Q: The long and hard way to become a Magic artist... is to send your portfolio to email@example.com and wait.
Thank you very much, thats not what I need to know . I'd like to know how one becomes an employee of the Magic art department. How the process of elimination looks, what is considered when reviewing a portfolio submission, etc. In essence, what makes Mr.Jarvis tick in the world of Magic?
–HisMastersVoice, magicthegathering.com forums
A: From Jeremy Jarvis, Magic Art Director:
I'm game. Here we go:
First some clarifications.
1. There is no MtG art department. There is no WotC art department. We have an illustration staff of one. It's Richard Whitters, Magic's in-house Lead Concept Artist. He's part of Magic Creative and leads concept pushes of freelance illustrators to flesh out world visuals for Magic styleguides. Before Richard it was me, and before me it was D. Alexander Gregory. Just one. And even that position has nothing to do with card art. It's all out of house freelance, one contract at a time.
2. firstname.lastname@example.org is totally viable. ALL WotC Art Directors on ALL WotC Brands see the submissions and I have absolutely given people work having never met or spoken to them just from their submissions to artdrop.
3. Even if I love your stuff you might not hear back for quite a while. I bookmark a LOT of artist websites and then wait for an appropriate venue for that artist. When I think I have a venue, and a concrete schedule to present them with, only THEN do I contact an artist. Why? Honestly, letting someone know I like their stuff and am looking for something for them usually leads to well-intentioned pestering while they wait. Now, as an illustrator I totally understand this. But as an Art Director I just don't have in-box space for it.
Okay, on to the meat.
How does an artist catch my eye? Well, drawing and painting are a given. You absolutely must have the chops to hang with the best fantasy illustrators in the world. It needs to go without saying that your work can stand in the company of Donato, Lockwood, Staples, Walker, Murray, Bonner, Howe etc.
Now lets assume that the hand skills and technique are there. What am I looking for?
Your 'voice' as an illustrator. Not just your visual 'style', but the 'voice' of your body of work. How you think and approach things. As a commercial illustrator your goal is of an AD to look over his/her list of art descrips and say 'OMG, you know who I would LUV to see tackle this particular card/cover/poster/whatever?! Illustrator X!!!'
Your portfolio has to leave an impression of what your work's about... What you're about as an illustrator. That's how you get assignments.
It's rk Post's approach and thought process that gets Faerie Macabre assigned to him. It's how Jim Murray thinks and solves problems on top of just how his work 'looks' that gets him Gaea's Herald.
Why did Adam Rex get Shadowmoor Packaging? Because he's Adam Rex, not just because he's a competent painter. I was so hot on the idea of having Adam and ONLY Adam on Shadowmoor packaging that I lined him up a YEAR in advance to make sure he could fit it in his schedule.
3 to 5 samples will get you work if they are on-the-money, right for the Brand (in terms of aesthetic, level of finish, and 'tone and vibe'), and convey your voice as a painter.
You should have a larger portfolio or website available to support those few samples, but the right 3 will do it.
I know that's a little abstract, but that's my answer as best I can give it. I hope that helps.