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Melissa Benson – The Interview July 21, 2009

Posted by Norm in Artist Interview, Casual.
Tags: , ,

400th Post!

The other day I received an email from Cory (creator of the late Magic web comic Tap to Laugh) who passed along an interview with artist Melissa Benson. Melissa worked on a number of cards printed from Alpha through 9th Edition. The original art for Lord of Atlantis, Nightmare, and Shivan Dragon are probably the most famous although there are a lot of notable cards she has worked on. You can see all the cards Melissa brought to life in the Gatherer. So thanks Cory for passing this along and thanks Melissa for giving an interview.

How did you get into creating artwork for Magic the Gathering?

I had sent out numerous query letters looking for work from gaming manufacturers. Wizards of the Coast was among them. At the time they were called Garfield Games. Jesper Myfors who was the Art Director called and told me there was a project coming up called Magic: the Gathering, and that my style looked like it would work well for the game. I told him I was interested and when we hung up I thought that was the last I would hear from him. So often projects like this fall through for one reason or another.

What is your favorite art for a card that you have worked on?

I don’t have one specific favorite piece. I do have favorites in each Magic expansion. The same is true of card art for other card games I’ve worked on.

Are there any cards that you have worked on that have a funny or interesting story/ history to them. i.e. any hidden images, special models used, or just were frustrating to create?

Let’s see. The Ichneumon Druid card was impossible for my model to pose for the way I saw it in my head. So we had to prop him up with his butt on a small step stool, take two different shots and merge them together. For the Touch of Death card I borrowed a scythe from a friend that wouldn’t fit inside my car so my husband held onto it from the passenger side window for the short ride home. He was also responsible for the pair of dice in the Hand of Justice card. The most frustrating card was Rain of Daggers. There was a specific armor design that prevented the character from raising his arms above his head so I had to strategically place shards of rock to hide this.

The original artwork that you did for Nightmare and Shivan Dragon are pretty famous with old time magic players like myself. How many emails or letters have you received containing other peoples attempts at copying your art, not counting my Nightmare that I sent you?

I honestly can’t say. There have been too many to count.

And does it surprise you the amount of fans that Magic has brought you?

Yes it does. I’m still not sure if it is because of the art or because I happened to pick some really cool iconic cards to do.

What are you doing now, and, how can we show you our support?

I am doing mostly RPG commissions and selling my artwork on several Print on Demand sites. (Zazzle.com, CafePress.com,Printfection.com,and FineArtAmerica.com.) At the moment I’m doing some dragons for Z-Man Games new game Council of Wyrms. You can support me by buying my stuff and my commissions are not all that expensive considering the price people have paid for alpha and beta cards. You can also write the current Art Director of Wizards of the Coast and tell them that you would like to see my art back on the cards.

How did working on Magic card art differ from your other work? What was your process when working on Magic cards?

Magic art was small. Very small. About 6 x 7 inches. At that time I was painting in oils on 22 x 28 inch masonite sheets. I can’t paint in oil that small so I switched to Dr Martin’s Dyes and color pencils. The dyes give great color saturation and I put in the detail with the pencils.

In the Alpha set and several expansions after that the art director would call up with a list of titles. I chose the cards that appealed to me. I did pencil sketches that were faxed in for approval. Once they were approved I worked on all the cards as a group. I cut the paper for all the cards, transfered all the sketches, masked off what had to be masked off, did all the airbrush work (which I don’t do anymore), finished them all up to a loose finish and then fine-tuned them. It usually averages out to about three to five days per card once the sketches are done.

Who are your influences? And are there any Magic artists who’s artwork you enjoy?

Influences… Where to start. Frank Frazetta of course, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Alphonse Mucha, Roy Krenkel, Alex Ross, Mike Kaluta the list goes on. Of the Magic artists Quinton Hoover is my favorite. I really like Rob Alexanders landscapes. I love Eddie Beard’s art too.

Is there anything else you would like to say or anything you would like to say to your fans?

I occasionally attend shows and many people come up and ask for a critique on their art work. I can make some recommendations right off. Look at George Bridgeman and Andrew Loomis for guidance on your figure work and please, I don’t know anything about Anime or Manga so I won’t be any help there at all. Your best bet is to go to art school. Honestly it is. There are always grants that go begging along with Federal and State money for tuition.

You can check out Melissa’s other work on her website.



1. MTGBattlefield - July 22, 2009

Melissa Benson – The Interview…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

2. CopySix - July 24, 2009

Thanks Cory and Norm for this interview – enjoyed the read.

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