Offical version published in Swedish at SvenskaMagic!
INTERVIEW WITH TITUS LUNTER
August: Hello, Titus. Thank you for accepting this interview!
As I understand it, you are Dutch but currently live in Sweden. Please tell us more!
Titus Lunter: Yes! That's right, I live in the sunny south in Malmö. I lived here in 2014 for a year when I was working for Ubisoft, went away, and now I'm back!
Au: What are you doing in Sweden? How do you like it here?
TL: I was working in Denmark until March of 2016, now I'm just relaxing. I love Sweden, it's very similar to the Netherlands so it's not difficult to adjust. Although, speaking Swedish is very difficult. You guys are too nice, all speaking English. Hard to learn when you don't have to haha.
Au: Reading your Facebook, I get the impression that you play Magic yourself. Is that correct?
TL: Oh yes. Love playing MtG. I've been playing since around late 2010. One of my best friends got me into it, he's been playing since 1997. At that time infect was just coming around and the world of Mirrodin and the Phyrexians got me hooked instantly. Been the most amazing wallet drain every since. I pretty much tweet about Magic all day every day.
Au: Good to hear! It's great talking to an artist which is also a player!
Was it playing MtG that led to the job as a MtG artist or was it the other way around?
TL: I was already an artist at the time but I didn't really know a lot about the game until I started playing. When I fell in love with the game I started trying to get into MtG straight away. It took 3 years of submitting my work before I got in. One of the proudest moments of my career for sure. I will however, remain (casual) player first - artist second.
Au: You started working with MtG in Khans of Tarkir. I remember I noticed your work immediately, since I liked the artwork for Frontier Bivouac a lot.
You did quite a few lands for that block. What are you thoughts on the environments of Khans?
TL: Khans was really cool and at the same time a bit of a odd duck. MtG had done Theros before but wasn't all that big on 'familiar places'. At that time, still, I thought everything moving forward would be Zendikar-esque. That being said, Temur was right up my alley. Cold desolate mountainous regions are the best. Despite it being somewhat of a real world place the world feels very diverse which made for some crazy illustrations done by my colleagues. It also allowed me to do a mountain which is, to date, still one of my favorite illustrations that I've done for MtG.
You did Part the Waterveil from Battle for Zendikar. I think it's kind of a pity it's presented in such a small scale, since it's got some great details with the waterfall, hedrons breaching from the rock and some out of focus birds in the foreground.
Do you ever regret the scale of the trading card format?
TL: I think the size brings a lot of cool challenges with it, getting across grand ideas on a thumbnail is painfully difficult sometimes. Adding too much detail can even ruin a card, making it unreadable. Walking that fine line is one of the most interesting things. So, personally I don't mind the format - I would love to see some more big cards like what they had for Planechase and Archenemy. For me, I like making the illustrations fairly rich in detail because there is just so much to say. So many micro-stories can be found in some of the cards, I think it comes from love for the game. You play it, know it, want to do right by the people playing it and the lore team so you add tons of stuff to enrich it.
Au: That's a very admirable attitude, I think. :)
You did a cycle of the famous expedtions, namely the Battle for Zendikar duals. Being a player yourself, you're aware of the hype surrounding these lands. Were you excited about the assignment? Did you feel any extra pressure to deliver?
TL: Oh yes, these were absolutely huge for me. When I got the art brief I saw in the description that the resolution was all wrong, then I read "full art" and I just lost it. Doing full art stuff is living the dream as far as being an artist goes. The rarity of them is almost secondary, although, you won't hear me complain about it. I don't even own a real copy! I just wish the pro's wouldn't mind the full foil thing, I'd love to see a expedition being played at a GP or pro-tour.
Au: You've got a couple of pieces in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. For this set you've done new artowk for Burgeoning. Have you seen Randy Gallegos original art for the card?
TL: Yes, absolutely, I loved Burgeoning long before I got to do the remake. I'm a big fan of green ramp, especially with hydras. Even though it's hard to get it to work properly in competitive - but maybe that's just me. For the art direction on that one they wanted the same kind of explosiveness where nature was really on a rampage and in a flash of a instant took everything over. Randy's piece has this wonderful sense of motion to it, you can really feel nature taking over. The one regret I have with mine is that it's too static. I was going for a morning after vibe. Guy opens window, and is like "Wow what?!". Maybe I should've done it more as it was happening. I often look at old school magic cards, for any piece, because even though art direction was less back then, those illustrators set the bar. They made the original atmosphere and I would like to respect that.
Au: Good to hear!
I really like your version with the overgrown castle! Please tell us more about this piece! Did you enjoy making it?
TL: It was a massive project. I modeled the whole thing in 3D - the entire castle complex, just to find the right angle. I usually sketch on paper or digital, in lines, pick a composition and go for it. This time however I couldn't get the right amount of complexity into the sketch so I decided to move to 3D. Once it was all in place it was all about painting convincing daylight, and let me just say, that's one of the most difficult things ever. It was a lot of fun and also a dream come true. Give the guy who plays green ramp a green ramp card? Yes please. Artist deck here we come!
TL: The statues. Wow. They took a long time hahah. Cynthia, the AD, had to push me quite hard before I got it right. As for the rest, the styleguide had a lot of amazing designs in them done by some of the most impressive MtG artists ever. I just looked at what they did and painted it, not having to design it saves a whole bunch of time. As for the design of the room, I was at a castle in the UK which had a pretty elaborate royal bedroom and I took a lot of inspiration from that. Really get that regal decadent feeling. Throne of the high city, that's not a place to take lightly. Especially when taking Marchesa's personality into account.
Au: Soon we're off to Kaladesh, a mystical world of magic, science and inventions. I have not seen your name in the spoilers so far. Will your art be in the set?
TL: Yes. Though not as much as in Khans. When Kaladesh was made I was working full time so I didn't have a lot of time to do cards.
Au: How do you like the Kaladesh setting?
TL: Love it. To look at it at least, painting it was a challenge. So much detail. It was a bit overwhelming. At the time, looking at the guide and seeing vehicles, I remember thinking that this set was going to be huge. It's doing a lot of new things, in terms of the game but also how the art is approached. More vibrant, more detail, a tighter direction to keep it all on track. I have no clue how the AD's pulled it off but they did a fantastic job keeping it all coherent and on track.
Au: Tell us something about your other work as a concept artist (aside from TCGs)!
TL: I used to work in house for game companies as a environment concept artist. I did stuff like The Division, worked on the Killzone and God of War IPs, Forza Horizon 2, and a whole bunch of other games. Working as a concept artist is great for training problem solving skills but not great if you want to become better at the craft of painting. So now I'm taking a break from that and focusing on illustration doing only MtG. Some other work includes writing about art, including MtG, and the artistic process over on project-discovery.com Other than that I play magic, I enjoy Overwatch and MMO's like World of Warcraft and EVE - since there is more to life than just working!
Au: Some questions to you as a MtG player!
What format(s) do you enjoy playing?
TL: Mostly limited since that's pretty much all I have time for these days. Aside from that I play a lot of casual which I guess Modern comes closest to, kitchen table magic. Because my play group is pretty limited we make up a lot of rules ourselves to keep play interesting such as; nobody plays protection from creatures and stuff like that. That being said I do have a few standard decks that I enjoy playing.
Au: Green ramp seems to be your clear fav. What do you enjoy about this archetype?
TL: I just love those really big hydras and eldrazi, what can I say. Hard casting them is even more fun. I guess I favor them because there isn't a whole lot of clever strategy involved and you force your opponent to just deal with the board. I haven't played green ramp in a while but here are 2 decks. 1 green ramp and 1 I constructed in a challenge to make a deck with only specific sets.
KITCHEN TABLE RAMP
by Titus Lunter
2 Deathcap Cultivator
4 Duskwatch Recruiter
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Mina and Denn, Wildborn
3 Ulvenwald Hydra
2 Atarka, World Render
1 Omnath, Locus of Rage
1 Void Winnower
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Other spells (14):
2 Oath of Nissa
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Nissa's Pilgrimage
4 Explosive Vegetation
1 Domri Rade
2 Arlinn Kord
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
4 Cinder Glade
3 Evolving Wilds
1 Rogue's Passage
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
SUPER FUN TIME RATH AND MIRAGE (ON A BUDGET)
by Titus Lunter
Other spells (34)
2 Dark Ritual
1 Gaea's Blessing
2 Legacy's Allure
4 Grim Feast
2 Mana Web
2 Ashen Powder
4 Death Pits of Rath
4 Barbed Foliage
4 Nature's Revolt
1 Time Warp
2 Gemstone Mine
2 Ghost Town
4 Pine Barrens
2 Skyshroud Forest
Au: Cool! I like the Mirage/Rath deck.
If I was an MtG artist and player, I wouldn't be able to resist the urge to pick up a card while playing a prerelease or FNM and say "I painted this you know". How is it to play with cards that you have illustrated?
TL: Oh wow yeah, well. I try not to be in people's face about it, mostly because during those times I'm in the zone to try and build a good deck or win a game (this rarely works btw). The feeling is hard to describe. I've been playing for nearly 6 years, illustrating for 3, working in the industry for 6, it's been part of my life for a decade. Seeing that come to life, someone being happy with a card that I just happened to do an image for, crazy. I don't just have it with my cards. Being part of that Wizards family and see it being a comfort, outlet or social glue for so many people is one of the most rewarding feelings for me as a artist. Even though all I do is paint the pictures people tell me to paint.
There you go man, great questions - love answering this kind of stuff =D
Au: Thank you, man! It's been great talking to you. Best of luck in the future. :)
We will end with a comment from Randy Gallegos.
***Randy Gallegos: I find it amazing that anyone would like the old Burgeoning art!
Au: Hello, Randy. Welcome back! What are your thoughts on Titus' version of Burgeoning? He's a big fan of the original version.
My Burgeoning was a last-minute panic call from the Art Director requesting the illustration due in 24 hours, back when I was quite young and not up to the task of emergency art! It is one of a small handful of pieces that I've really found painful to look at its entire life. The idea was to show nature actively reclaiming the desolate Rath landscape of that first "story block." A fine idea, but with no time to think it through, it went nowhere.
So I am thrilled to see Titus' interpretation. He's an amazing artist. I don't know if his art brief looked anything like I just said but it certainly takes a similar interpretation albeit in a different setting and with much better technique than I was capable of back then, for sure. As a skilled concept artist, it is really wonderful how some sections are slashed in quickly but accurately and other areas really lend themselves to eye-lingering detail.
Thanks to Randy Gallegos and Samuel Nilsson!