torsdag 19 december 2013

Interview with Eric Deschamps

The previous artist interview had an astronomical amount of views given this blog's regular standards. You sure have a lot of fans, Cynthia!
Next up is an interview I feel pretty excited about. Without further ado:


August: Hello, Eric. Thank you for accepting this interview!
While I might know you very well as an artist, I barely know anything about you as a person. Please tell us something about yourself!

Eric Deschamps
  • I live in New York (not the city but the state) in the U.S. 
  • I went to college at Syracuse University with a major in Communication Design. 
  • Before illustration, I worked as a broadcast designer for NBC in New York City. 
  • I’d rather draw trees and mountains instead of buildings and roads. 
  • I love the Zelda and Phantasy Star line of video games. 
  • I haven’t decided which mana color I like the best. I know it’s not white. Coincidentally, I seem to illustrate a lot of white cards.
  • I am married with an 8 year old daughter. 
  • I enjoy playing basketball. 
  • I have a beard.  
Au: According to your website, you have worked as an illustrator for 10 years. What was your first paid job as an artist?

ED: I received my first paid illustration job while attending the San Diego Comic-con. I signed up for a portfolio review with the Magic the Gathering art director at the time, Jeremy Cranford. I had exchanged emails with him a few times in the past but I did not receive any work until our face to face interview. My first assignment was Goblin S.W.A.T. Team and Pygmy Giant for the Unhinged set.

Au: Cool!
You have published some videos where we can watch you work from start to finish on some illustrations from MtG. I have to admit that I'm extremely impressed by your technical skill! When and why  did you start working digitally? 

ED: Thank you! Probably 11 or 12 years ago. I started working digitally almost out of desperation. Most artists that I knew started their path to become illustrators in college. I only took a couple of illustration courses in college and didn’t do much artwork after college while I worked as a graphic designer. I felt behind and I was worrying about bills pilling up if I painted traditionally. I thought working digitally would give me a quicker path to doing the paid work I wanted to do. If there are any aspiring artists reading this, I would discourage this route. Learning digital paint in place of traditional paint too early on can develop a lot of bad habits.

Au: You have been given an astounding amount of planeswalkers, powerful cards that often have a large impact on the game. Do you enjoy working with these iconic characters?

ED: I love working on planeswalkers. They are my favorite assignments. Illustrating a character that has the potential to stick around can’t be passed up. Even better if I get the opportunity to design them from the ground up.
Au: Speaking of planeswalkers, you have depicted Venser three times (two times as Venser, the Sojourner and once as Venser, Shaper Savant). Are you starting to get tired of that guy? ;)

ED: Nope. He was my first really big character. I owe a lot to him!

Au: Question from my wife: "What would be your title as a planeswalker?" (as in "the Sojourner", "Sun's Champion" and so on)

ED: Eric, Basement Office Dweller.

Au: Haha, that's epic!
Earlier this year, I did an interview with Adam Paquette. Together with Adam you were a part of the Theros concept design team, which also included Todd Lockwood, Peter Mohrbacher and Steve Prescott. Adam said the creative process was exhilarating. Please tell us about the dynamic in the group and the work you did together!

ED: It was intimidating to watch these artist work! It was my first time working on concept art with a team in the same location as well as being fully immersed in the process. Usually when I work as a concept artist I am working remotely. I am mostly filling in gaps for a game company’s on site staff. Partaking in the full process was quite a learning experience and I was very inspired by it. It seemed that each person was picked for a certain strength they had. For example Steve Prescott can draw just about anything in a moments notice and Adam Paquette kicks out great environment ideas like a factory. 

Au: You have some card illustrations in Theros as well. Elspeth, Sun's Champion of course, and Purphoros, God of the Forge. Purphoros particularly, looks absolutely amazing! To be honest, I even have him as desktop wallpaper on my Macbook. How was it to give life to a god?

ED: It is challenge to get that sense of scale and grandeur you want in a depiction of a god. You almost always want the camera angle to be really low for that sense of scale, so at least I knew I could start there! I also tried to get him to meld into his environment and become a part of it. One trick that is used pretty often to make something look huge is to use atmospheric perspective where the atmosphere between the object and viewer makes the object look low in contrast and color. Since these gods had to have the black night sky peeking through their shadow areas, this common trick couldn't be used to any significant degree. Because of this, a lot of extra time was spent trying to really get the drawing right, so that it looked like we were seeing Purphoros from far below.

Au: I'm sorry if I'm completely off the mark here, but I have to ask: doesn't Purphoros have some striking similarities to one of your older works? The armor especially, has much in common with… Mirran Crusader!  What do you say?

ED: Hmmm. Richard Whitters did a bulk of the design work on Purphoros. But you are right, I see the similarity to Mirran Crusader. Maybe it is way I interpreted Richard's design. The Mirrodin characters consisted of a lot of metal and Purphoros is similar in that way. It makes sense that I might have unknowingly pulled from my work on the Scars of Mirrodin block.

Au: If you were commissioned to illustrate an actual god from Greek mythology, who would you choose?

ED: If I had to choose it would be Neptune. My choice has nothing to do with the story of Neptune. I have always had a connection to envisioning sea people. I was really excited to illustrate the tritons in Theros.

Au: You did the illustration for Oloro, Ageless Ascetic from Commander 2013. He sure looks awe-inspiring and erh… giant. Please tell us about the creative process behind this card!

ED: Oloro is supposed to be an ancient giant who has discovered the secret to eternal life. It is the waterfalls falling off of his enormous throne. He rarely moves off of it. I decided to focus on the throne before I worried about to much about Oloro. I wanted it to pass as ruined architecture that served as a throne for a giant. Next was figuring out how to make him look huge. I did this with a tree next to his throne that is about the same height as his sword. A low camera angle always helps too. I also put in a few subtle touches that you would only notice if you saw the artwork big. His chest and bicep straps are affixed with human swords and axes.

Au: On your website it says that you have worked as a video game concept artist. Considering I'm quite a gamer, this makes me curious! Which clients and games have you worked with?

ED: I worked on the game Marvel Ultimate Alliance II where I got to design a bunch of the heroes and villains for the game. I also worked on Reckoning: Kingdoms of Amalur and End of Nations.

Au: Please don't be offended by this, but since it's become an internet phenomenon: what's up with Olivia Voldaren's dress?

ED: Don't worry, I am not offended. This probably the most frequently asked question! I guess the hanging drapery of her dress doesn’t work as well as it should have. You can’t win them all.  She is supposed to be holding her dress up daintily while floating above with both of her legs stretched out. Nothing phallic. :)

Au: I actually find it kind of depressing that's the most common question. Good answer, though!
Thank you for your time, Eric, and thank you for all the fantastic art.

This interview can be found in Swedish on SvenskaMagic.

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