A chat with superstar Magic: The Gathering Artist Ryan Yee, conducted by Brand Manager Jaime Lawrence.
Hi Ryan! Thanks for chatting to us. Can you tell me how you got into art, into professional art and into gaming art?
I studied Media Arts and Animation in school with the intent to do concept art for video games. I asked my academic adviser when enrolling, which program do I get to draw more? He said Animation, so that's the program I chose!
As for gaming art, it was a bit of mistake! I was attending San Diego Comic-Con, and I was applying to Wizards of the Coast at their portfolio review area. Once it was my time to go up to get a portfolio review, I realized I accidentally applied to Nickelodeon and NOT WotC. So in confusion with the staff that made the schedule, the art director Jeremy Jarvis graciously said he would look at my portfolio anyways. I sat down with him and he was dead silent looking at each page, I was so nervous! Eventually, he told me I had some impressive work, but needed to polish before I was ready to illustrate for MTG. I began sending him more work as soon as I got back from the convention addressing what he had mentioned. A few weeks later I got my first card commissions - Fire Servant and Phantasmal Beast from M9 core set!
When working on a piece for Magic, how much creative license do you usually get?
Great question! Creative freedom depends on the set I'm working on. For the main sets like, Dominaria or Innistrad they provide us with a style guide, which is a visual library of character designs and environments in the world. The Art director will reference specific character concepts in the style guide and settings to place them into with the art descriptions. The composition and final posing are usually up to the artists. On the other hand, sets like the Core Set we get more artistic freedom because the artists are not world building with each image. I've had commisions that asked for a specific creature but left the design up to me!
What are the best and worst parts of the job?
The best part of the job is getting to share, connect and interact with the players that love the game! I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I first started illustrating. For some images of MTG, they are personal and moments of mtg players live. It's very touching to have someone tell you they emotionally connect with art that you put your heart into; it's the best feeling!
Honestly, the worst part would be not having the time to do more illustrations! I work full time as a concept artist for Schell Games in, Pittsburgh, PA. I love creating illustrations, but my time can be very limited. I work a lot of nights and weekends.
Are there other games or media out there you'd like to play with professionally?
As a kid, I always wanted to get into comics. Its what drove me to draw a lot growing up. I want to try my hand at that one day, maybe build my world and work with a writer to flesh it out.
If people want to contact you or see more of your amazing work, where can they find you online?
I update my Instagram page the most frequently www.instagram.com/artofryanyee or my website: www.ryanyee.com
You can also catch Ryan at Australian Magic Nationals July 21-22, in Canberra. For details, visit http://mtgausnats.com/