Quinton Hoover was one of the first artists working on Magic: the Gathering, with his work first appearing in the original Unlimited release, and he ultimately created more than 70 illustrations across a decade and a half. He died on April 20, 2013, at the young age of 49, but his legacy will live on forever in his work. We've looked back at some of his best and most famous works here.
One of his most popular works is the illustration for the Headless Horseman, from the Legends set. This is a show-stopping piece of work, both foreboding and dignified, and it looks like it could be the cover of a book on its own. We loved it so much that we placed the card at #4 on our list of the most Halloween-esque cards, solely on the strength of the illustration. The Adarkar Unicorn, from the Ice Age expansion, has a very similar feel, but instead of feelings of dread, it evokes a sense of wonder. An already-majestic creature is made into an almost ethereal being, with the shadows seamlessly turning into the night sky. These cards are some of his most polished and visually arresting works, but there are plenty of other cards worth talking about as well.
Perhaps the most famous card Hoover ever drew is a card that was only ever played once: Proposal. This is the card that Magic creator Richard Garfield used to propose to his girlfriend, Lily Wu, by playing it against her in a game (which was his fourth consecutive attempt to play the card in a game). Very few copies of this card still exist, and while Quinton Hoover once owned one, it was unfortunately stolen during a trip to Japan, and its whereabouts are unknown. Fortunately, a scan of the card exists, so we can see the excellent artwork that accompanies the card. Hoover wisely portrays Wu as a being of great beauty and power, far superior to the roguish Richard, which is exactly the sort of tone one should strike when proposing.
While the above cards are beautifully illustrated, there is another style that Hoover is well known for, and it's a defining style for the early days of Magic: the Gathering.
The three cards above - Ivory Gargoyle, Carnivorous Plant, and Feedback - are beautiful examples of one of Hoover's strongest artistic styles. Instead of going for realism, these cards give the impression that they would not be out of place in a children's fable, or on a stained glass window. Thick outlines, minimal shading, and strong use of color give these cards a mythological feel; they make the player feel as if they've discovered magic spells from a time long past. This style is rarely seen in modern-day cards, and frankly, it's a shame.
This style worked wonders when Hoover was able to render humans or humanoid creatures in detail. With the Krovikan Vampire, Hoover is able to make a small scene into a sinister one with his strong use of the color red - not just in the two streams of blood, but in the vampire's eyes. Darkpact does something similar, completely changing the tone of the scene with a few bits of paint on a woman's face.
The above two cards - Tundra Wolves and Spoils of Evil - bring to mind a famous anecdote involving Hidetaka Miyazaki, creator of the Souls series of video games. When creating a creature known as the Undead Dragon, Miyazaki rejected the idea of a gory and gross creature, instead preferring a character design that was more "dignified". These two cards echo a very similar sentiment; instead of shocking gore, they depict a more dignified scene that doesn't repulse the player, but intrigues them instead. By all accounts, Spoils of Evil should be a more horrific card, but Hoover's distinct style doesn't repulse the player, inviting curiosity instead.
Some of Hoover's best cards depict a small story in the space of the tiny frame. Wrath of God, from the original Unlimited set, packs in a lot of detail, but the events of the card are still clear as day. On the other hand, Illusions of Grandeur, from the Masters Edition, takes an otherwise normal scene and makes it absolutely delightful and heartwarming, with the addition of one tiny rabbit. This card is a strong contender for the best one Hoover ever illustrated.
For the Unglued un-set, Hoover was able to stretch his creative muscles and have a bit of fun. The card Incoming! uses perspective in a brilliant way, taking an otherwise chaotic scene and turning it into a comedic one, putting us in the (undoubtedly) shaking shoes of a ranger who is in way over his head. Emcee from Unhinged, on the other hand, completely breaks the established rules by bringing the art outside of the frame, and even interfering with the card description.
In this writer's opinion, the best illustration Hoover ever created was for the Elder Land Wurm, as part of the Masters Edition. This card uses few colors, thick lines, and lots of basic geometric shapes in order to hide a gigantic monster before the player's eyes; the card is both intriguing and dignified, and its simplicity makes it stand out even among other cards of its day, and even more so next to the more realistic cards that are staples of modern Magic expansions.
Hoover's work was instrumental in giving early Magic a strong and mystical identity, and we here at Magic Untapped would like to thank him for his contributions.
Rest in peace, Quinton Hoover.