Welcome to the #14 MTG artists interview series, There’s no Magic without art.

Today we have the pleasure of sharing our interview with Warren Mahy, here’s what he told us.

“I imagined a goblin psychopath in control of a large walking robot swinging a mechanical whip having a softer side”

– Warren Mahy

Hi Warren! Tell us a little about how you got started working on Magic.

I was working for Weta Workshop as a concept designer here in New Zealand on the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy and through connections there, I was offered work illustrating a ‘LoTR’ RPG game.

From that point I made contact with a couple of the Art Directors at Wizards of the Coast. I had played (and still play!) Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and always imagined having drawings of my own in the D & D ‘Monster manuals’.

The opportunity to add illustration work for WoTC was offered and it moved on from there to Magic cards.

Goblin Furrier © Wizards of the Coast

How familiar were you with the game, and how did that change over time?

To be honest, I had never played ‘Magic’ before I started illustrating Magic cards and even now, could probably count the number of times I’ve played on one hand!

I have a personal issue (problem) with fixating on ‘new’ things that often turns quickly to obsession, so getting into Magic was something I consciously kept at arm’s length, not because I dislike the game but more along the lines of keeping a hold on my wallet and time!

Purity © Wizards of the Coast

Can you give us a brief description of your painting process for Magic cards?

Apart from the preliminary pencil design and sketch process, all of my rendering is done digitally. I first scan the ‘final’ sketch and start the colour pass in Coral Painter,

I then move into Photoshop. I lay down a canvas ‘toned ground’ first and then begin the blocking in of Shadows and Light. Once I’m happy with the overall contrast, I’ll begin adding colour.

What were some of the most challenging cards you painted for Magic?

I really enjoy a challenge and having an illustration brief that pushes my artistic boundaries is exciting. If I had to nail down an aspect that would consistently be an issue, it would be any illustration that requires lots of architectural structures and form.

Simian Brawler © Wizards of the Coast

You’re one of the go-to artists when it comes to Goblins. Amongst your portfolio, we can find the famous Goblin Guide and the dancing Battle-Rattle Shaman.

We also found some amusing Goblins of yours in the lighthearted unstable set. In few words, how does it feel to be a Goblin master?

Goblin master? HA! I guess my artistic ‘bend’ has always been to the ‘dark’ side, so any creature or illustration context that includes something mischievous or evil such as Goblins, Boggarts or Trows fit into this criteria well.

During the making of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films, I spent most of my years working on Orc’s, Goblins and the Uruk Hai, basically anybody or any ’thing’ that worked in Mordor for Sauron.

Steamflogger Service Rep © Wizards of the Coast

Many of your cards share this vibrant yellow background light. We can find it in cards like Warmonger’s Chariot, Sunken Ruins, and others. What can you tell us about this effect?

That would probably be related to the ‘Yellow Ochre’ ‘toned ground’ I use a lot. I think it gives the background a ‘thick’ ambiguous atmosphere that helps to towards a feel of depth without the use of receding elements.

The Warm tone could be imagined to be sunlight breaking through a thick cloud layer or be the light of fires burning from a distant raging battle.

Wormwood Dryad © Wizards of the Coast

Of all the cards you painted, what’s your favorite?

That would be the ‘Steamflogger Boss” card. It was the first time I’d had the opportunity to mix Goblin creatures into a ‘Steam punk’ world. My daughter was about 18 months old at the time and often walked around holding her favourite toys.

I then imagined a goblin psychopath in control of a large walking robot swinging a mechanical whip having a ‘softer’ side. If you look closely at the Goblin ‘Boss’ sitting up in the ‘walker’ you can just make out a small pink ‘Teddy Bear’ sitting next to him.

Steamflogger Boss © Wizards of the Coast

Is there any Magic related story/episode you’d like to share with us?

I’ve been to a few Magic events as a ‘guest’ artist and no matter where in the world I am, I always have an amazing time. The players and event crews are brilliant and something about the ‘Magic’ game brings everyone together like one big family.

My first time to a USA tournament (Pittsburgh 2016) was highlighted on day one by players wanting signatures and asking where my ‘Tip jar’ was. Being from New Zealand where we don’t tip,

I had no idea what the hell they were talking about. It wasn’t until one of the players pointed out another artist ‘Jar’ (which was large!) did I finally get what they were on about. I quickly fashioned a money receptacle out of a box I’d brought my artist proof cards in and I was set.

Wasp Lancer © Wizards of the Coast

Thank you for reading!

We want to thank Warren for the interview, you can find more about his work on his website.

Meet us next week for another interview!