With outstanding works such as Avatar of Woe and Unmask to his name, rk post has been able to bring his amazing talent to the benefit of all Magic players and collectors. OMA Reporters spent some time with rk to talk with him about his time at TSR, his feelings on the transition to digital media and some recent events in his life.
You are one of the most highly regarded artists in the game, having done some of the most memorable illustrations to date. With so many contributions, is there anything that the game has done for you that you never thought possible?
Well, I have an instant audience and name recognition. It’s helped me in so many ways professionally.
Unmask from Mercadian Masques. It resonates with me personally and it’s a nice big oil painting that fought me in its creation, but I think it came together beautifully in the end.
According to your bio on about.me/rkpost, you entered the illustration industry as Magic was debuting on the market in 1993-1994. Were you aware of the art being done for the game at the time?
Heh, I started freelancing in 1994 for game companies, but Wizards of the Coast was not one of them. It wasn’t until 1997-98 that I started work for Magic.
Prior to the purchase of the company, while you were still working as an artist for TSR, were you or your fellow artists following the work being done for Magic?
Todd Lockwood and I started doing work for them around that time…I think Brom had before that as a freelancer. I was aware of the game and really wanted to do work for it.
What was the general impression of the quality and style of the art being produced in those early sets?
Early Magic work was hit or miss or totally nuts. 😉 There is a lot of brilliant work in the early sets.
What piece from those early sets would you choose as the most impressive and why?
I generally pick on artists, since card recognition isn’t my strong suit. Mark Tedin, Anson Maddocks, Terese Nielsen, Kev Walker, Quinton Hoover…and others that slip my mind at the moment.
Did any of the early Magic art influence the work you were doing at TSR at the time?
I didn’t get to see much of it beforehand. I just knew of the game.
Having worked as an artist in the twilight of TSR and a freelancer for Wizards, what differences did you see between the two companies in they handled art direction, style, etc.?
I was at TSR at the end, so we worked in a tight budget era of doing covers and interiors to get rpg’s out the door. The two types of games are pretty different. So, inherently, the art direction style will be different.
What were the biggest differences that you ran into? What was direction like under TSR versus under Wizards?
When I was working for TSR it was more intimate, fewer people around. Also, the company was spread around, so sometimes you had to wait a while for approval. When I started working at Wizards, everybody was right there! Have a meeting; get approval instantly or in a short amount of time. Wizards art direction was a bit more casual in the sense that as long as you generally adhered to the art description and style guide, you could have a lot of fun with the piece.
Do you remember anything interesting that happened after the purchase of TSR as Wizards assumed control of operations?
Most of the company moved out west from Lake Geneva, WI to Renton, WA to start onsite working for WotC. The artists and a few others stuck around and moved out months later, our work area wasn’t completed and they were fine with us working offsite. It was kind of bizarre coming to work in a big empty building. They sent us a bit of money for a few of the artists to go out to dinner for Christmas…very intimate. 😉
Your first published pieces of art Magic came from Exodus and Portal: Second Age, both published in June 1998. Can you remember the process you went through to create those initial set of cards?
Some of them I finished while packing and on the road while moving to Washington state. They were very understanding.
Has that process changed as the game and company matured? If so, how has it changed?
There is an artist visual style guide to refer to and you get a paragraph of written description of the work needed. In that sense, it has remained the same. The delivery has changed a lot; from Fedex to emailed pdf’s.
Likely Avatar of Woe. They have printed it 5 times over the years and they are steadily showing up.
Speaking of appearances at Magic events, during the last two Grand Prixes you attended you were treating your Twitter followers to a unique series of altered cards. So…. what’s with all the penises?
Recently there was word that you had applied for a DCI number. Are we going to be seeing you competing at large events or a local FNM?
Heh, I failed. I need to learn to play. I was told that Duels of the Planeswalkers is the best door of entry! When I finish moving, I will give it a look.
Duels of the Planeswalkers has been the stepping stone into the game for many players. What motivated you to sign up and start playing? What kept you from actively playing the game in the past?
Mostly time. Not that I have more time now, but the game honestly looks fun. The more events I attend, the more I pick up. What wouldn’t be more fun than playing one of the art guys after hours? (I have a job to do during the day)
If there was one other artist you would want to challenge to a game of Magic, who would it be and why?
If I had to, Jason Felix. He is a silly funny man.
Another life event that you shared on Twitter was your recent Van Gogh-esque injury. Can you give us the full story on how it happened and how your recovery is going?
Oh, it was pure stupidity. I slipped and fell and a nice hard edge caught my left ear as I went down…the rest is just gross. With a decent plastic surgeon, it looks pretty good now! I got the stitches out this morning.
Looking at your Magic work, it appears that you transitioned to digital media around Mirrodin block. Can you describe all of the factors that went into your decision to work primarily digitally?
I think it was long before that, but they are pretty obvious. Work space. That’s it. I would prefer to paint and now I just don’t have a place to do it. Mess, chemicals….you need a place for it.
Is there anything you miss about working in traditional media? Anything that you have not been able to replicate digitally?
Apples and oranges really. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Digital work is faster, easier to start working on at any time, and easier to send off the finished assignment. Traditional, well, you have art to show, share, and sell when you are done!
As an artist that has successfully transitioned to digital, do you see yourself or the industry in general ever shifting back to more work being done traditionally?
Traditional is sticking around, as it should. There are so many digital approaches and cheats that sometimes the artist does not keep and maintain the ability to do basic drawing. That is kind of sad.
Having worked in commercial illustration for almost 20 years, what words of advice do you have for anyone looking to break into the industry?
Find something else to do. I got pretty lucky. There is so much new talent pouring in constantly, limited work to be done, and pay rates that haven’t increased in the past 20 years.
If someone were interested in owning some of your work, whether prints, proofs or paintings, where is the best place to find you?
For now, email me, follow me on twitter @postrk or message me on Facebook. about.me/rkpost has all of my links. Eventually, I will get a site or repository for my work. Hell, I can slap together a google doc with works and prices if time would allow.
Some artists trade their work with other artists and accumulate a collection of pieces. Do you own any original Magic art done by other artists?
I have a couple. I know I have a Ben Thompson and a Kev Walker original. I might have more, but my brain is lacking at the moment.
Do you know the titles of the pieces? Any way we can convince you to share your collection in a gallery on www.originalmagicart.com?
Way to make me research…. Reverse Gravity by Ben Thompson. I couldn’t find the Kev Walker piece. I am in the process of moving, so I should come across it at some point.
Do you have any upcoming projects or pieces that you want to let your fans know about?
I have a piece in M14 and I am still looking for the means to get the second art book out. Otherwise, look for me outside your window with a creepy smile.
Several Magic artists have been able to fund their projects using crowd funding activities. Have you looked into starting a Kickstarter for your new art book?
I thought about it, but Kickstarter is a labor intensive effort. So much so, that knowing myself, I would utterly fail at it.
It is still a bit early in the year to ask this, but do you knw if you will be attending Gen Con or any other conventions this year?
Yeah, it’s early. Wizard World Portland and Emerald City Comicon for sure. I post updates on my Facebook page as I get them!
Well, we look forward to seeing your upcoming pieces and hope to be able to see you at more Magic events this year, maybe as a contestant.
From everyone here at OMA, thank you for your time.
If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out our other exclusive interviews here.