The Top Deck Events Playmat for GP Auckland was designed by Steve Argyle, long time Magic art professional, and we were lucky enough to have is attendance in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
I had a chance to sit down with Steve to talk about his process for developing artwork for three of his iconic one-drops, Deathrite Shaman, Monastery Swiftspear and Glistener Elf.
“Usually they don't tell us what the card or the mechanics will be, partially for secrecy reasons, and partially because some artists don't know the game that well. We use codenames for the most part. Deathrite Shaman was Golgari Gravedigger, or something like that. Monastery Swiftspear was Long-Pike Monk. Glistener Elf was Veincutter Elf.”
“Typically, I don't know power level. It’s up to the artist to interpret what the card will do, and come up with ideas that show that and be cool. Once in a while I'll get told 'this is going to be a big card'. and for mythic rares and planeswalkers, WotC let you know it's going to be big.”
I asked Steve which of the three one-drops he enjoyed creating the most.
“I'm partial to Monastery Swiftspear. I think it turned out pretty and I think it fits the set. I like doing MTG artwork and Asian themed artwork, so this combined the two. I’ve been telling WOTC for years if they ever do a Return to Kawigama, they better get me in on that. I'll live under a conference table and paint until they're out of things to do.
I asked Steve about how he used a combination of 3D modelling and 2D digital painting when developing the artwork for Monastery Swiftspear.
“I started my artistic career/ journey as a 3D modeller for video games, so for me, sometimes it's easier to collect reference material by building it in 3D and rendering it out, because some things are hard to take photo of. If I can, I'll do photo shoots with live models. However, for monsters and crazy architecture, it's easier to build a model and fake it than it is to invent it entirely on the page or hack together references from other places.
“Often I'll use a 3D model the same way as I would use a reference photo. Most of the time I'll set it aside and re-draw, because then you get a little bit more style and feeling than when you slap the 3D model straight it in there. You can always tell when an artist takes a photo, sticks it in, and paints around it.”
“However the Monastery Swiftspear model fit very well, so I painted straight over it, which I don’t usually do. If you go to my website it links to a timeline of me drawing it. My Tumblr page is mostly pictures, but I do have some commentary. One of the things I recently talked about was alteration and process. I think it's a lot of fun. I like the challenge of doing a different take on the same characters, same pose.”
I would of loved to have stayed chatting, but Steve was being overwhelmed by people requesting alterations of their favourite Argyle-artwork cards, so we had to leave it there.