Welcome back to another edition of the Mirror Gallery. A few weeks ago, Chief Hipster Rich Stein asked if I would be interested in interviewing fantasy artist, Magic: the Gathering illustrator, and Guilds of Ravnica concept artist Titus Lunter. Of course I leapt at the chance. Titus has had an influential hand in creating the worlds of Magic over the last few years, from “key art” to dozens of basic lands, and now the environmental concept settings for the latest return to Ravnica.

We’ll waste no time and get right into it: let’s go Behind the Brush with Titus Lunter!

The Interview

Hi Titus, and welcome to The Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast. Before we go too far, can you introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

I’m Titus Lunter, a Dutch concept artist and Illustrator for the entertainment industry. I’ve been doing this job for about nine years now, and as part of it I’ve been working for Magic since Khans of Tarkir (in 2014). I also came on board as a concept artist for Magic on a few sets like Amonkhet and Guilds of Ravnica.

Amonkhet Key Art Book Cover by Titus Lunter. Digital. For The Art of Magic: Amonkhet by James Wyatt.

You have a brand new Kickstarter out and it’s off to a great start. Can you tell us more about it?

Last Christmas I got a call from the Marketing department asking if I wanted to do a promo image for Ravnica. As soon as I saw the pitch I knew it was something the people would be very excited over: the planeswalker symbol but made out of Ravnica buildings.

Ravnica Promotional Image by Titus Lunter. Digital.

From then on the idea was formed. This job can be extremely stressful, as fun as it is, so these Kickstarter campaigns, even though stressful too, allow me to take a break from a few other jobs. Being able to lean on the community to rest up without worrying about going broke is absolutely huge. For me, it’s a win-win situation. People get to support another human and get some cool stuff in return, and I get to make the items that people enjoy and take a break from a stressful environment.

We see your brushstroke in many of the recent Magic environments, and we’ve seen you share some of your concept work for Ravinca. For you, what makes Ravnica, and these contributions in particular, different?

Ravnica is a funny place. It’s been around for a long time, has a lot of lore, an even greater amount of fans but is still relatively undefined when it comes to more concrete questions. What do all these buildings do? Where do people go to eat? What is the layout of iconic districts and quarters?

Ravnica Environmental Concept Art by Titus Lunter. Digital.

These questions may seem mundane but they form the backbone of a functioning society where all these interesting stories take place. Going back to Ravnica allowed us and me in particular to approach these problems from a modern concept point of view. The key thing to take into consideration here is that it’s not exactly about solving these problems. It’s about having the discussion that surrounds them so we can uncover more avenues that allow for cool stories and imagery.

That’s some fantastic insight. What was your favorite part of your Ravnica work? Or at least that you can show us.

I don’t think I can show anything unfortunately, but I got to work on a few of the signature buildings that are shown—such as the one on the new Steam Vents.

I’m particularly proud of a few designs coming up and I can’t wait to see them on a card.

(Note: Beacon Bolt, featuring the same style Izzet building, was released after this interview.)

Did you face any challenges in creating art for a plane we have been to twice already? Are there just some general challenges you face in your work as an MTG artist?

Oh absolutely, remakes are incredibly difficult to work on. Nostalgia is something that’s very difficult to appease since it’s had such a long time to cement itself in people’s minds. People tend to romanticize the past; it’s not easy to match that, let alone exceed it. For Ravnica I was very aware this was an issue so I did my best to play to the plane’s strengths. Don’t fix stuff that isn’t broken. Adding that layer of autumn and rain, a mix of cozy and cold, really brings out the best of the plane for me.

Ravnica Environmental Concept Art by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Have you taken the Guild Quiz yet? What Guild are you?

I have! And it’s Simic. I used to have a Simic EDH deck that I was fond of, but in playstyle I think I prefer Dimir.

Overall, what’s it like working with Wizards of the Coast? Was illustrating for Magic something you always wanted to do?

As soon as I learned what exactly the job would be—yes, it’s all I wanted to do. Magic has fantastic art directors so there is a ton of room to grow and become the best artist you can be. In a lot of other companies you are merely a tool and you are restricted to the usefulness they think you serve. While this works great for a lot of artists it’s definitely not for me. Being able to work from home and make the art that I enjoy is one of the most privileged positions I could find myself in.

Well Magic is certainly lucky to have you, Titus. We know from Twitter that you promote #mtgkindness and positivity within Magic as a whole. Can talk more about this? What’s it like creating art for the MTG community and being a part of the fandom?

I think I’m still only getting to know the fandom since it’s so big. Magic has a reputation of having a toxic and masculine community and I think it’s incredibly important to actively counter this with kindness. There are a lot of communities out there that are toxic; the art community used to be just like that. Being on the receiving end of a mob mentality I can tell you it’s no fun. There is so much hurt out there which is being channeled into the communities as an outlet for people who struggle in other aspects or simple have a skewed sense of morality. I simply choose to add a bit of extra energy and channel it all into positivity. At the end of the day it’s simple—if I’m having a rough day and I want to escape into a community, what would I want that place to be like?

Changing gears a bit—the market for original Magic art continues to be in an upswing, and we saw a glimpse of a color study by you a few months ago. Are there more traditional works or components coming from you in the future?

Traditional Color Study for a Dominarian Island by Titus Lunter. Original unavailable.

My main focus isn’t making originals—especially not for monetary reasons. Quality of the work comes first and foremost. That being said I’m practicing a little bit to improve my skills. From an artistic point of view I would love to make originals of any kind at some point but I’m in no hurry to get there.

Well when that time comes, I know a bunch of us will have our proverbial bid cards at the ready!

I know you probably can’t talk too much about it, but has there been any update to what happened in Seattle, and what will happen moving forward?

For now there is no update. Like I said before, it’s a complicated process even though it may not look it from the outside.

You are nearing the 100-card mark in terms of illustration. An impossible question: Do you have a favorite piece you’ve done for Magic?

I’ve passed the 100 mark for illustrations I’ve done a little while back, and there are a few unreleased ones that I’m super excited for. As for cards that are out, it’s a tough one. A lot of pieces taught me new things which helped me grow and move forward. If I had to choose I think I’d go with Ensnaring Bridge. The response was exactly what I wanted it to be—people were creeped out. It was a different kind of depth in the way the image read on an emotional level compared to what basic lands can do, which was very cool.

Ensnaring Bridge by Titus Lunter. Digital.

You see all of Titus’ past Magic illustrations here.

You said you play Magic: are there any new decks you’re working on?

I’m sleeving a Super best friends Atraxa EDH deck as we speak. That is all.

You’re also getting very close to having a competitive Vintage Artist Constructed deck as well, having the opposite problem of a lot of artists in having a ton of lands but less other playables. What are your thoughts on that format? Is it weird or exciting having someone build a deck of only your art to battle against another artist’s work?

Yes, it’s weird but, heck. Life is too short to not allow myself to be proud every once in a while. I really like the format and I’m actively trying to get my deck to be super good. Right now with the Ensnaring Bridge, Wrath of God and so forth I can be incredibly controll-y—but no win con. Just need a win con!

Where can people find you online and buy your work? Will you be at any upcoming Grand Prix or other shows?

I have one event left this year, which is GP Nagoya and that’ll be it for now. After what happened at the border I have to reconsider how I approach that side of my professional life. It’s just the way things are now. For now, people can check out my Kickstarter and support me there. My store is a bit in shambles now so that will hopefully get fixed soon (this is artist slang for I have no idea when).

Titus, thank you so much for taking the time out of what I know is a busy schedule to answer some questions for me. The Mirror Gallery and Hipsters of the Coast wish you all the best as you continue to craft these beautiful worlds we play in, and we can’t wait to see more of your work in the future.

Titus Lunter in Guilds of Ravnica

This interview took place right at the beginning of preview season. Many of Titus’s cards had not been released yet, so he couldn’t really talk about them. We have seen several since; check out all the art below:

Temple Garden by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Boros Guildgate (Public Entrance) by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Boros Guildgate (Secret Entrance) by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Molderhulk by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Beacon Bolt by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Roc Charger by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Muse Drake by Titus Lunter. Digital.

The full card list will have come out by the publishing of this article, so make sure you have a look for more of Titus Lunter’s contributions to Guilds of Ravnica!

Wrapping Up

There are less than two weeks left to support Titus’s latest Kickstarter; please go check it out and pick up some sweet art and Ravnica swag. You can also follow Titus on Twitter and keep up with everything he is doing within and outside of Magic. Once again, the Mirror Gallery and Hipsters of the Coast would like to thank Titus Lunter for taking time to talk with us: we can’t wait to see what’s next from you, my friend.

Looking forward, my next article will actually be two articles as I dive deep into the Magic artists that will be attending Illuxcon 11 in Reading, PA in October. There will be near forty past and present Magic artists and we’ll look at them all, so stay tuned. Remember, to see original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, follow me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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