An Interview with 'Magic' artist Carl Critchlow


Magic: The Gathering artist Carl Critchlow joins Magic Untapped for a Q&A.

Since the early 1980s, British artist Carl Critchlow has been illustrating, well, just about everything. Judge Dredd? Yup. Thrud the Barbarian? Yes, he did that all right. Batman? Yes!

Somehow during his career he has also found the time to illustrate some Magic cards.

Magic Untapped spoke with Carl about Magic and his career, and he let us know a bit about it all.

Magic Untapped: What inspirations and influences in your life drove you to becoming a professional artist?

Carl Critchlow: When I was a teenager in the 70's I was fascinated by the plethora of sci-fi and fantasy art that was being produced at the time and collected many glossy art books by the likes of Roger Dean and Chris Foss - my favourite at the time was Frank Frazetta.  When I went to art college the graphics tutor was Bryan Talbot - now an extremely well respected comic artist - who introduced me to a whole lot more stuff, everything from European comic artists like Moebius and Philippe Druillet to U.S. legends like Will Eisner and Alex Toth.

MU: During your time as a Magic artist, you've created artwork for around 200 different cards such as Phyrexian ArenaArcbound Ravager, and Wurmcoil Engine. Which has proven to be your favorite over the years and which do you recall giving you the most trouble?

CC: I think my favourite is probably Clockwork Beast closely followed by the Eastern and Western Paladins - the thing about these older cards is that there was sometimes more freedom to interpret a looser brief which allowed for more design input (although not every time).  As for cards I struggled with there have certainly been several, mostly (but not always) due to time constraints, I can't bring any particular cards to mind (I think I must have blanked them), but there are a few I would like to throw out and start again.

MU: Your work has spanned from comics such as Judge Dredd and Thrud the Barbarian to games such as Dungeons & Dragons to even working on some Star Wars art. What's your process for creating art for such radically different genres and franchises?

CC: I'm afraid the basic process is rather mundane and pretty much the same for everything - read the brief/script, find appropriate reference where necessary, submit a sketch (where necessary) and once it's approved try and hit the deadline.  The only one that's any different is the self-published Thrud comics - I'd write the script myself and wouldn't need to submit any sketches for approval.

MU: How long do you typically spend on a piece?

CC: Too long.

MU: Have you ever tried a more "out of the box" approach to a card where you try a new perspective or style?

CC: Not that I can recall - sometimes I think of a different approach after the card is finished but my work rate doesn't lend itself to taking chances with a looming deadline.

MU: Do you have a favorite art medium? If so, does it make fantasy artwork harder or easier to create?

CC: It very much depends on the individual job as every medium has its own particular qualities.  I do like using watercolour and gouache but they can have limitations so even though I prefer the feel of more traditional media I've recently switched to acrylic gouache.

MU: What kinds of things are more tricky for you to create (landscapes, people creatures, etc.)?

CC: I'm always happier with more organic subject matter - I particularly struggle with architectural perspective and symmetry in general (my figure drawing can be pretty ropey too!)

MU: What projects are you currently working on? Any future projects that you are looking forward to?

CC: I'm currently taking a break from any new projects while I decide what to do next.  I've always wanted to get to grips with oil painting and working on a bigger scale and never really had a chance but we'll have to see! 

Thank you to Carl for participating in this interview.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.