Sunday, January 18, 2015

steve argyle: one of the worst artists in magic's history

Most modern Magic art is pretty good. More specifically, it varies from “eh” to “that’s kinda cool,” with very little deviation therein. The strict style guides, combined with art direction that seems to be aimed at creating a generic house style for Magic, have pushed out most of the truly unique artists from the game. There are a few holdovers, namely Terese Nielsen, whose art direction often invents ways of saying “make something that looks like Terese Nielsen art.” There are some recognizable styles, like Raymond Swanland’s “ALL SPIKE EVERYTHING,” the logical conclusion of Magic art trying to be as badass and masculine as possible.

And there’s Steve Argyle, who’s fucking awful.

This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed this. Back in 2012, I wrote about my first experience seeing Chosen of Markov, a card that tells the story of a sweet innocent-but-hopefully-of-legal-age woman with shockingly shiny/glowing skin transforming into (and I will self-quote on this) a titmonster. I then moved on to his Naya Battlemage, a collection of leafy bondage pointing at a near-naked woman with bizarre proportions, before the main event: his horrific rendering of Liliana.

But this is about more than one man’s grotesque ideas of what women’s bodies are. This is about art, damn it, and I’d rather have art in my game from A Literal Nazi (if there’s some interesting shading when he paints Klansmen) than more of Argyle’s hack work.

Now, a bunch of disclaimers here. I am not a visual artist. I have not attempted to paint anything since I was 13. I know nothing of digital illustration methods. I don’t care in the slightest how someone makes their work, if their end product is good. But Argyle is an artist whose work I can look at, and at a glance, tell that it looks digital. It looks digital in a bad way. Everything is glowing, there’s DETAILS DETAILS everywhere that there don’t need to be, there’s no compositional focus because he’s playing around with filters and textures and shit.

Now, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know what the original art description was here, but it certainly turned out as a painting of a truly nasty fart.

With a lot of bad Magic art, there are easy excuses. “Oh, that’s just old Magic art,” someone would say about Amy Weber. “Well, he was art director and just had to make some stuff to fill hopes,” about Jesper Myrfors. “Nepotism at its finest,” with regard to Pete Venters. What are the excuses for Lavalanche? Please explain to me why that has sullied my gorgeous brown eyes with its hideousness.

Well, at least he’s not working in Magic any more.



The Miller said...

Honestly, it sounds like you should be upset at the art directors. Artists like Steve Argyle have a distinct style — like it or not — and the art directors are the ones working with the artists and approving the final work.

That being said, yes, Steve likes painting scantily-clad women. That’s a fact. But, I would argue not all his work is a loss (Chandra Ablaze:; Bloodbraid Elf:; Monastery Swiftspear (reminiscent of his work for L5R):!monastery-swiftspear/cdgi)

Lastly, you may actually appreciate his tumblr where he defaces his own work: (There’s got to be at least a hundred defaced Lilliana’s there!)

Dont Ask said...

You are a faggot

Unknown said...

You're a real class act, Lukas. I bet your grandma gave you a nickel for that.

Unknown said...

With you on this. Thanks for linking the older stuff, too, as those articles were good reads and I'd never seen Liliana rotated properly before. (That mono-thigh coming out of the middle of her body is just disturbing...)

I've wondered "WTF?" about Lavalanche, but for some reason I never saw it through the lens of being digitally created. Now, I've publicly made some pretty gross errors in GIMP in my time...but I would never expect to call them works of art and get paid more than about a dollar for doing so. Ugh.

Keep up the good work! Glad to see a blogalanche of recent posts up!

Unknown said...

Its funny how much you gush over Terese Nielson and gloss over her big titted half nude paintings of woman like elvish ranger and bassandra.

Jeffery said...

I like this a lot, actually. I think art is just as much a "mechanic" of the game as the the other parts of the card. Case in point: I casually played a guy from the Toronto scene who was very kind to me in answering my questions about his "pro rate" commander deck. As he was playing it, a lot of proxies were turned up (it was casual, and he told me he was lending out some cards to some friends for tournament play). Even though the writing was clear and he explained what it did, I couldn't distinguish the cards for the life of me. In fact, he could have been totally making them up and I wouldn't have known. Somehow, having that piece of art makes it believable. Even more so, if the art is bad, it makes that first impression even stronger. The only card I remember of the proxies was Basalt Monolith. Probably because he wiped our lands and used that to cast all his spells.

Unknown said...

@Adam Kern: It's probably because Terese Nielson's artwork actually looks good.

Jhonatan Mondragon said...

Steve seems to have good art. I dont get his. Is this supposed to be sattired? Whats wrong with having women like that? Do you see how magic have a lot o hunks? Double standards.

East. said...

Hello! I'm posting this comment from 2023, eight years after you wrote this. Guess what? Still a terrible take.

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