I hope you are not surprised – I mean, you must have seen this coming. For the first time in my memory, prominent Pro’s have been caught talking about Magic art. In this case the topic of conversation was Kai Budde Invitational card, by Scott M. Fisher.
It’s so rare and unprecedented; it’s almost as if Magic art matters.
Did you really think I’d pass up the opportunity to weigh in on this momentous occasion?
Anyway, the subject came up in Alex Shvartsman recent Sideboard, Week in Review article, and I quote (emphasis via italics is mine):
"A slightly sour note was the unveiling of Kai’s card, Voidmage Prodigy, printed in the Onslaught expansion. The card itself is strong and has a lot of tournament possibilities, but the artwork left a few people speechless, Kai included. We are still not sure whether Kai was depicted as pregnant, or his head was drawn on Marco’s body. This minor setback hardly ruined the weekend for the German Juggernaut."
For this article I am going to focus on why the art does not do justice to Kai as the invitational winner; I am not even going to discuss what this means for Marco. After all, why is it scandalous for Kai to be seen as pregnant, while everyone thinks it quite within the realm of possibility for Marco to look pregnant? Am I missing something here?
If I were a Magic artist, maybe I would live for the day that someone compliments me with a comment such as, "…your art left me speechless." But that would be assuming the intention was speechless-good, along the lines – "I found the composition flawless and the color palette impeccable." Not speechless-bad, such as is the case with the Voidmage – "You made the dude look pregnant! Dude, the dude is a dude! How could you make him look pregnant?"
As if to add insult to injury, this is the reward for winning the Invitational? Ouch! If I were to ever be immortalized on a Magic card, I’d be hoping for a better overall effort. Not that winning the Invitational* is very likely for me; I’d probably have a better shot at hooking up with Jennifer Lopez.
Come to think of it, she does seem to get around – maybe I should give up on the Invitational and focus on Jennifer.
Actually I am somewhat disappointed that this art has not been well-received. Not because I don’t agree – I do, this art is pretty bad on several levels. My reason for being disappointed is that over the summer I commented on Burning Wish as an undiscovered gem from Judgment, artistically speaking. For that card, Scott M. Fischer seemed to be at the top of his game. Ironically, some of the very reasons that made Burning Wish fantastic are the glaring weaknesses within the Prodigy painting – the pregnant Kai notwithstanding.
Recall that even though the female barbarian on the Wish was depicted in the card art only from the thighs up, Fisher’s final painting, prior to cropping to fit in the Magic card frame, included her full height, and showed how here feet were connected to the ground. This approach properly established the sense of weight, and insured proper human proportions throughout the painting. For printing purposes though, on the actual card, his cropping instructions allowed the most important part of the painting to be shown in a beautiful, small composition which featured the interaction between her, the Djinn, and the ‘passed’ sorcery.
Unfortunately for the Prodigy, Fisher chose to cut Kai off just below the knees. The result is an awkward composition that leaves the questions of weight, and weight transfer all unanswered – yet again.
I say yet again because this seems to be a recurring problem within Magic art.
I am aware that Matt Cavotta has postulated that feet are expendable in CCG art, as he mentioned in last week’s Cavotta Critiques Back! article. I agree with that… As long as some greater purpose is served by cutting off the feet in a composition. However, if the result is bad, such as it is in the Voidmage Prodigy painting, it should be avoided. I would argue that if the Prodigy was depicted from the waist-up only, or if it were shown full figure, it would be much better.
Note however, that a full figure would only make the already small head, all that much smaller. That does not seem like a desirable effect for an Invitational card, does it?
Another strength of the Burning Wish that is a weakness of the Prodigy is the element of movement. In the Wish, our eye had a pleasant trajectory to take. By following the plume of Djinn-smoke from lower left as it wrapped upward and around the female barbarian to ultimately materialize and form the body of the Djinn, there was a strong sense of movement; movement that flowed in a discernable and logical direction.
The same can not be said of the Prodigy. There is an attempt at movement, but it is confusing… And by movement, I do not mean that it looks like Kai is doing the hula hoop. I am referring to the blue fragmenting sphere in the upper left-hand corner. It looks like it must be moving – but I can not tell in which direction it is moving. Is it in-bound towards the character, or has it just ‘bounced-off’ and is ricocheting away? I simply can’t tell… And as a viewer, I do not want to have to deal with that question. My desire is just for the artist to draw his scene in a clear, unambiguous, and appealing manner.
Another sub-optimal choice concerning the blue sphere has been made; traditionally the foreground object-of-interest is modestly sized, and employed mostly to convey depth. It should be included as a mere garnishment, an accent of sorts, to provide balance or depth. In this composition, though, the sphere is large enough that it competes with the character in the background, much to the detriment of the overall painting. It begs the question – is this scene about the character, or is it about the sphere? Personally, I think an Invitational card should be clearly-focused on the character, and it should faithfully capture the likeness of the winner of the Invitational. This is, unfortunately, not the case with Voidmage Prodigy.
If I were Kai, I’d ask for a go-back.
Michael Jay LaRue
* – .My rating is not very good at all; in fact my greatest hope of all, Magic-wise would be maybe to T8 at a ten-person PTQ – even then, I’d probably faint straight away when they handed me my T8 pin. Seriously. I kid you not.
P.S. – I welcome your feedback concerning Magic Art Matters. I am interested to hear how these articles may have affected your appreciation of Magic art, or art in general. If you do respond, please do so in the StarCity forums… But regardless, I will continue. I have gotten encouragement from many of you, and I appreciate that, and that makes it worthwhile for me.