Update #7: Yearly Recap, The History of Magic The Gathering Art, and Future Plans.
It's the 7th and final update of the year 2020, its been an interesting one to say the least. I'd like to welcome everyone who reads, and people who have shared this crazy crazy year we have all trudged through. This one I decided, as it is the last post of the year, I thought I'd write about how this year has changed me as a person and what the new year has in store for myself both personally and artistically. So without a do, lets get going.
So to recap the year, like myself and many if not every other person, it has been rough as toast. For January I went through a rough patch in my romantic life from a situation which left me in a way in which damaged my self confidence, trust and self image, which although is a plethora of feelings and a situation I wouldn't wish on anyone, it is what it is, and that's sometimes how life goes. The important bit is too focus on the feelings and things I dislike, and to work on those to improve yourself as a person and rediscover that love for yourself. This in itself is a really hard situation, especially to go by yourself. I was lucky enough to have someone there who had my back, if you're reading this, you know who you are, and thank you, truly.
February was still very much processing a lot of emotions, and a trip to Amsterdam with two good friends of mine. I haven't left the UK since 2014 so it was really refreshing to check out a new country. Aside from the usual tourist attention Amsterdam brings, it was interesting to see how the culture is different compared to the British culture, and how bike-centric they are, it's pretty admirable. Also, as strange as it is, their water is pretty crisp too. Through those 3 days, the people I met, shared cakes with and the hungover mornings, are something I'll remember for many years to come. It was a good break from the issues, and was quite therapeutic in taking a break from all of it and to focus on myself in a different perspective.
March as we all know was the beginning of a new section of history which will be looked back into hopefully with appreciation for the future, the outdoors, and our friends, and time to reflect and improve ourselves, despite the situation we are gravely pulling through. This is where most of the year slowed down, the driving lessons stopped, the offline lectures and workshops ceased and the birthday celebrations changed. I did enjoy my unconventional 21st, lockdown, few beers and a living room is enough for me.
April, which very much blended into May, and June, was experiencing lockdown in its finest. I became quite interested into taking walks of Chester, and discovering more to the charm and forests in and around Chester. This helped me through the issues and somewhat discovered a lot more beauty for a place in which felt tainted. Through here a lot more spurred, such as my study and interest into writing 'WHO IS MORB?' and a lot of plants. I had a whole window ledge of houseplants and it very much became a coping routine for the groundhog months (As I write this a new plant has just spouted a few seedling, one more to the masses). Learning became online for everyone on our last few courses, which in a Drama and Theatre Degree you can imagine had a drastic turn in learning, interesting experience in which I wish to not replicate in the next few years to say the least.
I did learn how to throw a teabag from across the kitchen into my mug however, so, I didn't completely waste these months.
July was the end of my tenancy in Chester and I moved back home, through this was the starting phases of me creating this website and slowly the career for myself and the path I want to travel for the next few years exploring what I can do in the creative industry, it also marks the end of the lockdown topknots, big hair and shaggy beards.
August I began working after job searching whilst maintaining and adding to my website, nothing too impressive of building gaming PCs. This gave me a lot of learning into adulthood, self-sufficiency, and a strong sense of dread for the future if I don't kick the career path I want into gear.
September and October, for me these feel like they very much blended into one, a lot like most of this year it blended into routines of working and sleeping to have enough energy to work. I found myself in these months struggling a lot more like many others were with the transition of being a Post-grad in a Mid-pandemic world trying to find a place in the struggling creative industry. For these moments I had to keep telling myself things will get better, and to keep working on what I'm doing, double of nothing vibes.
November didn't exist, I won't be convinced otherwise.
December roared ahead, things have become smoother in terms of settling, finding my direction and hopefully I have the ground layout for what I want to do, achieve and climb to for the future of myself, wellbeing, career, and for the people around me and those I hold dear.
To top 2020 off, it I learnt self worth for myself, and to try and catch on when people are just using me or extorting me to account for their laziness and my willingness, the importance of mental wellbeing and to be ok with not being ok.
We get so caught up with peoples social media lives and the plastic struggles for attention that we forget or have difficulty identifying those who do truly need support in such a crucial time. We have to remember we are human, and the feelings we have are human, and that others feel or at most care and lend a ear for. Weakness in these times are natural, and it takes strength to open to vulnerability to others for support. This itself was the most important thing I learnt from this year, give it a shot someday.
(If you don't feel comfortable with people you are close with, they'll be a few links at the bottom to charities and support numbers where you can speak to someone and reach out anonymously and others for help or guidance or in crisis.)
This moment I would like to thank to the people I have shared this year with, it's been a strange one and I haven't been in my best form for a good part of it, thank you for the support and the memories of the year 2020. For those I've shared a stage with, beers, tears and heartfelt future fears, I thank you for being there, in one way or another you've all helped shape me into the person I am now, and to further grow.
That is what leads us here, the silver lining of 2020, a vaccine on the way, some countries returning to normality thanks to their governments threat response to the pandemic, and the dim future seeming to glisten a little bit more on the horizon of endless possibilities. At the same time, Mad Max was based in the year 2021, so I will hold my breath.
The Evolution of Art in Magic: The Gathering
I thought for the last update, I thought id talk about something which I enjoy, which as expected, is nerdy, and quite frankly uncool, but ah well, you can skim read if you fancy.
Debuting in 1993 on August 5th the Alpha edition of Magic: The Gathering was released, a collectable card game with high fantasy themes. In simple play, the game takes place as two wizards caught in a duel summoning creatures spells and tricks to reduce the other players health from 20 to 0. However what separated this game from other card games such as Yu Gi Oh, was the intention and worldbuilding of the worlds and locations portrayed through the cards in its art, accompanied with the lore text found on some cards lacing together snippets of a bigger picture of the worlds politics, inhabitants and world.
The first few sets of art for MTG was really quite a process of finding its image as a brand and style, this also marks the beginning of its iconic card back , which remains unchanged throughout its evolution of style. It indicated the 5 colours of cards that can be used through the game, each with different characteristics, such as blue for knowledge, green for nature, red for passion, black for death and rebirth, and white for life and blessings.
Through the style of high fantasy, some cards, especially in the early sets were known through the Magic community as ugly or poor choice of art, those which come to mind are Stasis, Forest Bear, and Word of Command. These early works either look awkward or don't fit the style of the fantasy world, or just plain filler for a artist dropping out of card art.
I started playing with a few of my university friends at the beginning of a set called Ixalan, which I have always held dear, as a island of cultish vampires, dinosaurs and aquatic humanoids Merfolks and seafaring pirates. This captivated me as these contrasting types of creatures and humans were seamlessness integrating into the world with interactions and a over encompassing story, leading to the finale of the current storyline later in the set War of the Spark, more on that later.
What let me take interest in this games artwork was the card Twilight Prophet, The artwork by Seb Mckinnon. It depicts a vampiric apparition, basking in the light that pierces through into the temple in front of hazy, Aztec stone pillars. The work questions more, such as questioning the blessing or curse of the vampires weaknesses, and is this sacrifice, or enlightenment/ a blessing of sunlight resistance from a godlike entity? A lot of the artwork depicts tough creatures, brandishing weapons with malicious intent, whilst McKinnon focused on the peaceful, the ethereal, and the contrast between the styles in the set breeds capability for wildly different artworks, such as Pirates Pillage, by Wayne Reynolds. This depicts a goblin-esque pirate prying a gem off a Aztec dragon statue. The movement in this piece with the falling leaves and sense of wind in the natures littered in this piece, it is a energetic piece, which encapsulates the chaotic nature of goblin pirates in this realm.
Further on a few sets we revisit a Plane called Ravnica, a world in which is one huge sprawling city, with 10 distinct guilds, from the law making and enforcing nature of the Azorious Guild, to the chaotic rebellious nature reclaiming Gruul Clan. This set was considered one of the best sets of currently MTG as of late, which gave the players a opportunity to connect with a guild. Myself personally I discovered I played a lot more of the Green and White colour guild, Seleynsa, which focused on nature and harmony between it and the city. What made this set so popular was the art, theme and lore it came with. This set gave the cards identity to each card, easily connecting each card to a guild. The Colors of Ravnica by Ryhstic Studies Explains a detailed view on the colours that were used to connect the art to the world and game.
Later on in my personally favorite set Throne of Eldraine they included alternate art for some of their cards for the world of Eldraine, with the theme of western fairy tales and Grimm brothers stories, such as Arthurian legends, jack and the beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel . Folk tales have always been an interest of mine, and too see it implemented into a world so seamlessly and with rich lore, it truly was enchanting to see the world in a new perspective. My favorite card in this set was the alternate art for Lovestruck beast.
Lovestruck beast, which pays homage to beauty and the beast, thematically, mechanically and the flavour text on this card is perfect. Donned with the alternate card style where the borders of the text and art boxes are wrapped with Tangling vines over a open book styled text box. The colour identity of this card mechanically is green, which represent growth and nature in playstyle. It also comes with the 'Adventure' mechanic, which is a optional spell which can be played before the spell itself, which is create a 1/1 human. This connects to the mechanic of the other side of the card, Lovestruck Beast, as it cannot attack unless you control a 1/1 creature. This gives the flavour that the beast won't fight unless it has its love. The flavour text "His mind chose solitude, but his heart disagreed." Slides into this flavour of the card smoothly, further encompassing the card mechanics and paralleling them into this creatures feelings and behavior into the world of Eldraine. Finally, the art is structured and positioned in a way which centers the Beast in Noblemans clothes, smelling a rose, upon a balcony window in the center of the art, surrounded by stone carvings of beasts and ivy. in the background you can see shadowed the princess approaching the beast. (Connecting it to its creature type, Beast Noble) The lighting inside of the room is illuminated with a golden aura, providing the inside of the room that the princess and beast are sharing is blessed.
The issues I have with the newer sets artistically is the fear of similarity. As more and more artists go towards digital hyper realistic art, I felt a switch and although great works of art, less our-there and eye-catching work. Bar the usual Seb Mckinnon Flourish, in the new sets I struggle to find more works which are appealing, and give more that what is face value to the work. I think all of the artists that create the artwork for all the cards in MTG are incredible, but to give the work intrigue, questions to ask or the background to study is what truly gives me interest to the work.
To conclude, I would strongly recommend if you have the time to check out the video The Structures of Ravnica by Rhystic Studies, a video essay which looks into more depth and the clever design choices they used in the creative process to the buildings of one of the worlds in MTG, and how is uses them to create and reinforce the identities of the 10 guilds. With this creative direction and clever subtly, and hopefully more leeway for the artists creative freedom, we could see more of the incredible art in the future.
If you've read any of my other updates, you will know that a interesting voice is what grips me in a song, and the raspy nasal singing in this song gives raw emotion to the lyrics in this songs, along with a laid back drum rhythm and guitar, really set me to a time in between my first and second year of university in summer. The more I listened to this song the more I aspire to return to that same feeling under new circumstances.
Done as a social experiment on the website Reddit, this piece was curated by any user who came on, could place one pixel on a massive white canvas, this spurred a journey through the work, politics, history, and timestamps of the internet culture on reddit in 2017. The work in itself is a masterpiece of mish-mash. From classical art, to the windows 95 task bar at the bottom, shit-posts and country flags. this project to watch unfold was just as incredible as the end product. Here is where I will like a timeline of the R/Place if you wanted to see the evolution. Here is where you can see each piece explained.
Its incredible to see that a community formed from such a simple premise, one pixel could be placed by one user every few minutes.
For the last update of 2020, that'll do for this year, and catch you in 2021 folks.
With late love, -SC (27/12/2020)
Links to Self Help: The Samaritans - Tel: 116 123 - samaritans.org
Shout - Text Shout to 85258 - giveusashout.org
Papyrus HOPELINEUK – 0800 068 4141 - papyrus-uk.org
ChildLine - Helpline: 0800 11 11 - childline.org.uk
Students Against Depression - https://www.studentsagainstdepression.org/are-you-depressed-or-anxious/