I once wanted to be a "Magic artist"

Written by Ron Saikowski, December 9th, 2017

Going through my closet the other day, I stumbled across one of my old art portfolios. In that dust covered case, I found the handful of illustrations I did and submitted to Wizards to become one of their artists. That was around 1995 if memory serves me correct.

I’d finished art school and was on my way to working for a small newspaper as a graphic designer and thought I might try my hand at being an artist for the game I played all the time. Even though I had a "job," I was always on the hunt for additional freelance work to help pay the bills. This seemed like the perfect way to make some extra money drawing for a game I loved to play.

Obviously, it never worked out. I supposed I could have kept submitting samples of my work, but real life moves on and so do we. I fell out of the game and never thought of it after that. I took the few drawings I did, tossed them into one of my many art portfolios I had with all my other art and put them in the back of the closet out of the way. Only to be moved on moving day when I'd curse having all this extra junk that I had to lug around.

It's been a fun little trip down memory lane... going through all my old stuff and coming across these images. I’m not sure how I decided to make them as big as I did. I think I just went with what I knew from school and scaled my actual illustration up so that when it was reproduced much smaller at its actual size, it looked “correct” to me in terms of level of detail and such.

I ended up doing my illustrations 14 inches wide by 11.5 inches tall. Pretty big once you consider that the image will be reduced down to about 2 inches by an inch and half or so. My actual illustrations were a whopping 700 percent bigger than the finished artwork would be.

Looking at my images now… they are obviously dated. No doubt about it. They wouldn’t work in today’s environment in the least. They don’t hold a candle to the sophistication of today’s images. Today’s artwork is technically amazing, visually unified, and paints a consistent picture of the Magic universe.

That‘s no mistake by Wizards. They know what they want their universe to look like. As a one time Art Director in my past life, I understand completely and fully appreciate that. It comes at a price though.

I still favor the older style images.

They capture a simpler time for me. They don’t seem as dark (in terms of color, not content) and you could easily recognize any of the cards across the table while playing. That’s something that struck me when I was getting back into the game. When my friend took an evening to show me how things had changed over the years by going through a few games with “new” cards, it was one of the first things that jumped out at me.

About half way through the first game, I realized that all the cards my friend was playing looked similar. I couldn't pick them out from each other. They were all predominantly dark and it was incredibly tough to make out any detail across the table. Very few, if any stood out from the group and all of them were so detailed that the images just blurred together if the card was further than 6 inches away from your nose.

I thought I might take a card from one of those way back expansions and substitute my art into it. Kinda of a "what-if" I'd actually been hired to do some work for Wizards. A little Photoshop work last night and I had a card with my own art. I hope Mark Tedin doesn't mind I bumped his art for this little experiment. I love the card and his artwork for it is perfect as it is.

Like I said, the new artwork is technically amazing... but I'm a simpler guy and I like like the older, simpler style.

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IMAGE: Some of my illustrations to be a Magic artist. Card from WotC... my art though!
KEYWORDS: Old School Magic, art