Good morning everyone and welcome to another exciting edition of Behind the Brush here in the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast! Today I’m joined by one of Magic’s brand new artists, who has just made his debut in the latest Secret Lair “Out of Time” Super Drop with their very own set entitled “Math is for Blockers.”

These paintings are a beautiful marriage of art and arithmetic, science and shape—and today we’ll explore their creation from start to finish, with fantastic animation to go along. Let’s get right to it then, and open the Mirror Gallery doors to Alexandre Chaudret!

Donny Caltrider: Good morning Alex, and welcome to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast! Let’s begin as I always do: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

Alexandre Chaudret: Hi there! I am a 34 year old French Art Director and Illustrator, currently working in the video-game industry for… well more than 10 years now (feeling older and older…)! My only goal in life is telling weird stories and bringing to life strange creatures and epic knights, struggling in horrific universes!

Oh, and I love pepperoni pizza.

Can you tell me about your artistic background?

Actually, I ended my studies with a 3D Directing diploma from the school Supinfocom, here in France. That’s why my first job in the video game industry was as a Cinematic Artist back in 2011. I loved directing motion capture and directing cut-scenes, but the little inner voice in my head kept calling me back to the 2D realms, and I finally shifted to become a Concept Artist and Illustrator in 2015. Painting all day for an in-studio job, and every evening and week-end for my illustration freelance activity… that was the dream! Since 2017, I have evolved to become an Art Director: it’s my turn to make other artists paint all day, haha!

Well, that’s the official resume.

To be super honest, I think I am somehow the same shy kid, drawing stories for his friends to play in the dead end streets of the suburbs of Paris. Everything started there, and it’s the same energy I use each time I get behind my digital tablet to paint a new monster!

What are some other projects and IPs where folks might have seen your work?

I worked as well on punctual missions for big companies as for very small independent passionate studios and individuals.

Season Witch for Pathfinder RPG, Paizo, 2017. Digital.

But my most recent project was the video game “Othercide” by Lightbulb Crew (Focus Home Interactive publishing). I poured a big part of my soul and artistic universe in this tactical RPG game, and it was the very first one I art directed. From the visuals to the lore to the sound design, Othercide is a black, white and vivid red melancholic nightmare, full of lovecraftian creatures and hidden metaphors. It’s an incredible journey I shared with an awesome team, and now close friends.

Where do you draw your artistic inspiration, or who are some of your creative heroes?

Ha ha, that’s THE difficult question! There are so many… How could I choose? Let me just turn my head and quickly look at what I see on my book shelves from here…

Well, there are a bunch of mangas, that’s for sure: from the cyber dungeons of Nihei (BLAME!), to the dark fantasy realms of our regretted Miura (Berserk), or my personal bibles (Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya…), I think I can confirm that the Japanese artists forged a lot of my inspiration.

There are also a bunch of comics, some Mignola’s (Hellboy), Sean Murphy and even one from the master Toppi. A few video-game art books, a Giger retrospective…

I can see a full row of Stephen King’s novels, some Clive Barker’s novels and two boxes that I know to be full of my hidden treasures: dozens of horror movies DVDs, that I watch and rewatch periodically. My headphones are spitting epic power-metal right now, and I must confess that it’s a huge part of my daily inspiration!

That is quite the lineup! Now it’s time to take a look at your Secret Lair!

Math is for Blockers

Before we look closer at these, how would you describe your style?

Wow… I don’t know if I can really describe my style—I don’t even know if I have my own style! Even though I learned my foundations in art with traditional mediums, I am now a fully digital artist, using all the tricks possible to fulfill my only goal: storytelling through my artworks, and having fun making those!

One of my dear friends told me once that I was an alliance of occidental comics characters and Japanese designs… Maybe he was right: those are both the main influence and inspiration I use in my creations, even unconsciously.

For these Magic cards, I was contacted for one specific style I apply in some of my work: characters and scenery made of pure geometrical shapes. I felt blessed, because it is one of my favourite techniques of creation, where I feel guided by my own constraints and still free to build whatever I want. Devil is in the details, so I often add a large amount of details, haha!

We’ll go in Pi order. (for those that don’t know, the Power/Toughness of these creatures are the first digits of the mathematical constant π.) So first up is Brazen Borrower—take us through it:

Brazen Borrower by Alexandre Chaudret. Digital.

This one probably required more thinking before painting; I absolutely wanted to use a triangle because I had in mind the wings of the faerie, but it meant integrating the head in one of the summits and it wasn’t easy! The hardest part was in fact the keys that were required in the card’s lore, but quite tricky to integrate in the composition.

Fun fact : It is my wife’s favourite piece of work, and that makes me super proud haha!

Next in line is Vindictive Lich!

Vindictive Lich by Alexandre Chaudret. Digital.

I actually started the roster with this piece: a skeleton lich, a skull, a long cape cloth… that was kind of my comfort zone!

Painting the amulet is what took me most of my time, especially because I had to change the colour of the ghostly magic effect (in order to respect the lore of the character).

Moving on (slowly) we arrive at Meadering Towershell, my personal favorite!

Meandering Towershell by Alexandre Chaudret. Digital.

I ended the series with this one; I was so scared to get started on it! I was scared I wouldn’t be able to correctly paint the turtle… Finally, I was saved by the sunset sky, which was a pleasure to paint.

The turtle itself is a mix of a Galapagos giant tortoise… and my own four years old tortoise!

Alex, I think you are the first artist I’ve interviewed that has a tortoise! Your penultimate card is Ohran Frostfang, and what a helix we have here!

Ohran Frostfang by Alexandre Chaudret. Digital

There were so many scales to paint on this piece, it started by being a relaxing exercise but ended up being a bit painful! I took a long time choosing the colours of the snake, until I fell in love with the red belly snake, which was contrasting nicely with the snowy mountains.

Fun fact : my main inspiration for the snake’s shape was… Jaffar’s snake transformation in Aladdin haha.

And this leaves only Thragtusk left to explore!

Thragtusk by Alexandre Chaudret. Digital.

I think it’s my favourite artwork of the bunch; it required quite some thinking on how to adapt the original design of the beasts to fit the circle shapes.

They are a mix of bison, boars, elephants and… sheeps!

I love this design: it’s an homage to the only other artwork of Thragtusk, but unique all it’s own!

How would you summarize these five cards together as a body of work?

Let’s talk first of the evidence: each one of those artworks started with pure geometric shapes, to set the composition. The whole trick was to keep those geometric shapes as long as possible while painting; there is nothing stronger than a perfect triangle or circle!

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The sketches for each work of Math is for Blockers

The fun part for me is to live with this constraint, sculpting the characters inside the main shapes up to the point where it disappears while still being there.

For the rest of it, each card went it’s own way; I tried to let myself be guided by the lore of the characters, and respect the initial illustrations (those five cars had previous editions) as well as proposing something new and different. I hope you like them as much as they were fun to paint!

Wrapping Up

What’s it mean to you as an artist, to have now illustrated for Magic: the Gathering?

Honestly, I am gonna sound a bit cheesy/phony emotional right now but… Magic was a real goal to achieve. Those cards represented a LOT for me, professionally of course, but especially for the excited kid in my heart; I consider each card like a small window opening on a new fantasy world, sometimes epic, sometimes horrific, always thrilling.

I received my first Magic cards from my older cousins when I was something like seven years old (it was the Ice Age extension, I remember!) and even though I had no clue how to play, I was deeply fascinated. I admired my cousins’ battles. I was in love with his Serra Angel, that seemed so powerful. I wanted to collect all the “wurm” creatures, those snakey dragons… My heart was pounding just by hearing “I attack with my 6/6 !” Man, I am shivering right now just by remembering those childhood moments…

And now, thanks to the super-awesome-art-director Tom Jenkot, this same kid had the opportunity to tick one box of his personal dream-list: painting for Magic: the Gathering.

It could seem silly, but really it meant a lot, haha.

I love stories like that. Can you share if you have any other Magic work in the pipeline?

Not for now, no. But who knows what will come in the future! The collaboration went very smoothly on both sides, and I will be happy to go back in the Magic realms again!

I sure hope we do see you again, Alex! In the meantime, where can folks find you online to follow along with your work?

The easiest way is to visit my portfolio on Artstation.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Alex, it’s been a pleasure to see these artworks literally come to life before our very eyes. Thank you SO much for taking the time to walk us through your work, and I can’t wait to see what else you might do for Magic in the future!

I hope you all enjoyed this very vivid exploration of Alexandre Chaudret’s new artworks for Secret Lair. When I first saw the GIFs during the Showcase Stream I fell in love instantly, and knew I had to know more about them. Thanks again to Alex for taking the time out of his AD schedule to tell us all about them!

Looking forward, we’re currently in the thick of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt previews, and that means in two weeks we’ll have another Grand Art Tour focusing on my favorite pieces from this upcoming set. I’ve already started saving and writing, and I think we’re in for a real visual (trick or) treat with this set. 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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