torsdag 13 februari 2014

Interview with Willian Murai

With the kind permission of SvenskaMagic, here's another MtG artist interview for your reading pleasure. :)


August: Hello, Will. Thank you for accepting this interview!
You have quite an interesting background. You were born in Brazil, but your parents are from Japan. Why did you parents move to Brazil? What was it like growing up in another culture?
Willian Murai: Fun fact about Brazil is that it has the largest Japanese community outside Japan. The immigration started more than 100 years ago, mostly to work at the coffee plantations as farmers. In my case, my grandparents moved to Brazil in the 40’s, to escape from the war. They had my parents here, which make them what is called Nissei (second generation of the Japanese immigrants). I am what they call Sansei (third generation).
Growing up here wasn’t that difficult, as the japanese community is very large and common. I guess I still have many aspects of the Japanese culture in my personality, but I consider myself 100% Brazilian!
Au: Wow, I really had no idea Brazil has such a large Japanese population!
You currently live in Sao Paolo. Say I went there and wanted to experience some art, where would I go?
WM: Sao Paolo has an huge art culture embeded in it. You can experience any kind of urban art interventions and many museums and galleries all around the city.
If you want to see classic and historic art, you can go to “MASP” or “Museu do Ipiranga”. There is the MAM, “Museu de Arte Moderna” and “Galeria Choque Cultural”, which is specialized in contemporary art and urban art. Recently opened, there is the Galeria Ornitorringo, specialized in illustration, which has exhibiting some of my friends work! The “Pinheiros” neighbourhood has a lot of independent galleries
and comic book shops featuring the work of some great Brazilian artists. We can go on and on about this topic!
Au: According to your website, you read a lot of manga and comics growing up. Would you say it inspired you to become an artist?
WM: Absolutely. Katsuhiro Otomo is one of my all time heroes, as well as Joe Madureira and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Those are the guys who made me WOW the first time I saw their work. And still do.
Au: Like Joe Madureira, you've worked for Marvel Comics. What do you think your ten year old self would say about that? Being an old comic books fan myself, I find it rather impressive!
WM: Oh, man. I am as happy as one can be. I feel blessed how my childhood dreams came true in the nicest possible ways. I mean, I worked on Hulk, made video games and now I am creating MtG cards. I guess the 10 year old Will would not believe it if I told him!
Au: What was the nature of the work you did for Marvel Comics and what titles did you work on? 
WM: I worked as colorist on many Incredible Hulk issues. I also worked for the Marvel Imperfects.
Au: Your art has been on the cover of Imagine FX. This has to be quite an achievement for a digital artist!
WM: Yes, it is! Sometimes I still don’t believe those things. I mean, time passes so fast that feels like I started this whole art thing yesterday, when I am about to complete 10 years of career.
Au: Much of your work has a certain humorous quality which I find very enjoyable. Except for Blustersquall, this might not be so evident in the work you've done for Magic the Gathering. Is this a conscious choice on your behalf or rather the result of art direction?
WM: Both of them. When I am working on MtG, I am more concentrated on telling the story of the card in the best way possible, not to express my feelings and beliefs about myself. This kind of thing you can find in my personal art, which reflects more of my artistic personality.
Au: What do you think is the importance of humor in art and illustration?
WM: Everything is allowed in art. It is connected to the artist vision and personality and is about the inner expression of the artist self.
Illustration is a little different. Illustration is about telling stories and communicating an idea or concept to the viewer. If humor adds value to the story and, consequently, to the product or project, then it is valuable. If not, then it shouldn’t be there. Illustration, besides using many artistic foundations, has many aspects of the design thinking of solving problems.
Au: So far, you have exclusively done humanoid characters for Magic. Would you like the opportunity to work on some monsters?
WM: Yes and no. I would love to do some sphinxes and harpies, but not every kind of monster. I guess I am better with humans!

Au: You were introduced to the MtG crowd through the Return to Ravnica block, where you did some work on the Simic, Izzet, Azorius and Selesnya guilds. Which guild appealed to you the most and why?
WM: Simic was definitely the most interesting guild in my opinion. Prime Speaker Zegana and Master Biomancer are some of my favorite characters I made so far. Azorius was fun as well, though I created only Lavinia of the Tenth.
Au: Why did Simic appeal more to you than the other guilds? 
WM: I think because Simic allows the artists to experiment with bolder concepts and ideas. It is always fun to create humanoids with animal or mutant features!

AuPrime Speaker Zegana looks absolutely stunning! I especially like her aquatic color and intricate pattern. She's such a strong character. How did you come up with the design?

WM: When I first read the briefing, I imagined her with some kind of lionfish features. This fish swims smoothly and calm, mostly because it knows how dangerous it is and no kind of predator would dare to mess with it! I imagined this kind of personality on her. The challenge was to represent it visually on the character. Jeremy Jarvis, the art director of MtG, also gave great insights to the idea when I was developing it.

Au: Yeah, I can clearly see the lionfish resemblance now. Very cool!
The product Duel Decks: Izzet vs Golgari had the same theme as Return to Ravnica, but was released a bit earlier. For this release, you made an alternate version of Brainstorm. This card is a true classic and is very well known among MtG players. Personally, I love your version! How do you think it turned out?
WM: It is fantastic how people like it! It is the most requested card to sign at the GP’s. I am glad that I was able to pull this challenge off!
Au: Magic went on to the world of Greek mythology. One of my favorite pieces of art in all of Theros is Anax and Cymede. They are truly the essence of ancient Greek royalty! Can you tell us more about this piece and the characters it portrays?
WM: There were many challenges in this particular card. The presence of both characters should have a unity. The companionship and power of them should work as one, and my role was to find the visual cues to tell this story.
Au: You have four illustrations in Born of the Gods. Pick your favorite and tell us something about it!
WM: I think Archetype of Courage is my favorite from this set. Everything in the Theros block is so interesting to create because I try to resemble this classic greek artistic feel. In this case, I wanted the anatomy and the brushstrokes to give dynamism and action to the scene.

Au: He sure looks impressive!
Thank you, Will. Guess I'll see you in Journey into Nyx!

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