Interview with Drew Tucker
The artwork in Magic: The Gathering (in my opinion) is just as important to MTG as playing the game itself. Without the pictures printed on your cards the game would lack interest, visual stimulation, and in a sense overall aesthetic beauty. When a writer tells a story, I find myself wondering where their mind was, how did they come up with such imaginative scenarios? When I look at the Magic card artwork, I wonder the same thing. Lucky for me I have had the opportunity to ask one of the MTG original artists about some of his work from the past, and where he is today.
Drew Tucker answered my call at 10 am on a Monday morning. He has a very kind disposition and was very understanding of my many questions. Any nervousness I felt quickly dissipated and my interview quickly became more of a conversation then so much of a Q&A scenario.
R.C: Drew, how did you fall into doing MTG art, how were you approached by Wizards?
Tucker: “I was in school at the Cornish college of arts in Seattle. I was in the watercolor class. Sandra (Everingham) asked if she could have my portfolio for Jesper.” For those who do not know, Jesper Myrfors is one of the original Magic: The Gathering artists and the art director at the time.
R.C: Was art what you always wanted to pursue?
Tucker: Well I started in Graphic Design at Southern Illinois University. Doing art was natural; it’s what I always did. I did fine art, took a lot of classes, I never graduated, even though I spent 8 years in school.” He snickered a little but I could hear no regret in his voice. “Graphic design was never quite right I just kept trying to find what I wanted to do. When I was a child the things I would draw were werewolves and monsters, cemeteries, ghosts, and blood. And once I got older I started drawing and painting this professionally. I have noticed that we often come back to our childhood interests.”
R.C: I have to ask, do you regret any of your pieces in MTG?
Tucker: I loved that I was doing illustration and getting paid for it. I was young and cocky; Night Soil I think is a really horrible painting. I remember reading comments bashing that painting and they were pretty fair. It was like a big bundle of kelp and junk. My description was Night Soil. And that was what I went with.
R.C: What about a piece that you love, or are most proud of?
Tucker: “DanDan was brilliant and I still think it is. Vertigo also, those were a couple of the good ones.” His tone changed talking about these pieces. I could tell that he found these pieces to be very unique and held a special significance to him.
R.C: Do you have a particular medium you like or prefer to use?
Tucker: I really like oil, I like painting with tempera. You can get amazing stuff out of it if your patient.
R.C: Are any of your MTG cards in oil? I think I have only seen watercolor.
Tucker: No your right, I do not have any Magic cards in oil. I lean towards watercolor more for illustrations. In oil I like the texture and the pull, but no, there are no cards in oil because I came to it late.” He went on to say how he had wished he had done oil in the past, but it was just not where he was at the time. In the future, should Drew do more Magic art I am sure we will see his use of oil paint.
R.C: What are you currently working on?
Tucker: “I do illustration work for Richard Thomas; he’s with Onyx publishing which is connected to White Wolf. I have also been teaching lately. In between that I have been putting my portfolio together, updating it as I would like to put more oil in there.” He shared some moments he has had in his class. He mentioned that when the class or a student feels unsatisfied with their work he pulls out Night Soil and shows that to them to make them feel better. Drew had a nice sense of humor about all things during our conversation.
R.C: You have done some recreations of your past work in MTG. I understand you were asked to do the DanDan, Hurr Jackal, Repentant Blacksmith, and City in a bottle in the way you would have done them today if you were asked to create them (all on large 40 x 60 canvases). Can you tell me about your thoughts of what you were thinking of then and what has changed?
Tucker: “I didn’t want to recreate the exact same thing on any of them. I always thought the DanDan was kind of smart so I didn’t want to change too much. The size of the water color was a lot for my brain to take in. So the thought process was different. The composition, I wanted something subtle, lurking in the depths- Mark twain got in there as I read Tom Sawyer to my daughter. I wanted the picture to show spring morning, warm, lazy, fishing times.
The Repentant Blacksmith, I like the first one a whole lot. In the newer on you’re almost right in it. I like the back ground, the line on the right side of the heat. I like them both; they are very similar in my head. In the original painting you are much further away, I like that remoteness. In both paintings I wanted to show the heat that is created when working with metals.
For the City in a bottle remake, I like the drawing better; I like the sketch so much better than the actual finished painting. It has a record of all the little weird perspective things I was doing in there. The pencil and the charcoal have been worked into the paper so it has more sense of space, which I like. I don’t feel that the painting was as successful. I think the paintings good, otherwise I would not have handed it over, but the drawing has all the problems that had to get worked out. All that work trying to understand that space within the space of the bottle. The middle of the bottle was the hardest, the bulging and the space within. I would like to do it in a multimedia situation if I did it again. I could see that one is just a technical painting that would be interesting to do over and over.
The Hurr Jackal, I like that one, that one’s nice, I like the Islamic patterning in the back. At the same time I was doing that I was doing another commission with Islamic pattern and I really like that. The card never really wowed me, as it’s just a jackal, but I liked being able to spend attention to detail on the larger painting. The colors are nice, that one tends to weigh towards color choices I usually do, but not to that spectrum. A lot of my paintings have a darker or colder color scheme, this one has pinks and yellows and almost more straight primary colors (as if right from the paint tube). I don’t usually do a painting in that many bright colors, keyed up that high.
I think all the new paintings were successful in their own way. But their so big you have to back up to take in all the space. I had to build a structure to paint on because they were so huge. They were fun to do because there was so much space to work. They are “stupid large” paintings. I do large paintings for myself, a lot of oils that size. It’s neat because for so many years I was doing these little paintings for Wizards and other illustrations.”
I was amused how often Drew referred to the size of the recreation pieces. When I saw them I knew exactly what he meant. They are too large for the table; they must be laid out on the floor. I must say that after seeing the amount of white he had to cover and still make his picture proportionate takes talent, which he has shown he is full of.
R.C: Recently you participated in the 10th anniversary Magic: “The Gathering” art book. Tell me about your part in that.
Tucker: It was a year ago when they brought up the idea of doing the MTG anniversary book. These guys (Pete Venters and Jeff Menges) worked really hard to make it, and us artist mostly just agreed to do it. I wanted to do a piece that people talked about so I decided to do Murk Dwellers. I wanted to put the viewer in a different place. In the original you are just looking at red and green. I wanted to do something where someone is in the middle of what a murk dweller is. I wanted the viewer to be uncomfortable, and it was a card I felt would be good to re-do.
When doing the jump starter I donated sketch cards as an incentive for certain dollar amount donations. I really like the sketch cards. I volunteered to do like 20 of those, which was almost my favorite part. I want to make paintings out of some of them.
RC: Magic the art seems to have become quite a commodity:
Tucker: Yea I did not see that coming. It’s cool, it’s great; it’s amazing how much it has been seen and been touched. Within the whole genera and it’s very interesting how big it became, I just did not see that happening. The early stuff has become very collectible.
R.C: Magic has seen more digital art as it continues to grow. What is your opinion of digital art?
Tucker: Sometimes I’m jealous, I’m not as happy with it as hand work though. Their compositions are stellar. The artwork is awesome but so much looks like the same hand and that is why I have not been able to come to digital art for myself, as I cannot find my “hand” in it. Compositions will change because of the people such as how they do a figure but the colors and “accidents” don’t occur which makes it feel like its missing something. But sometimes you find someone who knows the computer, Android Jones to me really knows the computer, his stuff is really cool. He works within the fantasy industry and doing illustrations.
After an hour long conversation, Drew had to go and pick up his son. We said a quick “thank you” and “goodbye”. Once the phone call was over I sat back and recapped the conversation. The description left in my head was Drew Tucker: family man, artist, and teacher.
For more information on Drew Tucker you can find him on Facebook or visit his website: drewtuckerillustration.com
City in a bottle
Brian Siegel says:
Absolutley loved readig this article. One of those gems that you wished existed and then, surprise! It does exist. Well done and thank you much
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