, back to the purity of the kindergarten classroom.
Did you paint this in one-shot, or did it take multiple attempts?
My technique was as such. I got a stack of paper and a 64-count box of crayons, and I drew as many copies of the illustration as I could (probably one hundred or so). I then chose the image that spoke to me. I have since learned that I am alone in my technique. No one else is dedicated enough to draw a hundred copies to find the best one, but that’s the kind of sacrifice I make for my craft.
The question everyone is asking: what’s the stick figure drinking?
To define the liquid would be to erase the essential mystery of the piece. What drives a person to throw darts at Magic cards on a dartboard? What does working for the DCI do to a person’s soul? Where can you buy a quality blindfold? I leave these questions to the audience to answer.
If you had to name the five cards depicted on ‘Look at Me, I’m the DCI’, what would they be?
Benson, Juanita, Gregory, Qi and Margot.
When asked if you would paint another card you said: “Major If. The art department never returns my call.” – Have they answered since?
Oddly, they have not. My best guess is there is some malfunction with their phone.
Suppose you’re Art Director for a day. You’re doing a set where all the art will be done first, and the cards will be designed accordingly. What’s the first art description you write down?
Am I drawing it? I assume I could arrange stick figures in various poses. “A stick figure throws a lightning bolt.” “A stick figure floats in the air.” “A stick figure is much bigger than another stick figure.”
What’s something few people have noticed about a specific card?
Of all the versions I drew of Look at Me, I’m the DCI, I picked the one I did because I liked his smile. It has a “I’m enjoying this more than others realize” feel.
In your perspective, what expansion was the riskiest and boldest, art-wise?
Unglued because they let me do a piece of art. It doesn’t get much bolder than that art-wise.
Now let's play a quick game. I will say 10 sentences and you'll pick a card that matches each.
1. Now this is awkward...
Curse of the Fire Penguin.
2. Trust me, you really don’t want to touch it.
4. This is better than taking the train.
5. I use these for cooking..
6. I would not spend the night here!
Entirely Normal Armchair.
7. You’re going to need something bigger than that.
B.F.M. (Both Halves).
8. That’s what happens when you forget to take your medication.
Baron Von Count.
9. Sounds like a good place to build a holiday home.
City of Ass.
10. This is our favorite hobby.
What does it feel like to see a card you designed ‘come to life’ through art?
On a more serious note, I’m very proud to have had the chance to illustrate a Magic card. The original plan for Look at Me, I’m the DCI was to have a small child illustrate it, and I said, “I draw at the skill level of a small child.” I realized it was my one opportunity to draw a Magic card and I leapt at it.
Magic has access to such a wonderful stable of artists and having the opportunity to count myself among them, even as the worst artist to ever illustrate a card, was a great honor. It honestly is one of my Magic accomplishments that I hold most dear. Every time someone asks me to sign a Look at Me, I’m the DCI, it makes me smile. Thank you for the chance to do this interview.