Within the wide world of MTG, several critical components make up each Magic: the Gathering card. Alongside the obviously important mechanics, statics, and name of each MTG card, art is an essential part of the game. Unfortunately, as good as it looks, MTG’s art can often take a backseat to the mechanics and moment-to-moment gameplay. Despite being an integral part of the game, stunning artworks are rarely given more than a brief mention by players. Following Wrenn and Realmbreaker being spoiled, for instance, players were enamored by the MTG card’s powerful mechanics rather than its art. This isn’t to say the art isn’t good, quite the opposite in fact, however, it nevertheless doesn’t get the limelight. Considering the effort that MTG’s roster of artists put into their work, this is a crying shame, as was recently pointed out by Artist Jason Rainville.
The Making of a Masterpiece
While art is undoubtedly an integral part of MTG, it’s often a feature that’s shrouded by mystery. Design details are frequently revealed by Mark Rosewater and Wizards’ development team in blog posts, however, artists aren’t given the same platform. Subsequently, without scouring Twitter and Reddit posts, it can be difficult to understand the artistic process that artists go through. Thankfully for interested players, occasionally, artists do speak out while deconstructing their work. Recently, freelance illustrator Jason Rainville has done just this, following their latest masterpiece being released.
Appearing during episode eight of the main March of the Machine story, Wrenn and Eight, Jason Rainville’s latest artwork is absolutely incredible. Featuring vast amounts of detail, and a classical composition, by their own admission, this piece is their latest “new best.” Within an expansive thread on Twitter, Rainville recently divulged how this piece came to be and why it’s so good. Kicking off the thread, Rainville stated how they felt like they had something to prove after some difficult times and a break. Subsequently, they put their all into their latest piece, creating dozens of thumbnails, sketches, and compositions in pursuit of perfection. Following this, Rainville obviously put in a huge amount of work to make the piece as detailed and complex as the final version.
While we can’t go into all the detail here, Rainville’s thread is well worth a read if you have any passing interest in art. With sketches, inspiration, and references aplenty, it’s an incredibly intriguing peek behind the curtain that we’d love to see again.
After detailing their creative process for this artwork, Rainville shifted their focus to discuss why, unfortunately, this quality isn’t sustainable. One primary reason for this is the cost of producing artwork that looks this good. Continuing their thread, Rainville explained how, for this piece, they were paid the “base card pay,” of $1,000. While this may seem like a lot, Rainville stated it took them a solid week to get the sketch approved. Following this, there was a further “couple days for sketches.” All in all, creating this currently unnamed artwork took “at minimum, nine days of nonstop work.” In Rainville’s eyes, this was too much, as “I don’t think 1k pays for something of this (TBH) high quality.”
“So no, this should not be “the new standard” for me, or any MTG artist. I don’t think it should take everything an artist has to work literally all day creating the best thing they’ve ever done to make, extrapolated, 3k a month. Before taxes.”Jason Rainville
Despite their pricing complaint, Rainville went on to explain why they put so much effort into the art they create. At the end of the day, it’s not all about the money, but instead impressing the people who matter. Highlighting Wizards’ creative team, fellow artists, as well as countless MTG fans, there are a lot of people to impress. Alongside all these, however, Rainville noted how, above all else, they put the effort in for themselves, despite the paycheck.
“I had something to prove. I was able to do the sketch I wanted, something narrative and full of drama, and I worked all evening every day because it was…. fun. It was very very satisfying working on this, seeing it come together & knowing -I- did it”Jason Rainville
Thankfully, it’s safe to say that all the effort Rainville put in paid off, as MTG players adore the artwork. So much so that across social media, countless users rallied behind Rainville, looking to support them by purchasing prints and playmats. Currently, only art prints are available via Rainville’s INPRNT store, however, playmats are being looked into. From this support, it’s clear to see that MTG players do adore the art that gets commissioned for the game. Even if it doesn’t always get the spotlight, it deserves it.
Closing out their thread on Twitter, Rainville took some time to push back against the growing prevalence of AI art. As we’ve previously discussed, AI art is getting good, and since we talked about it back in August of 2022, it’s only been getting better. With more improvements on the horizon, AI art seems poised to revolutionize the art industry as we know it. According to Rainville, however, this is the opposite of a good thing, as AI art is ultimately soulless. “Fuck AI art. Please, try art.”
Following up on this dramatic statement, Rainville detailed how the human factor will always come out on top. Thanks to artists that understand the source material and the emotion behind what they’re making, they’re able to create something more. “Art is not just a picture. It’s the connection.” Furthermore, Rainville noted that while AI art can be competent, it lacks the understanding of a true artist.
“I’m talking to you through pixels, trying to tell you that I understand what’s happening in the scene, the world, the story. I understand why you’re interested in all this & I understand how to present it to you & make it richer. I like this dramatic moment, & I want to share it.
You can get a pretty picture from a machine. One that could maybe render something ‘better’ than me. Certainly quicker, and in huge quantity. But there’s no connection. It doesn’t know why you like it or what drama even is. it doesn’t know why Wrenn’s brow is slightly furrowed, why these gold-plated warriors are stoically pushing forward. This piece worked because a human made it. Because humans made all the MTG art you love”Jason Rainville
For better or worse, currently, according to Rainville, “WotC has no plans to implement AI, as far as I know.” There’s the possibility this may change in the future, however, until Wizards speaks out, we won’t know for certain.