You’ve been painting for Magic: the Gathering for many years now. In fact, the Gatherer website says you have created 177 cards for the game. With such a varied body of work, do you have any favorite creatures or beings you prefer to paint?
It’s more like 200+ actually! The Gatherer, for whatever technical reason, neglected to include a whole bunch of my cards and that’s not even including the ones I have done that aren’t even out yet! Considering that spread, there really isn’t one thing I prefer illustrating over another. In fact, I quite enjoy the variety more than sticking with one type. I might paint a rhino-beast in one card then the very next is a mood/storytelling scene with multiple human figures. The challenge is really what often gets me going. I especially welcome things that are way out of left field – like the evil aspic holiday feast I did for “Yule Ooze” or the 50/50 cute/creepy creature I did for “Reincarnation”. Those were fun specifically because they were so different.
You work exclusively with acrylic paints. What is it about acrylics that you love so much?
I’m not sure if my image creation tendencies evolved from using acrylic or if using acrylic just suited those tendencies (maybe both?) but either way, there’s a versatility to the medium that I’m comfortable with in getting the effects and colors that I want. It’s relatively simple, too – I just prep my palette with paint and get a fresh jar of water and I’m ready to roll. I can see the pluses to digital and oil and watercolor but I can also see that as far as professional illustration, acrylic is best for how I like to work.
You’ve done quite a lot of concept art in your career. Are you an endless wellspring of ideas or do you have to search out inspiration? And if so, where do you get your inspiration?
I absorb inspiration constantly. I think all artists do in some way or another. That’s just how I see the world – in design elements, and shapes, and textures, and lighting, and colors. That said, I still go seeking inspiration when I need to. When it comes to concept design, usually there’s a more focused search for inspiration like Aztec costuming or deep sea fish or whatever. And the rest is all just mushing these sparks of inspiration together in a way that feels fresh. Maybe a costume has elements of Zuni Native American design but I layer it like an outfit I saw in BladeRunner and then shape the hair like something I saw on some weird monkey from Borneo. It’s all about shapes and combinations.
As an artist, how important is it to draw well? Would you say it’s more important than driving, dancing, or eating?
To be an illustrator it is VITALLY important. Like, I can’t stress it enough. Depending on the job at hand, you can get away with rudimentary painting skills or super simple value structures – great drawing can carry all of that. Painting and colors cannot carry a weak drawing though. If you can draw well, you are very valuable to art directors. It opens up so many more doors for you, too. So I’d say it’s def more important than driving because driving isn’t going to pay my bills – and what does an artists need a car for? They’re usually stuck In their studios like deranged hermits anyway. Dancing and eating though…I do like both those things – but am only good at one.
Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I am working on concept designs for a company called Draco Games that has given me a lot of creative freedom in designing the look and costuming of various characters and war factions. It has been extremely fun and there’s more coming. Can’t wait to share them! And speaking of concept designs, I have been assembling some text for a book of just my concept design work. I have been rolling this idea around for a couple years now and it’s still in its early embryonic stage but, if I can get focused and stop getting distracted by answering interview questions (*wink*) and instructing at illustration workshops (*wink*), I’ll make a little headway and get to the point where I can project a release date! But that’s quite a ways off.
A native to Cleveland, Ohio’s eastside and a graduate of the Columbus College of Art & Design, Steve Prescott has been a freelance artist in the gaming industry since the mid 90’s, working on products from such companies as White Wolf Games, FASA, Paizo, Blizzard, Copenhagen Creators, Hasbro, Animal Planet, Valve, and most notably for Wizards of the Coast, where he has contributed heavily to both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering.
Steve won “Best-in-Show” at the 2007 GenCon, published a book of drawings in 2009 called AGGREGATE, and then another called Steve Prescott’s Alphabet Book of Mythological Beings in 2016, has had work in multiple Spectrum: The Best in Fantastic Art annual publications, did all the illustration work for the app game SoulSpark, has done concept design work for D&D, Magic: the Gathering, Hasbro, Bethesda, Valve, and even worked on pre-production creature designs for the My Little Pony movie (Yes, you read that right.). Somehow in there, he finds time to hastily draw a cartoon to put in his daughter’s lunch every day.