One of the pro players suggested recently that he would be happy to play with cards that just had text written on them and the number values. He made the point that essentially this is just a card game like bridge or snap, and the numbers and rules are more important than any other factor. I find it hard to believe that this game would be as popular as it is today without the flavor. Most importantly, without the artwork. We use the artwork as a shortcut. I participated in a M14 draft where we used a box of Korean language cards. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The artwork alone was enough to see me through the draft.
I’ve seen people insist a bad card is playable just because it had totally awesome artwork. I’ve heard people moan that a great card is less so, because it has an iffy picture. As players we get emotionally attached to things like art. I myself take things to extremes. My Modern burn deck is made up of 20 white-bordered John Avon mountains from 7th edition. My son is a full art land fiend, with nearly all his decks having full art lands. We all know the classic artist. Just last year Wizards sent each and every judge a set of full art Terese Nielsen lands because, as a company, they know how much we value our mana base.
I was lucky enough to sit down with one of Magic’s newest artists, Titus Lunter. His first cards came out in Khans of Tarkir. He gave us Frontier Bivouac and then one each of the individual Temur lands, including that glowing blue ice Island that everyone loves.
Hi Titus. Let’s start off with an easy one… Who are you?
My name is Titus Lunter with a middle name which is Sible. Don’t make me say it backwards, I won’t disappear but it will confuse me so much I stop functioning.
I’m a concept artist / illustrator for the past 5 years or so. I’ve worked on card games like Magic but also console games like The Division. On the side I teach people about painting things like composition and how to become a concept artist. I don’t enjoy long walks on the beach or horseback riding. I prefer controller or token based alternatives.
Are you a Magic player?
I’ve been playing Magic for a few years. A friend introduced me to it right after Zendikar. I played a bit back in 2004 but I was too broke to continue at the time.
Ha ha, sure, we all know that feeling. What’s your favourite card?
I’m a big fan of evil cards like Phyrexian Obliterator. I don’t have enough time to play competitively, so it’s mostly with friends and then everything flies. Safe to say, I don’t win a lot.
How do you even go about trying to get a job as an artist for Magic?
So when I got introduced to Magic, I was still a pretty crappy painter but that didn’t stop me. I must’ve submitted my work dozens of times to Wizards. Last time I sent it in was in 2013 and go a “No thanks” as usual. I was used to it at that point, so I didn’t really pay attention to it. When I saw a email from one of the R&D’s I thought it was a double sent declining email. It happens. But, it was actually an invitation to do some cards. It was the most B.A.D.A.S.S. evening ever and it’s in the top 3 of proudest moments in my life. Including learning how to walk and speak. Which, actually, are no longer in the top 3.
So they asked you to paint the Temur lands. How do you go about making up a place that looks like Temur? I guess that it didn’t exist before you drew it.
So, we get about 7 weeks to do a card. I’m not sure if this is different per person. This gives us time to get familiar with the cards and also the style guide. The people at Wizards do an amazing job creating worlds and also give us artists a lot of information about them. For the Temur lands I looked a lot at Mongolia and the style for the Temur people. Capturing a real world feel but also introducing the mystery of Magic as a universe was a real challenge. It took me quite a few tries on some of them to get it right.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m a huge fan of landscape painting and landscapes. It’s all I do, day in, day out. Look at images. I’m not joking. For The Division I looked at a Flickr page about the New York underground and it had 65,000 images and I saw them all. Inspiration, I find, comes from the small spaces where your imagination can take over. Almost every image has something interesting to go from.
What was your reaction to the negative response to your attendance of the Seville GP?
(There were some negative comments on the Seville GP’s message board complaining that Titus only had a few cards. Fellow MtG artist Noah Bradley posted it to reddit and then the Magic community on there had a bigger and stronger positive reaction.)
I didn’t take it too personally. It was a bit annoying that I got caught up in what seemed like a political discussion about something else, but there was no time for me to be upset by it because it got instantly drowned out by nice people in the community.
I know I’m not a big shot and I understand people want bigger names, that’s only logical. I one day hope to be one of those but if not – that’s ok. What’s important is that the good voices, both on the community and art side, become the loudest and drown out the negativity with smiles and good times. Not everyone might be that interested in the art on the cards, but it’s nice to talk to people about that side too. For me, it’s 50/50. I love the game but I love painting for it too.
What other stuff are you working on?
So I just came off working on The Division, a Ubisoft game. Before that I did Forza Horizon 2 and a few other games. I am primarily focused on all sorts of projects. Freelancing for games, illustrations, teaching, and so forth. You can always find me on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/TitusLunter and of course Facebook and Twitter under my name. If you just want to see pretty pictures hop by tituslunter.com or tituslunter.deviantart.com. And remember! I am just a person. Feel free to talk to me whenever.
As of the release of Fate Reforged, Titus has 7 cards to his name including Scion of Glaciers which has won me a few draft games I can tell you. Titus will also be doing signings at GP Utrecht 2015.
Community Question: What is your favourite card artwork from all of Tarkir so far? Please post the image up if you can.