Welcome to a new feature I'm trying out for the blog. I have a background in art, having studied fine art and commercial art/graphic design for some years. I'm the sort of guy who finds documentaries about fonts utterly fascinating, and usually has at least 1 card in each of my EDH decks that I know shouldn't be there, but I'm playing because I like the art too much.
So it seems only natural that I should combine my love of art with my love of Magic - especially since art plays such a huge, important role in making the game stand out and capture people's attention.
The art in Innistrad, overall, is phenomenal. They really went all-out to capture the mood of 'dark gothic horror' and I'd say the succeeded quite well overall. Of course I'm a huge sucker for all things dark and gothic, so I will readily admit my tastes are heavily biased in favor of this set's theme... but that doesn't mean I don't look at the art objectively. There are plenty of cards in Innistrad whose illustrations don't really thrill me much. But far more of the cards do boast some exceptional work.
For this first article, I want to narrow it down a bit, though. Reviewing a whole set, especially one as fantastic as Innistrad, might be tedious. So, I think I'll just do the Basic Lands of the set. I've already posted about why I think it's important to choose Basic Lands that have an aesthetic that matches the rest of your deck. Basic Lands are the one thing in Magic where you know which specific card you want but have dozens and dozens of options where artwork is concerned.
With that in mind, it seems logical to begin this little experiment by critiquing the Basic Lands of Innistrad. NOTE: I am posting the pictures of each land here, but I'm basic my critiques off the actual physical cards which I have right in front of me as I write. This is because computer monitors are pretty inconsistent in how the display colors, but the actual cards will not vary in this way.
First up, we have the Plains.
I'm a huge Jung Park fan, and was following his work before he started illustrating for Magic. However, this isn't his strongest work. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it's the weakest of the three Plains arts. But Jung did do some things right here. First of all, does this look like a Plains in the sense that it could be a source of white mana? Yes, to me it does. I also think that this piece utilizes a better prospective than the other two. In the first two, the horizon line is much closer to the bottom of the frame, lending to an elevated perspective, while Jung's piece puts the POV right on the ground, with the horizon much higher. This makes it feel like the veiwpoint of a person standing there on the ground.
Ultimately, I have to give Adam props for the most aesthetically pleasing illustration, though it comes up short in evoking a "white mana" feeling. Jung Park's illustration is the least aesthetically pleasing, but he employs a stronger grasp of perspective, recognizing the importance of POV in this set. Finally, Eytan Zana probably does the best at hitting both points - selling the concept of "Plains" and "white mana" while still making a visually arresting piece through bold use of color.
Next, we've got Islands.
All three Islands boast good artwork, but that first one just came out way too dark. I think I can find other Islands that are similar but more visually interesting. Adam's piece has a great hook in the form of the tossed-about ship, but I think he should have worked in some stormy weather and lightining, in place of the big grey cliffs in the background. The foreground is great, while the background is just boring. Jung Park wins this time, with an aesthetic piece where the background is just as interesting as the foreground.
Swamps are next.
Adam consistently comes in second with another solid illustration, while Jung shows his grasp of using color and detail to compensate for a lack of broad color palette. Once again, though, James Paick sees another well-executed piece hampered by too-dark printing, and his reluctance to use color value to his advantage.
Now for some Mountain action.
It's kind of a toss-up here, as to which I like best. James' is the best concept and evokes the mood the best, but Adam's and Eytan's are both more aesthetically pleasing. All three are quite good in their own rights, which is weird to me, because Mountains are usually the ugliest of the bunch in most sets.
Wrapping up with Forests...
Well, this wraps up my latest attempt at being an art snob. Hopefully this wasn't too disappointing of a distraction from EDH decklists!