Today I had a little breather in our pandemic 2020 year to take some time and reach out. I saw some newer Magic artists enter the fold and figured you knew about the American ones. But what about the Poles? The Germans?
It's time for some introductions to two new Magic artists.
First of all, who is Dominik Mayer?
Like almost every other artist, I always drew as a child.
I seriously considered becoming an artist when I started studying design at the University in Nuremberg. That was around 2012. I was 21 at that time. There were a lot of different paths you could choose from and I decided to go for 3D animation. I learned a lot about 3D software and photography at that time.
During one of our student movie projects, we needed concept art, which was the first time I came in contact with that kind of work. I became really interested in the field and did an internship as a concept artist at Goodgame Studios in Hamburg. That was an amazing experience because of all the great people I got to know, and it was the point at which I decided to completely dedicate myself to illustration and concept art.
You studied design and drew as a kid. You went to 3D and stayed digital?
That was around the same time, when I started studying. Since then I have done everything digital. Of course, I still have a traditional sketch book, but I barely use it and when I do it's just for fun and not really for work.
You have a sketchbook, but not for work. So what is your favorite warm-up sketch to do?
30 min speedpaintings :)
I think that is a great way to improve your abilities in terms of composition, color, light and, also very important, time management.
I see a ton of red in there for your speedpaints. A ton of horses too. But it's me, so I have to ask: what is your favorite type of dog?
Hellhound with three heads and fire breath!
Ok, that's on brand. I see you. I hope Magic gets you one soon.
Returning to the reds - I see a lot of red in your portfolio. What draws you to that color?
I really like highly saturated colors. But especially red. It is so powerful and it really pops. I also LOVE painting fire, so that might be a reason why red and other warm colors are my favorite ones.
What also really inspires me is dynamic and action. Everything that shows believable motion. In my feeling, red is a color that somehow helps with that.
Speaking of, what is your favorite personal work you have created?
That's a tough question. I think I would say - "Meteor in the Sky"
I love the colors, theme, and the energy behind it. But my favorite image usually changes from time to time.
If it changes, what keeps you motivated, keeps you pushing your art to new heights?
I think the strongest motivation is that I simply love to do it. I can't imagine stopping, so that comes kind of naturally. There is nothing that is easier for me than to sit down and draw/paint. I also constantly check out the work of so many other artists and there is always something that triggers an "omg I totally need to try that" or "damn I wish I could draw/paint like that." When that happens I try to push in those directions.
Changing gears, I saw you worked on the Theros video, and now the Zendikar one! Can you say at all what you worked on?
Sure! I was a concept artist for the special effects.
How does that magic wall look and how does it react to its surroundings?
How does that soul ripping effect look and how does it evolve over time?
What does the smoke effect of the Plainswalker Ashiok look like?
Those were the tasks I worked on. It is one of my favorite things to design. Especially when it's for a world like MtG. It combines all the things I mentioned above. Fast iterations, highly focused in motion and colors. You have to think about how a certain effect splits up in different stages and how it grows and how it fades.
From major to new... Kickstarter games. I saw you worked on a new board game with minis. Can you say what draws you to start up projects?
I love playing games. Board- card- and videogames. It doesn't really matter for me how big the productions are, as long as I like the idea and the worldbuilding behind it. Of course, those smaller productions and Kickstarter games often have a smaller team, so everything is quicker and easier to communicate. But sometimes that also is a problem, because all of the participants want to have a voice in the design/art process and that can become quite messy :)
Why are Nürnberg Rostbratwurst the best Weihnachtsmarkt food?
First of all, it isn't really a specific Weihnachtsmarkt thing. You can buy it at all times at small booths all over the city. The whole year.
They are delicious, but the main reason why they're so great is you can get them everywhere and are very spontaneous. You just get "Drei im Weckla" and you can eat them while walking - with no waste.
"Drei im Weckla" means: three sausages in one small bread.
So, perfect as a small snack while doing sightseeing, shopping, or with your drink at the Christmas market booths :) You can also get them at the restaurant served with potatoes or Sauerkraut.
Mind still blown that you can get them all year.
You mentioned you did work for a studio, but are you 100% freelance now? Or do you work a day job part of the time still?
100% freelance since 2017.
All right then. Good to know.
As you are newish to Magic, what does Magic mean for you and your career?
As a Magic player myself it was always a dream of mine to become a Magic artist. It is so amazing that this dream has come true and I can't wait to play those cards!
One of the main briefs was that it has to be colorful, vibrant, and bright.
I wanted to keep those artworks close to my speedpainting style but with some more details. I made sure all those cards have a clear and almost graphical foreground with a readable silhouette and a simple but vibrant background. That background does not really show us the world and the creature's surroundings but more the feeling and the mood that the whole card creates.
Moraug for example: We don't see detailed spiky rocks in the back. We see abstract, dynamic, and aggressive shapes that, together with his pose, emphasize the pure rage of the character.
Canopy Baloth was actually the most tricky one of them all. I wanted to keep it in that warm color scheme but that doesn't really show that it is a Green card. After a lot of tweaks, I think I managed to get a good in between solution, with warm colors and the touch of a Green card.
With Canyon Jerboa it was important to show his size and that he is kind of unaware what's really going on around him. So, I just vaguely showed that stampede that happens above him with some silhouettes.
With Spitfire Lagac and Skyclave Shade I tried to make them one with the environment. The shade comes out of the old skyclave patterns on the rocks and the Lagac is surrounded by lava that kind of twists around him while he is charging his own fire breath.
In a lot of my speedpaintings I established that bright sun or moon and I wanted to do that in those Magic artworks as well because it fits so well to the sets theme.
Can you describe your process - how do you go above making an illustration?
The first step is always brainstorming. I turn on some great music, close my eyes, and start to think about the scene I am about to create. That helps a lot for getting in the right mood. As soon the image in my head is built up, I am doing some quick sketches and gathering references. After the sketch is approved, I jump right into color.
I frequently catch myself spending too much time searching for the right references just to realize that I will do it differently anyway. References are super important, but sometimes I should speed up that particular step.
When do you paint best? Early morning? late at night?
Definitely late night!
Yeah, I agree there. If given the option to visit USA for a Magic event, what cities would you love to visit?
I have never been in the USA so I would actually love to see a lot of different places, even smaller towns would be interesting.
But yeah, the classics like LA, New York, Chicago would be definitely interesting.
I would prefer if someone living there could show you around and show you the everyday life, the spots locals go to, rather than the main sightseeing spots.
Love how you call them the classics. That's quite good.
Until then, and as we are in a pandemic, where can fans find you online?
Thank you Dominik, let us hope we can get you to a classic American city soon.
Let's get started here. How did you decide to become an artist?
I decided to become an artist at age 26! I finished my studies and I was stuck in what I considered a dead-end job. Unhappy with how things were going with my life, I asked myself what would I love to do in life that would make me happy. I was lucky enough to know that I love to draw and I wanted to make games. I had no money for art schools and no time to waste. So, I borrowed money from my parents to buy my first tablet. Then I started drawing and I never stopped.
You just wanted to and then did. All right then. That's a new one!
As we all learned in pencil, crayon, etc. When did you transition to digital creations?
I started learning to draw on the tablet, so it has always been digital for me. I sometimes do sketches for work in the traditional way using a pen. Then I scan it and I do the rest in Photoshop.
Then let's talk about before you're done. As you begin. What is your favorite warm-up sketch to do?
I love to draw animals.
Prior, I liked to draw abstract shapes but it was kind of stressing me out. Maybe these were some angry shapes?! I don't know, ha!
Speaking of animals. Some of us are huge enthusiasts of one type of animal. So what is your favorite type of dog?
I love all types of dogs but my favorites are happy mutts.
In researching for you, I realized you may have had an influence from someone who lived close to me in Minnesota -John Berkey. I have to ask, was he very good or too good?
Berkey was an ultra-master; I wish one day to reach his level.
I think you are well on your way.
As much of your work is under NDA, working for companies, what then is your favorite personal work you have created?
It has to be "Water Nymph". It has everything I like: good composition, good shape, weight, and distribution, a good idea, it is dark, and, finally, it is very subtle. I take great pleasure in looking at those kinds of paintings.
What keeps you motivated, keeps you pushing your art to new heights?
Art, or really any form of human expression. There may be a glimpse of something that gets me. I very often become obsessed with one particular thing. Through that I rediscover myself. It often feels like you shatter what you are and try to put it back together with new pieces.
Why are Chrusciki so good?
I will keep it a secret for now :D
What does Magic mean for you and your career? (What does it mean to you to be a Magic artist?)
When I was a kid, I remember when I saw MTG cards for the first time. I was amazed by the illustrations there. Seeing all these creatures, people, fantastical lands, was like a tunnel to another universe in the sullen reality that surrounded me.
If somebody told me I will be making paintings for these cards, I wouldn't believe it! It is a life and career milestone. It is also for me an opportunity to reconnect with my inner self and the joy I had as a kid.
Your new artworks - Bala Ged Recovery and Bala Ged Sanctuary, can you walk us through them? What were they influenced by? That interior "recovery" shot, what were you thinking there?
Swamp trees!! I saw a picture of a tree standing on its roots and that was the first kick I got. I also like bulky parts on trees and I felt it would be perfect to use it as an excuse for the interior part.
As it goes for the interior, after designing the tree from the outside, I walked into the tree via my sketches. I was imagining how cool it would be to find that kind of opening and how one could organize the space there. Of course, while doing all of this I am trying to stick to the brief and include elements that were important for the AD.
Can you describe your process - how do you go above making an illustration? Where do you start? What do you take extra time on in every painting? Where do you spend too much time in paintings? :-)
It starts with reference gathering. Once I feel inspired and have collected some good photos I start to sketch. Sometimes I explore a little too long.
Later I may start with the sketch right away or I will model in 3D if I feel it has a complicated perspective or if I am after some specific feel. I will play around with camera lens and composition. Sometimes I will take 3D and use them as a rough layout for a sketch.
Then I throw in the color. I keep rendering light until it is done.
When do you paint best? Early morning? Late at night?
It doesn't matter anymore for me. I love to paint and draw so it's always fun!
If given the option to visit the USA for a Magic event, what cities would you love to visit?
Seattle. There are lots of trees and mountains. I also feel drawn to Seattle. It has a fascinating history. All in all, it feels like the place I would like hang out at.
Where can fans find you online? Where can they interact with you? (Social media etc)