Today we have the genuine pleasure of sharing with you a recent interview we had with the incredibly talented illustrator, Dominik Mayer!
His work has likely been seen by most, if not all, of our MTG fans at some point, as you can see his art on a number of Magic: The Gathering cards (including some of my personal favorites!). Our recent New Capenna Family Crests were inspired by some of Dominik's art, so it only made sense for us to reach out and speak with him about his experiences as an artist - give it a look below!
Pinfinity: First and foremost, Dominik - why don't you give us a quick introduction and some of your background?
Dominik: I am a full time freelance illustrator mainly focusing on fantasy art. Preferably dark fantasy. I studied Illustration and 3D animation in Nuremberg, Germany, where I currently live. During my study I realised that I am more drawn to the concept art instead of the other parts of the 3D production workflow, so I decided that I focus on that. After doing an Internship in Hamburg as concept artist for games and working in-house as 3D/2D generalist and Graphic designer in different smaller studios, I decided to go full-time freelance.
What drew you (pun intended!) to working on projects like Magic the Gathering?
I always loved fantasy. Fantasy video games, pen and paper role play games and movies. My first video games were Age of Empires 2 and Gothic. I still love those games and I have so many great memories associated with them. As children we also did a lot if LARPing and pen and paper as well as card games like Magic the Gathering. I started playing Magic around 2002 with the set “Legions”. With my passion of drawing fantasy stuff and playing the game, I always dreamed of doing art for them one day. So besides many other great fantasy projects I worked on, Magic is special for me.
Your Artstation page mentions some of your biggest inspiration are history, science, and "that crazy world out there". Can you give us a few examples of how those inspirations have influenced your work?
Together with fantasy I also love history. Especially the medieval ages and the old Sumerian cultures. I actually started studying history but quit to start my creative career. There are sooo many amazing things in the past that can spark your inspiration. Especially the small stuff like old engravings or armor designs or tools, rituals and many other things. Reading about that and searching for those inspirations is so much fun. That basically goes for everything - not only history. And that is what I mean when I say “crazy world”. Just look at nature or science as another example. There are so many unbelievable crazy things out there which you would never think exist. It is so inspiring and creates tons of new ideas.
Comparing your Artstation page to your search on Scryfall really reflects a style you bring to your MTG art! I've always been intrigued by how the art on these cards comes to be - what's your process look like when you make a new card? (i.e. do they give you the card name/card mechanic and you build the art around it, or is there a different approach?)
Sometimes I get more information about a card and its rules. For example when it is a reprint like the cards for the Mythical Archive. Knowing what the card does definitely helps a lot creating a fitting artwork for it. But often times there are very little information about the card. I often just get a small text, like two lines of description what they would like to see on the card together with a specific mood. For example for Moraug, Fury of Akoum, it was all about the rage. And that rage should be reflected in the illustration. For the new triomes in New Capenna I knew that they will produce mana in three colours. I incorporated that into the illustrations with the small opening in the doors visible on those cards which glow in those specific colours.
Luckily I have a lot of freedom how I interpret those briefings and the Art Directors at Wizards are very open to additional ideas and experimentation. I really appreciate that and it helps me to push the style for each set a bit more and search for visuals that make a good fit for the mood of the different worlds.
As someone who plays a lot of blue, your Blue Sun's Zenith and Negate cards really jump out at me since I see them a lot - do you have any favorite cards you've worked on?
My favourite color to work with is definitely red. I really enjoy it when I can go crazy with it. So my favourite cards are probably Curse of Hospitality and Abrade done for Crimson Vow.
You also mentioned one of your inspirations was other artists - who are some of your favorite artists and/or the artists that have most influenced and impacted your work?
That is something that is constantly changing. At the moment I would name the following as my main inspiration:
- Gustav Klimt
- J.C. Leyendecker
- John Singer Sargent
- Hieronymus Bosch
- Zdzislaw Beksinski
- Seb McKinnon
- Piotr Jabłoński
- Jeff Simpson
- Zhihui Su
- And many others
Any other thoughts or things you'd like to share?
I get asked a lot how I developed my style and how artists who just starting out can develop their own unique style. And I want to release the pressure of doing that a bit. It is important. No question about that. But in my opinion it is nothing that needs to be or can be forced. It comes on it’s own. Just focus on doing what you love and most importantly have fun doing it. If you focus on the fun part you will organically develop a style and it will be much more believable and authentic than trying to create it on purpose. At least that is how I did it and my style is also evolving all the time. I am sure my paintings will look different in a few years and that is good. Otherwise I would be bored very quickly. Explore and have fun and never stop creating and you will end up with something special.