Magic Artist Steven Belledin is the man behind the look of such cards as Deathmark, Evolving Wilds, and most recently, Mikaeus, the Lunarch. I caught up with him as he met with a long line of fans. In between the glad-handing and card-signing, he answered a few questions about his art and his artistic process.
(after my making a weak joke about him wearing out his wrist signing cards this weekend)
"That has actually happened to me once, but seriously, I consider getting to do this a real privelege. These people are so great, it's rewarding to get to talk to them."
On Transitions of Styles
I asked Steven if it was tough moving from the Science Fiction Nightmare of New Phyrexia to the traditional Gothic Horror of Innistrad.
"Actually quite the opposite. By the time the third set in a block rolls around, a few things have happened. On the good side of things, I'll have finally hit my stride when it comes to the look and feel of the block. I always feel like my best work comes in the third set. Early on, I'm still learning. The styleguides we're given are incredible, there's so much detail. On top of that, it isn't until after the first set is out that you get to see what all the other artists are doing, so that gives you the full context of things.
"On the other side, having spent so long in one world, I'm pretty eager to move on to the next thing. The worst thing that can happen to me artistically is getting bored. That can make the work really difficult. So I actually find moving to a new style refreshing. It's rarely a challenge for me.
"The biggest stylistic challenge I've faced so far was in Lorwyn and Shadowmoor. It wasn't just, you know, taking in all the information about the look and feel of the world. For those sets the style was so far from what Magic usually looks like. It was like learning whole new shapes for things."
On the Creative Process
All that talk about the evolution of his work across a block got me interested in just how he goes about things.
"I don't really have a set pattern of how I approach a painting. That's just how my brain is wired, I guess. I resist that kind of structure. I know some artists who have a rigorous structure, you know, first I do A, then I do B, then I do C, and that works great for them. I can't do it like that.
"For some pieces, there's something really specific you have to capture, and so you have to make sure all the details come out right. That can be pretty trying. For others, you're given a starting point and extrapolating from that, and that usually goes a lot better. Some of my favourite of my pieces have come from that, where I can just see exactly what I want to do. Surgical Extraction was like that. I read the description and I could practically see the finished painting. It's no wonder that it's my favorite. The ones where I try out tons of different sketches, those are the ones that are hardest from me, and usually the ones I finish last."
On Traditional vs Digital
"I don't think there's too much to be made of that. It's just a preference. The one thing is that Traditional feels a bit more time-intensive for me."
On Artistic Rivalry
"There's a little bit of that, but it's hardly serious. It's more like, you see someone's work and that inspires you to work harder. After the first set comes out, Wizards will send us a collection of the arts that they feel best represent the world, so you always want to be up there."
For a full look at Steven's Magic oeuvre click here.