Hunter, Christian, and I (aka The Christian Hunters w/Matt Jones) didn’t day two Grand Prix Providence. I think we ended up X-3. This freed up a ton of time on Sunday to interview Steve Prescott, the artist behind Fauna Shaman, the embodiment of the look and feel of the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block (at least in my mind), and the GP Providence playmat.

I sort of just bombarded Steve while he was setting up Sunday morning. The usual, “Hey man, I wrote for this blog,” handing him a business card. He was totally into the interview and in good spirit the whole time. He reminds me of this guy I used to work with, a real mensch, Anthony, who could do anything and was of the hardest working and handimanningest stock in all of America. Anyway, we got it all recorded, transcribed, and edited here with images Steve sent me when I asked him for some of his favorites.

Matt: Let’s see if this works. Test, test, test. Ok, first of all, I really like your work. I quit the game between Exodus and Scars of Mirrodin but drafted a lot with my buds during Lorwyn-Shadowmoor blocks, buying a box here and there. You’re all over those sets. And the only artist I can remember by name from period.

Steve Prescott: Yeah that was right around when I started.

M: Seems like right time for you to start based on you, uh, I’m also a painter so I know art stuff, um, I don’t know if there are any other Magic artists that have a sort of cartoon style mixed with, like all your stuff looks so 3D and modeled and …

SP: Well thank you!

M: What do you think about, in terms of like, the themes behind Magic and each set, like Lorwyn is the theme that makes the most sense for you and your work that has ever existed in Magic.

SP: That’s what it felt like when I was doing the concept stuff out there. It felt like it was right up my alley. It was a stylized take on stuff that’s already been established. It’s what I like to do. I like to take …

Announcement over the Grand Prix loudspeakers

M: That stuff’s going to be ok. I’ll just make something up whenever I can’t understand what we’re saying.

SP: “And then there was garble garble garble.”


M: It’ll be fine.

SP: Ok, uh, that kinda stuff, taking already established stuff, where it’s already cliche and there’s already a trope about it, and taking my own spin on it is right up my alley and I take up my own concept, D&D and werewolves stuff all the time, so.

M: Do you also do work for D&D?

SP: I did, I used to a lot more than lately, just because my schedule is filled up with Magic, World of Warcraft, and Pathfinder stuff so I haven’t done any in two years maybe. Well, for print. I’ve done a few D&D projects, more like conceptual things but uh, yeah, it’s just kinda gone by the wayside for the moment.


M: How much input do you have in the way game things work? Do you ever brainstorm the way things work or is it always the look or the feel of things?

SP: It’s almost always the look. They have game designers and testers for that.

M: Have you ever had an idea where you’re like “oh man it’d be really cool if …” and then someone’s like “Yeah, uh, ok Steve …”?

SP: Once or twice. There was a Monster Manual III from like 2004 or whatever, something like that, and they specifically gave vague descriptions to some of the artists and said “come up with an idea for what this creature does,” so I have a couple of monsters where I designed what they do in that book. But, usually they already have an idea when they send it to you. They’ll say, “alright this is a monster that has the ability to fly and sting you and breathe fire,” or some ridiculous thing like that.

M: Right, make a fire breathing bee, please.


SP: So you come up with the visual for that instead of “I have another idea! It shoots its stinger at you!” You know, I mean, you can throw that out there and they usually say “Uh, we’ve got that covered.”

M: “Ok artist, keep your ideas to yourself.”


M: Let me think, what else? Oh! How excited were you that Brian Kibler was into the Daybreak Ranger, or whatever that card’s called. Is that right?

SP: Who is this?

M: You don’t know Brian Kibler? Do you not know Magic people?

SP: No, I don’t.

M: He’s a pro who bought like a billion Daybreak Rangers, thinking that it would be the shit, and then it like kinda wasn’t. But he always had one in his deck to say “look, I won all these games with Daybreak Ranger.”

SP: (laughing) Did he buy the original? Someone mail bought it.

M: Oh! Maybe he did!

SP: Someone bought it, man, over a year ago, they wanted that and the alternate side, the Nightfall Predator. So I sold both of them to him. But, I never met that person, I just sent it off. They paid for it, so …

M: It would make total sense if he did that.

SP: I’ll have to look that up in my, whatever, catalog of emails. It’d be funny.

M: I’d be super interested.


SP: But, no, I’ve never had anyone come up to me and say “I have 190 of these just on my person right now and I win tournaments with them.”

M: There are people that will buy out, you know, whatever, like “I’m gonna buy out every Desecration Demon at a dollar and then when they’re five dollars I make four dollars on every single one.”

SP: They are bottomless people. People still like that card (Daybreak Ranger/Nightfall Predator) so at least it’s not one of those cards I don’t see anymore.

M: Is there a difference between what your favorite illustration for Magic is and what the people’s favorite seems to be?

SP: Coincidentally the Fauna Shaman is one of my favorites.

M: ‘Cuz it’s awesome.

SP: And it’s actually a good card. But even if it was a garbage card I would still like it because that was a sign to me that I just, usually I get three cards per assignment, and they gave me one card and then I had this big gap in my schedule, and I was like “Aw, a shaman in the woods surrounded by animals.”

M: “I’m gonna nail this!”

SP: And it’s right up my alley so I thought “I’m gonna make this bigger than they asked for.” Like, I changed the ratio and just had fun with it. I painted it for a week instead of the two or three day I usually put on a card. I didn’t find out until a year later when it came out and everyone was all “Fauna Shaman is the bomb, man!” Well, I’m glad that I took my time on it.

M: Yeah, “I’m glad it’s the sweetest one I’ve ever done.”

SP: It’s one of my favorites and one of the better cards that I’ve done.

M: What’s the card that you sign the most?

SP: Today it’s Slaughter Games, is that what it’s called? That one. Yeah. Today people have like a hundred of them.

M: Really?

SP: Yeah.

M: That one’s so weird!

SP: It changes from show to show. (To a customer/fan) I’ll be with you guys in a second.

M: You can do what you gotta do, if you’ve got business stuff or whatever.

SP: I can talk while I sign, too.

M: Talk and sign.

SP: But, yeah, this show’s flagship card is Slaughter Games. Sometimes it’s Conscripts, Zealous Conscripts.

M: Not a lot of people have Berserk to sign.

SP: No, not today, I haven’t seen it. Sometimes I’ll see a bunch of those. Like someone will come up with 15 foil Berserks and I dunno where they get ’em all.

M: I always wonder with backgrounds in Magic illustration, like, how often do you really detail it out in the background vs. like an energy sort of thing or a color field? Is it a time thing? Is it a feel thing? Or …?

SP: Usually it’s a feel and less that it’s important I’m placing the figure … like this was important because the guy had to be in an alley off a street in Ravnica. So, I still try to use basic shapes ‘cuz when you shrink down the artwork you try to not get caught up in a lot of details in the background.

M: Also, like Douglas Shuler, I feel like he always just puts a fade in the background. It’s a person and then a fade, and then maybe a mountain. So I guess I always wonder that about backgrounds, you know, how important they are. But you seem to usually get into them.

SP: Uh, I will, yeah, but I like to keep it simple when I can, for like the Hellhole Flailer and the Showstopper one, like those just work better if I don’t get too involved in the background. That’s what the card’s about, that one thing. In Berserk it’s this guy changing. I establish that he’s in this mystical forest.

M: Yeah, you just need to locate him.

Announcement: Standard Win-A-Box #23 please report to the Gathering Place.


SP: Sometimes a splash of color will work better than putting in a bunch of architecture.

M: Man, I really like Fauna Shaman. How badly are you hoping they’ll do a Return to Lorwyn block?

SP: I don’t know that they will.

M: Oh come on! They gotta!

SP: It seems like Lorwyn’s frowned upon.

M: No way, everyone loves that set!

SP: Do they?!

M: I think that now, the way the rules go, you know, they wouldn’t have so many janky cards. Just in terms of flavor it’s so much more fun!

SP: I think so, too. Not everyone agrees.

M: A lot of those cards are in Modern Masters, and I was wondering if you get paid again when they print something again.

SP: No.

M: Man. So they just buy whatever and you’re done?

SP: Wizards pays for the image use and their rights are that they get to use it for whatever they want forever. And I get the rights to use it promotionally. I can sell prints. If I make an “Art of Steve Prescott” book I can use it in there.

M: Do you have your book on you to sell?

SP: I forgot it. It’s not filled with color art.

M: Yeah yeah yeah, I know. It’s black and white sketches.

SP: It was the one thing I forgot.

M: Are you going to Las Vegas?

SP: No …

M: Can one order your book online?


SP: Yeah! You can order it online. I have a few of those left so … I forgot it! I don’t usually sell ’em that much at these shows cuz everyone wants Magic stuff …

M: And I’m an art-dork so I’d want the art-dork thing.

SP: And it’s usually that and it’s the one person who is all about the art and wants the art book so I’ll bring three to five and sell one.

M: So much of Magic’s art has become streamlined and genericised, if that’s a word, where it’s like, they make it look kinda … like the way the X-men comics sort of started looking the same.

SP: Yeah.

M: Like, Jeff Miracola, sorta, is that how you say his name?

SP: Yeah I think so. I’ve never heard him say his name but I think that’s how you say it.

M: Your type of art, his type of art, adds a sort of depth to the whole thing, otherwise it’s all the same and boring. When you see the same skinny people with big boobs over and over again, like the amount of … can you talk to me about the playmat? My friends and I love the GP Providence playmat. I rarely need a playmat and this one and the GP Philly ones are like the best ever.

SP: Thank you.

M: So, it’s part of the theme, it’s the summer one and you know, like, why this lady, why catfish? This isn’t the Louisiana Grand Prix, so why catfish?

SP: (Laughter) Well, summer is a hard season to just have a pigeon hole vision for as far as sonw for winter, leaves for autumn, spring you can have rain and flowers and stuff but summer … how can you just show heat and beach fun? So I thought alright, at first I was going to have a tropical beach thing and I thought “No, that’s not gonna fly.” Like a hot humid midwestern meadow and fishing for trout or something ilke that. I thought I’d do a three headed trout, they wanted a three headed whatever, for the type of GP this is. The three headed trout just didn’t work because a trout’s a pretty fish. So, making them monstrous just didn’t work. It’s like making a monstrous super hot chick.

M: And catfish are ugly!

SP: Yeah, it wasn’t gonna work. So I thought, “Catfish!”

M: It’s just these things, man! (Points to the fish’s maxillary barbel – the dangly antennae looking thing around its mouth.) Just those alone … ew …

SP: When I googled “catfish” or “giant catfish” they’re just so disgusting, they’re cool and disgusting. They’re slimy, they’ve got these wide mouths and tiny beady eyes and stuff and like people are holding them by their gills and there’s no form to them. They’re just these bags of blobby fish meat. So it’s like, that is perfect!

M: Yeah!

SP: I made a three-headed catfish monster.

M: And why this lady?

SP: Because I needed someone to represent summer and RK Post has already …

M: So she is summer?

SP: Well, whatever, an incarnation of summer …

M: I like that.

SP: I wanted to make her, when I first drew her, it’s too easy to stylize the girl and make them look like a model, like a 101 pound super model.

M: Most of the time in Magic art it’s model thickness.

SP: It’s easy! The reason why is that it’s easy to stylize those shapes. You make triangular shaped guys and the slender with curved hips and curved boobs girls. It’s easy to put them in poses. It’s a little bit harder to try and express a bit of weight in the right areas, you know?

M: You get weight and density when you paint or draw, you have a very good sense of that as an artist.

SP: Well sometimes it feels like I do. Sometimes …

M: Oh gimme an example of when you’ve painted a real dog, have you ever submitted a real dog painting? Where you’re like “Oh jeez, deadline, shit.”

SP: Yeah, a couple times I have. It’s just the way it is. Sometimes things don’t click. Or you try something different to push yourself and that doesn’t click. Like, uh, one of my least favorite cards, it’s probably my least favorite card, and actually the original looks better when I went back and looked at it. It’s just this wall card, it’s like purplish blue and red … I don’t know what it’s called, when I see it I just turn off my brain and I’m like “I’m not looking at this!” But, I just tried these chromatic colors and it’s supposed to be this spiky rock wall and I was like “This didn’t work the way I wanted it.” And when I turned it in, the card looks even worst because the chroma is punched up even worse and it just looks like a mistake. I hate it so much.


M: When you work do you use paint or do you work on the computer?

SP: I’m a traditional painter, so I send them my painting.

M: And they shoot a high-res photo, and they can screw with it in Photoshop?

SP: Yeah they’ll punch up the contrast if they need to. Almost never do they do anything drastic.

M: They’ve never taken the pentagram out of the background of one of your pieces?

SP: They’ll ask you to do it if that’s the case, or get someone else to do it, you know, paint a new one if you’re a hard to work with artist. So, yeah, I’d say 99.9% of the time the reproduction is really good with Wizards of the Coast, especially with Magic cards. But every once in a while they’ll tweak something or maybe the production run was bad, I dunno. But yeah, that card just looked bad.

M: Bummer.

SP: And it will remain looking bad forever!


M: I’m gonna search for this card and judge how bad it is.

SP: Then you can have a good chuckle!

M: I think the last thing is, if you have a green card with a back like this (points to the artist proof blank back card on the table, a Slauhterhorn) will you draw me some sort of ogre on the blank side?

SP: Ok.

M: I’ll trade you cash for it. How’s that sound?

SP: That sounds like a good trade.


Thanks to Steve for the casual and clear conversation. We’ve learned some great things about Wizards, artists, painting, drawing, the method behind the madness, and all the other good stuff. If you’re into his drawings and paintings (and you are, duh) then pick up his book, Aggregate—The Art of Steve Prescott. It’s inexpensive and awesome.

Thanks for reading!

MTGO: The_Obliterator

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