Welcome to our interview series number #51!

This week we talked with artist Johann Bodin, who illustrated more than 100 Magic cards since the Worldwake set.

Here's what Johann told us.

Mantis Rider Wizards of the Coast

Tell us a little about how you got into art, and Magic more specifically.

How to forget your first orders with Magic! I started with three cards (Bojuka Brigand, Gnarlid Pack - with a reference to the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud who directed "the Bear", and Urge to Feed) on worldwake in September 2009, a set that debuted a year after.

For me it feels like it was yesterday. I never had so much pressure to make illustrations; since my adolescence I contemplated the fabulous illustrations of cards without ever suspecting that I would do them one day.

Were you familiar with the game before?

I knew it, but never played it.

Sketch and final work for Drakewing Krasis Wizards of the Coast

Move the slider left and right to see both images.

Give us a brief description of your painting process for Magic.

I receive a more or less detailed brief with a style guide with all the references for the set. Understanding the universe, the places and the challenges is essential to properly understand the work. I also do some research on my side to have a maximum of references that will feed my vision.

I draw very small sketches on paper or digital for the composition. I chose two or three, sometimes more, that I enlarged in order to refine the composition and the mood of the protagonists. Sometimes I also do color sketches. After validation of a sketch I can embark on the final realization of my image. It happens that I have to change somethings that the Art Director (AD) asks for. I send my digital work by mail, simply, and this allows me to work until the very last minute.

What makes for a great art description?

To give as much information as possible about the mood and usefulness of the card. It is not always necessary to have many references.

Sightless Brawler Wizards of the Coast

Mantis Rider is one of your most played cards. What can you tell us about it?

I painted this card when my daughter was born! I also did 8 years of Kung Fu and my first painted illustration when I was a teenager was... a mantis! All the planets were aligned to create a beautiful image that makes sense to me.

What about Collective Brutality, what are the challenges of painting such a dark setting with multiple figures?

I made three cards with the same composition (Collective Brutality, Blessed Alliance, Savage Alliance)

I proposed that challenge to Wizards of the Coast and they accepted.

And yes, it is not easy to work with so much black on an image when in the end it will be very small.

Sketch and final piece for Mindstatic Wizards of the Coast

Move the slider left and right to see both images.

What were some of the most challenging cards you painted, and why?

Arbiter of the Ideal was quite difficult because Wizards had sent me a tiny black and white sketch of the sphinx. I had to do a lot of research, this card took a lot of time.

On the other hand, what were the smoothest paintings, from the art description to the final piece?

Spiteful Sliver was quite simple because I had a vision already very clear from the color sketch.

Of the art you made for Magic, can you name some favorites?

I like this dark side of Reanimate, Gorm the Great and Virtus the Veiled, two views of the same moment that respond rather well.

Daring Thief Wizards of the Coast

Do you have some other projects you’ve been working on?

I do a lot of covers for novels, I give courses of illustration.

You can see more of Johann's work on his ArtStation and blog, and also on Instagram.

Reanimate Wizards of the Coast