I spend a lot of time going through Magic sets and looking up names of artists so I can interview them. Anna Steinbauer’s work is alphabetically at the top of the Origins spiler list (for [casthaven]Anointed Champion[/casthaven]) so I googled her name and found her art practice super interesting and immediately went about emailing her questions! She was very gracious and thoughtful with her responses and we got a great interview. Enjoy!

Matt Jones: I checked out your website and skimmed through your FAQ page, livestream page, and Deviant Art page. It’s very generous of you to livestream some of your painting sessions and to offer critiques of submitted works. How did you get the idea to livestream your practice and submissions from other artists? Can you talk about the whys and hows and what you get out of doing these?

Anna Steinbauer: Back when I decided to start taking art seriously, there was an online study group called the Crimson Daggers run by Dave Rapoza and Dan Warren. Listening to their livestream every day and watching the critiques helped me tremendously in developing good habits and taught me how to practice and learn effectively. It was an amazing time and a great community with a mentality of diligent studying and hard work.

Later on I started receiving messages from other artists, all of them basically asking how to improve. I knew that I could never manage to fully explain what I learned over the years in a simple email.

In the hopes of passing on even a fraction of this studying mentality on to another generation of artists, I decided to start a livestream of my own. That way I could answer a lot of the recurring questions and more people than just the ones who asked would benefit from it. The critiques are an even better way to learn, because we often tend to get too close to our own work and don’t know where the problems lie and which questions to ask.

In return I was lucky enough to get to know a bunch of great people and see the constant progress in the regular attendees. But the best part is probably when someone lets me know that I actually managed to help them 🙂

MJ: The Crimson Daggers! Sounds like a thieves guild from Elder Scrolls.

I like the idea of “learning effectively”. Knowing how to learn isn’t as obvious as it sounds and you picked up on that early and have been able to channel that into a great art practice and now pass it on to others as, I assume, you continue to learn yourself. An awesome cycle!!

How’d you get started with Wizards and Magic? What was your first assignment like? Do you have any preliminary screen grabs or sketches from that piece?

AS: One day I received an email from Jeremy Jarvis asking if I wanted to do some illustrations for Magic. Of course I did! I always wanted to work with Wizards, but had never gotten around to sending in a portfolio. The first two commissions were Anointer of Champions and Blessed Spirits which recently got released in Origins.

I’ll show you the sketches I sent in for them—you can see how much things changed from these to the final. My sketches are often quite loose and messy, which leaves me to sort out various problems as I paint. It’s probably not the most efficient way to go about it, but it keeps it interesting (and challenging!) for me. The angle of the kneeling knight’s face in Anointer of Champions was especially difficult to figure out, but both cards were a lot of fun to paint.

AnointerOfChampions_sketch_AnnaSteinbauer BlessedSpirits_sketch_AnnaSteinbauer

MJ: These sketches rule! things have changed in the images but I don’t think I’d consider them loose OR messy 🙂 They’re beautiful and clear and the light in both is exceptionally present and powerful. it’s great that you were approached and didn’t submit a portfolio. I like when things work in non-traditional ways.


the summoning is one of my favorite paintings of yours. i used to be pretty hesitant to call digital paintings “paintings” but for whatever reason since coming in contact with you and a couple other fantasy artists I’m utterly convinced to the point of not questioning its validity as true “painting” any more. Hope that doesn’t sound jackassy, I mean it sincerely. I read a little about the photoshop brush kits and into the community of digital painters via links on your blog and other places I have been lead. I’m kinda thinking of adding it to my own repertoire … so, thanks! Anything you’d like to talk about in the digital vs. physical painting debate (which now seems like a non-issue to me)? Maybe something about how you were lead to painting digitally vs. physically and why?

That isn’t even the real question I had, but we’re running out of space. Maybe you can do me the kindness of getting into a more complicated and intense topic to close out our interview. I’m struck by the way you paint your female figures. First of all, there’s a lot of them. I don’t have the exact numbers ‘cuz I’m not a number guy but I’d say 10-1 female-male ratio in your work. Probably higher. And they all have a kind of power about them that isn’t the same, doesn’t feel the same as other artists depictions of women. I don’t know the exact question to ask you about this. I’m utterly convinced in your commitment to your work and thereby totally convinced on your final paintings. I guess I just want to know what you think about the way you paint women because I think you rule at it, and I don’t have a clue what the real question is I want to ask you. If you have images that aid this conversation please share’em!

AS: One of the greatest things about digital art is its directness. You can just jump in and start painting whatever is on your mind – no preparations, no premixing colors, no cleaning up afterwards and no worries about wasting expensive art supplies if you mess up. You don’t need much to get started and once you’ve grasped the basics of your program, it is all about painting without many technicalities. It’s a great medium to learn and experiment with.

Digital art can involve as much or as little painting as you want it to, which is probably what bewilders some traditional artists. Sure, there are “shortcuts” like using photos and 3D – and these techniques have their place of course – but to most, digital painting will always be only brush and canvas. The computer can’t do the work for us any more than traditional paints and brushes can.

That said, I recently started learning how to paint in oils and I’m having a blast! If you have never worked digitally and you’re curious, just give it a try! Using new mediums often forces you to think differently and switch up your approach, which is always good.

As for painting women – my first inclination is to say that it just comes naturally, but that is probably untrue. I follow a bunch of artists who seem to have a strong affinity for drawing men, so I have been wondering about this lately. I believe that what it comes down to is really just practice. Let’s say you are interested in a particular topic, so you draw it more often than others. Doing that for a while, of course you’ll get better at it. So in turn you are more likely to draw it again, because making good drawings is usually more fun 🙂

Looking through the (yet to be released) work I’ve done for MtG though, the male-female ratio is pretty much equal.

MJ: Thanks so much for doing this. The digital painting conversation your work has brought up in my mind has drastically changed my response to it and inspired me quite a bit. I can’t wait to share this with our readers! Are there any upcoming events, work, etc. you’d like to share?

AS: I don’t really have anything in particular to announce. There will be more cards in the next MtG expansions of course. I guess something you could mention is that I will be streaming live Saturday. The time will probably be around 8pm GMT+1 which is 3pm EST Eastern Standard Time and noon PST Pacific Standard Time. I’ll post a tweet right before starting though (@depingo on Twitter). http://original.livestream.com/depingo


Matt is currently hand drawing a powered cube cuz he can’t afford a real powered cube and thinks the Magic economy is fucked up. He writes the weekly Arting Around column on Hipsters of the Coast, interviewing Magic illustrators and occasionally adding his thoughts on the art of various cards and sets. You can see Matt’s artwork on his website.


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