Gravedigger Revisited!

HIghlighting the good aspects of art execution for this card art

Good composition, depth, form, perspective and simple shapes make for good art!

Magic the Gathering is a great game that has demonstrated staying power since its invention in 1993. The first of its kind, as a collectible card game, it not only defined the genre but has since remained the standard for quality. This is true not only for gameplay, but for production value as well.

While there are many reasons for a person to like the game I’d like to focus on one popular aspect of its production value – that being, its artwork.

Since the beginning, the top half of each card has been dedicated to art which portrays the cards game mechanic, communicates game ‘flavor’, and hopefully tells a story in its own right. As for execution, for many players notice and appreciate art that is appealing. Fortunately, for critical purposes, what is appealing happens to follow the normal rules for evaluating art from an aesthetic point of view.

While many players know what they like, they often do not know why they like it. That’s where I come in. On occasion, I like to explain, in terms of artistic qualities, why some art is good, and therefor, appealing. I am also willing, but less likely to explain why card art fails if it has been poorly executed. The latter is possible, but rare; why go around calling attention to the negative? Sometimes it can be instructive to do so, but being negative for negativity’s sake – no, not my style. Hey, I just used a double negative to explain why I was not going to be negative; nice!

Take the card Gravedigger; this is beautifully done art. One does not need to know art aesthetics to assert this, but they can be applied to explain why it is good.

In summary, it is good because it is well composed, it employs an effective design using simple shapes, perspective treatment is correct, form is nicely revealed on the main character, there is great depth of field, and there is a well executed control of the viewer’s eye movement, which is directed, by design, towards the center of attention which are found on the highlights on the two character’s heads.

As this series continues I will elaborate on these concepts, but for now let me refer you to my own drawing above which is annotated to introduce several of these features of good art.

Comments are welcome; I hope you find this helpful in your appreciation of, not only Magic art in particular, but also of art in general.

Note: the Gravedigger card (lower left corner of image above) is copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast; its depiction here is for art critique and instructional purposes only.

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