Being a Magic: The Gathering Art Director: A Conversation with Ovidio Cartagena

Magic: The Gathering art director, Ovidio Cartagena, joins Magic Untapped to chat about what's involved in being a MTG art director.

"It's a huge responsibility," he instantly points out due to the art being very important to the game.  "You have a responsibility to fans of the game in two ways."

The first way, he says, is that the art director needs to make sure to give players and fans a world they can dive into on a card-by-card basis.

"You want to give them love for characters and the worlds we make," he says.  "You also want the card to say something about what the mechanics do."

Cartagena says one way to achieve that second responsibility to fans is by finding some way to put a card's mechanics, whether that be flying or deathtouch or something else, into the artwork in some meaningful way.

INTERVIEW: MTG Art Director, Ovidio Cartagena, Chats with Magic Untapped during MagicCon Las Vegas

But the art director's responsibilities don't begin and end with Magic players and fans.

"You also have a responsibility to the artists," he explains.  "They want to have the ability to explore new avenues or do things they love to do all the time."

He continues, "You have to know what the fans expect, what the cards do, and how the artists are feeling about the work as well."

As for how he works with artists in specific, "sometimes I double as a concept artist [and] sometimes I just meet with the artists and tell them my vision," he says.

That vision for the set, at least from an art direction standpoint, is also repeated to those in the internal team to remind all involved of what the markers and key things to keep in mind about the world and the set from a visual standpoint.

But, in the end, it always comes back to the players.

"The players are the north star of everything we do," says Cartagena.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.