The idea of owning original art for Magic is not something that comes naturally to many that play the game. While we collect cards to play and appreciate the art, when we take the time to notice, the thought of buying a painting or even a print usually takes a catalyst to materialize. It did for me at least.
While I had been playing intensely for many years, it was not until I actually saw Jim Murray’s table at the first Ravnica prerelease event that I even considered the idea of Magic being anything more than ink on cardboard. Full size prints, artist proofs, original sketches and final paintings were a revelation for me. I had been lucky enough to have an active Vintage metagame when I was in college so I had been exposed to a broad base of the cards and had a growing collection, but had never considered being able to own the art for the cards that I played with.
At first, buying a painting, even a print, was a bit daunting. Even though I had looked at and played with the cards for years, I had not considered the level of skill that went into each and every image. Confronted with it in person, I wasn’t sure what to do. It was a bit of a “I’m really allowed to buy this?” moment.
One part awe at the work involved, one part tongue tied appreciation and a dash of introversion made my first purchase of art a bit of a hand-money-over-get-art-and-walk-away silent and efficient affair.
To this day I still get a bit nervous around the artists. I know I shouldn’t, but each one of them has made a unique contribution to a game that millions enjoy and that simply amazes me. Some artists might down play it or treat it more mechanically than others, but I respect the work that each of them have put into their art.
For many there is this bit of mystique to buying Magic art, and that can keep people from looking into it as a hobby or an extension to their Magic collection. Buying my first piece, I felt that I was somehow getting away with something by even asking if I could buy one of the prints on the table, let alone one of the sketches or paintings.
To all the first time buyers out there, or those that are new to the idea of collecting Magic art in non-card form, bite that bullet, you won’t regret it. The artists don’t bite, they don’t judge your worthiness when endeavoring to buy something and generally they are simply glad that you enjoy their work. A poster, print or painting hung on the wall is something that you will be able enjoy far longer than your standard deck.
Getting Over the Hump
Since not every Magic player is fortunate enough to meet an artist in person, some don’t really get exposed to the idea of buying art. Hopefully this site and other art related content is getting the message out that art is available in many forms and many price points. While the idea of a $500 painting may be out of reach for some, especially newer players, prints and artist proofs allow an entry level that is affordable to almost any Magic collector.
While talking with an artist in person is the easiest way to develop interest and get past any concerns about buying art, every one that I have talked to on Twitter, Facebook and email have been welcoming. It may have a bit of lag time between exchanges, but every Magic artist I have contacted has been appreciative of my interest in their work and extremely open to my inquiry. Schedules run tight and sometimes things get missed or forgotten but, as creating art can be a bit of a lonely activity at times, reaching out to an artist shows them that their work is being appreciated.
If you ever do get a chance to meet Magic artists in person, make sure to let them know how much you enjoy their contribution to the game. Whether you are interested in collecting art or just got in line to get some cards signed to pimp out your deck, you will be surprised at the great stories they have. Any artist that did work in ’93/’94 especially will have unique insight into the advent of the game and how things were on the inside of a young Wizards of the Coast.
Just a Second of your Time
The next time you are sleeving up a deck, I recommend you take a second and absorb the art on the cards. When you play Magic, the art can serve as a visual reminder of card text and for many that is the breadth of their appreciation. Utilitarian? Maybe, but it is a game after all.
The Spoils card game was just text on white backgrounds when I first encountered it. The Spikes in my store didn’t seem mind as the cash prize they were marketing was enough motivation for them to play.
The art of Magic does more than just provide visual cues, it enriches the experience of playing the game. The words “Wrath of God” reminds me of the times I played the card, but seeing Quinton Hoover’s field of fallen soldiers is something that I will never forget. Sure, I knew by the card text that all creatures were destroyed, but the image allowed it to imply so much more. Instead of a mechanical game effect, you had an image of a wrathful god cleansing the battlefield of all combatants. Immersion via cardboard, that’s what I’m talking about.
Seeing the art in large scale also allows things that were confusing on the card to come out as the artist intended. Chameleon Blur is the best example of this for me. Anthony was tasked with hiding a figure among others and on the card it looks like a Michael’s craft aisle exploded. In full size, you can easily identify the lines defining the sneaky devil and what was once confusing becomes creative.
Even if you never get the chance to see the art in person, many of the artists have their images on display on websites, Deviantart or CGHub. Don’t forget that wizards.com has their Wallpaper of the Week and all of their articles have a great selection of art in much larger scale.
Whatever has held you back in the past from looking into Magic art, I hope you reconsider. Not only can you capture memories in a unique and lasting form, but you will also gain a greater appreciation of an element of the game that many overlook.
Bite the bullet. Take the plunge. The art of Magic is waiting for you.