The Artists of Magic: Lake Hurwitz

Posted in Feature on July 26, 2017

By Nicholas Wolfram

Nicholas Wolfram fell promptly in love with tabletop and video games when he was only two years old, and he has been writing about them since he figured out how words worked. Now he puts together words about Magic, which he started playing way back in 2000.

Celebrating a Newer Magic Artist

Last month I had the pleasure of sitting down with Noah Bradley to discuss the art that he creates for Magic. This month, I get to continue this article series with Lake Hurwitz, one of the newer artists of Magic.

Lake's Magic art first became public in 2015 with a single card in Fate Reforged. Since then, his art has appeared in nearly every Standard-legal and supplementary set that has gone to print. Those of you who were active in Dragons of Tarkir Limited (or even Standard) will likely recognize his art for the first iteration of Anticipate.

Now that we've built adequate anticipation, let's see what Lake had to say about Magic and the art he creates for it!

Lake Hurwitz

Nicholas Wolfram (NW): Why do you like creating art for Magic?

Lake Hurwitz (LH): That's a simple question with complex answers. I've been playing the game since I was six years old and my father bought me a starter box way back in the days of Ice Age. More than just painting, I love working on a property that has given me so much joy over the course of my life.

NW: Ice Age was certainly a long time ago and a pretty historic set for Magic. Do you remember opening any cards in that first box that blew your six-year-old mind?

LH: Well . . . the Nightmare in the first box (I think it was a Fourth Edition box) was the most impactful. The others that I remember being in that box were Hurloon Minotaur and Lightning Bolt. However, I'll say that probably my favorite card from back in childhood was Jester's Cap—I left it in a pocket and it went through the wash, unfortunately.

NW: I'm sorry that your washing machine removed Jester's Cap from the game—permanently. Let's move on to a different topic so you don't have to relive that. After you get the art callout for a new card, what does your creation process look like? How long does the process typically take you per card?

LH: This depends heavily on the brief. I make sure I thoroughly understand what the card needs before I begin brainstorming.

The artwork starts with small doodles of half-thought ideas. Sometimes, I nail down what I want within the first three or four of these; other times it takes me upwards of 20. Then, I'll choose two that I want to work with and work up sketches.

I mostly complete my sketches in pencil, though occasionally I'll paint them in Photoshop. If the artwork contains man-made architecture, I'll usually use 3D software to mock-up the general forms (much like traditional illustrators would use a maquette). I also make sure to compile necessary photo references.

Finishing the card takes one to three days, depending on complexity. I'll render any 3D architecture or props from the sketch for use in the final and paint everything in Photoshop. I'm always on the lookout for new software and tools, and I have occasionally finished card art in Procreate on my [tablet].

NW: Does your process or approach differ depending on the color identity or card type of the card?

LH: Quite a bit. Knowing the color identity of a card certainly informs the brainstorming stage. If I'm working on a creature, I make a special effort to portray the visual aspects of that creature that make it unique or identifiable as its creature type.

NW: Is there a creature type you have yet to draw that you're itching to take a crack at?

LH: In terms of creature types, I'd like to take a crack at Demons, Fungus, and Thrulls!

NW: What is your favorite Magic card that happens to feature your art?

LH: I have two answers for this question. The card art that I'm most proud of is Call the Bloodline. However, my favorite card that features my art is Pyroblast—it was a real thrill to work on a card from my childhood.

NW: What piece that you created for Amonkhet are you most proud of?

LH: I created four pieces of artwork for two cards in Amonkhet—the cards and their embalmed tokens. Oketra's Attendant was magnificently fun to work on since I got to run wild with architecture, anatomy, and materials. I'm quite happy with the quality of the light in that card art.

NW: Okay, let's say you've just been commissioned to create new art for a reprint of your artistic dream card. What card is it, and why are you so excited?

LH: Tough question! I'm going to go with my gut and say Nightmare. In that first starter box, it was the primo rare that was included and immediately captured my mind. The Nightmare also stems from classical mythology (which I've always been interested in) and resonates beyond just the Magic: The Gathering property. It's so iconic and so badass!

NW: I'm not gonna lie; Nightmare was a mind-blowing card to me when I first saw it in a Sixth Edition pack. We're coming to the end of the interview, so I wanted to ask something for hopeful Magic-artists-to-be out there. As one of the newer artists for Magic, do you have any advice for aspiring artists trying to break into the scene?

LH: My major advice would be to focus on skills first. Every artist who has ever worked on Magic started as a kid with no skills and put in the hard work to get where they are now. To work on epic pieces like those in Magic, you should have your fundamentals on lock. Socially, you should seek out artists you admire and don't be afraid to connect with them! Be polite, professional, and passionate.

NW: I can see that advice helping many of the artists who have long dreamed of working with Magic; I know quite a few myself. Do you have anything else you'd like to say to the Magic community?

LH: Here's to many more years of Magic!


Thanks, Lake, for the insightful answers and (more importantly) the wonderful art!

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