Looking back at that one time Mark Rosewater made art for a Magic card


Magic: The Gathering Head Designer, Mark Rosewater, actually has an art credit.

Over the years, more than just a few people have made artwork for Wizards of the Coast's flagship collectible card game, Magic: the Gathering. To date, more than 400 have done some sort of art for the game, with one artist, Kev Walker, having done more than 425 pieces alone.

These artists come from all over the world. Magic Untapped has even interviewed a few dozen of them.

Being chosen as a Magic artists is something of an honor for many. So it's a bit weird when, say, a non-artist is commissioned. For a set that came out in the late 1990s, however, that is exactly what happened.

Magic: The Gathering was getting its first "joke" set in 1998. Wizards of the Coast wanted that set, one that would be known as Unglued to be lighthearted and humorous with all sorts of inside jokes, puns and parody on lore, ridiculous scenarios and creatures, and so on. This mentality went right down to the artwork itself. They went full meta, and included illustrators getting involved on the artwork, and one card, B.F.M., spanning two separate cards.

And that's where Mark Rosewater came in. (Okay, he's actually been there from the start as the set's sole designer and developer. But we're talking about the set's card art here.)

Wanting some more unexpected artwork, and wanting artwork reminiscent of a child's crayon drawing for it, Rosewater volunteered to do it. In fact, he didn't draw just one version. He made 60 or so versions of it just to get it right. And, since Magic needs to pay the artist for legal reasons , Rosewater took a commission fee of $1.00 for it.  More on that in a moment...

As for the artwork itself, the result was this:

The card, Look at me, I'm the DCI (the DCI -- or, Duelist Convention International -- was the ruling body for sanctioned MTG and other WotC-owned CCGs at the time), is basically a "ban a card from being in the game", the card personified the what Unglued was going for. Also, to date, beside Elves of Deep Shadow by Jesper Myrfors, it remains one of two card where the name, art, card design, and flavor text all were done by a single person.

Oh, and did he actually, physically get paid? Well, kind of.

We'll let Mark explain that one:

"Flash forward many months later. I get a call from a woman in payroll. She says that their records show that I am owed a $1. I said yes, that was for my art. “Can we just pay you with a dollar bill?” she asks.

“No,” I reply, “I really want a check.”

“You do understand,” she informs me, “That it costs more than a $1 to process a check.”

“I understand,” I explain, “You guys were going to pay me a lot more and I volunteered to just get a $1 so you’re still saving plenty of money.”

“Why do you need a check?” she asked.

“I’m going to frame it.”

“You’re not going to cash it?!”

“Yes, at the end of the year, you’re going to be a $1 off.”

I got my check and it is now framed with my original art work."

To date, Look at Me, I'm the DCI remains Mark Rosewater's only art card. And, most likely, will remain so (unless you count the Mystery Booster playtest card that is credited to him).

That said, there is a new "Un-" set due out later this year...

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.