Ovino X and Cards, Cards, Cards!

News, The View From the Path



As I mentioned on the Monday Meeting Notes blog two weeks ago, I was one of the artist Guests of Honor at Ovino X in Milan these last couple of weeks. Rather than filling up this week’s Monday Notes, I figured I’d post this here as it really pertains to the larger Onyx Path Publishing picture, rather than to items we cover in the Monday blog. This is because a con like Ovino X is pretty much purely a Magic the Gathering tournament and fan event and I was there because once upon a time, I illustrated a bunch of Magic cards.



Vance, Stinfo, myself, and “a special friend”.


This was the first time I’d ever been flown in to sign cards at a con, so the whole experience was new to me. This was also the first time I’d been to continental Europe, so that was something new as well. Fortunately, the gang at Ovino X were able to include my wife Lisa in the trip arrangements, so not only would she be able to go to Italy for her birthday, but I’d have at least one other person to help figure out what was happening and where we were. So we had four days of the con bracketed by a couple of days on either side for sightseeing.




Now if that sounds like a pretty sweet deal, I agree: it was. That’s why I was into it. But I was also warned by Stinfo (that’s his online name in the MtG community) that the four days at the con would be pretty much ten hours a day of signing cards and alterations to the cards. I figured that he was exaggerating and the signings would come in waves and there be boring gaps in between, like most cons.

I was wrong.




Before I describe this, please be assured that I am not complaining. The enthusiasm of the attendees and their excitement was awesome in any language, and I was prepped by Stinfo beforehand. Plus he and the fantastic Andre1 and Andre2 really did all they could to make the experience fun and survivable. They got to know when I and my artist cohort in crime Vance Kovacs (an amazingly upbeat guy from CA who does film concept art mostly) were getting frazzled and sore and were quick to redirect the fans from their more out-there requests.




See where I mentioned the “sore” part? OMG. I am not used to ten hours a day of hand work, whether signing, drawing, or painting, and these old bones and muscles were beat. If you want an example, take a stack of fifty 3″ x 5″ cards, cut them in half, stack them, and then sign your name at one short end until you get through the stack. Bear in mind that the fan would like the autographs to resemble one another, which is pretty hard to manage after the first fifty. How long did that take you? Imagine us doing that same thing over and over again. We tried to break the signings up with art work as that uses different muscles, but yes, end of the day: sore hands, arms, shoulders, back.




Plus I had never altered cards before. I had heard it was a popular thing for MtG artists to do, but hadn’t really done anything besides a Stuffy Doll on a playmat or whatever. For the regular crowd in line, I was expected to do marker sketches as alterations, but for a group of “private collectors” the deal was that I’d make the alterations in paint. The thing is, my pieces from the early sets, which are the ones the attendees wanted me to draw, by and large, were done in watercolor dyes and then outlined in black. The medium I used is impossible to use on a printed card. Again, I knew this going in, so I worked out an idea that if I painted the piece in white acrylic first, then used the color acrylic, and then outlined everything in ultra-fine Sharpie, that we’d at least have an approximation of the look.




By and large, that actually worked. Who knew? Only downside was that the ultra-fine Sharpies must have picked up the acrylic particles as I drew on the dried paint, and they would get clogged unusably anywhere between 85% of a card until a bit into the next card, depending on the piece of art. At one point we had to send Andre2 into the city to find more Sharpies, but in the end it all worked pretty well.




It is weird though, and I don’t think most attendees consider this, to replicate a piece of art you did once 20-some years ago over and over again. At first, it was cool to try and figure out what me-then was thinking when I made that mark or laid in that color that way. Getting into the mindset back through time. And it was interesting to try and find new ways to alter the Red and Blue Elemental Blasts so each alteration was unique. (80% of the cards I was handed were those two friggin’ cards).




So that was the experience, but I really do want to stress how great it was to meet so many friendly and excited fans. I had made some prints and a few folks bought those, and I brought Onyx Path brochures and a few card fans were also RPG fans and took those. Yet I returned with no brochures. Why, the three of you still reading, might ask? Because, the venue that the con was at was a complex called the University of the Mind (I think) and wasn’t just for card games. They had a massive collection of RPGs and boardgames, and regular gaming sessions. Downstairs, in the dungeon, were rooms decorated for LARP sessions and in particular Vampire play as this was the home of at least one branch of the Camarilla fan club. Plus, they had a room filled with chess tables, and they have regular Bridge and Go sessions as well. So, I left the remaining brochures with them to help spread the word about Onyx Path to an audience that by and large doesn’t know what we’ve been doing with our books.




Every step along the Path is a good one to make.

Finally, philosophically, I think that one of Onyx Path‘s strengths is not just the work our creators, including myself, do directly on our projects, but the whole panoply of our experiences in different media and even different careers. My years as a freelance Illustrator provide me with opportunities to speak to many different folks that I don’t usually as the Onyx Path guy. Having freelanced means I know the pressures and difficulties facing freelance creators, and I try and make Onyx‘s processes and relationships such that we can avoid a lot of the downsides.




And if nothing else, having that four day concentration on just my art work brought me back to thinking about our ongoing projects with a refreshed perspective. You can stare too long down the road and get tunnel vision looking at all the projects we are shepherding to completion. At least, I can. The change of concentration was invigorating.


  13 comments for “Ovino X and Cards, Cards, Cards!

  1. Neall
    October 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Red Elemental Blast saved my bacon more than once.

    • Mr. Paint
      October 12, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Blue Elemental Blast for the win!

      • richt
        October 12, 2015 at 4:44 pm

        Sure- it sure seems popular!

    • richt
      October 12, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      An amazing number of game designers are Magic players. Were/are you big into playing, Neall?

  2. Yiodan
    October 12, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I’m sure more than three of us read the whole thing. It was an interesting perspective even considering my limited interest in MtG.

    • richt
      October 12, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Glad to hear it. Not expecting a huge crossover between our RPG crew and MtG, but the value to Onyx as another way to speak to gamers is certainly there.

  3. Phaolan
    October 12, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    I’m glad to be the third person to have read through it all! Also, I’m glad that you could shed some light on the experience of being a guest at one of the those cons.

    I’ve been an avid con-goer for decades and a dedicated staffer at very large con (we had 20 thousands this year!) for a full decade, but I have not yet been an invited guest. I’m also a huge MtG fan… And I wanna see Italy! So overall, I was very interested in this post. 😛

  4. Sean
    October 12, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Great post. I typically seek you out every year at Gencon to sign (Korean) some of your MTG work and you are always cordial, patient and willing to talk about the Rack, the Doll and all things blast-like :p Good that some passionate Mtg fans in Italy had the same experience. See you next year at Gencon!

    -Sean O

  5. Greg
    October 12, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    When only the stuffiest of dolls will do! Enjoyed the post (RPG and Mtg fan).

  6. October 12, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    So, there’s this wonderful pitch to CCP
    “Card Game: the Trading” – where you play a different kind of magician that duels evil masterminds dating from millenia ago. Wait… that seems familiar…

  7. October 13, 2015 at 4:33 am

    Thank you Richard for the brochures!(we are waiting for Pugmire!) very happy you liked our dungeon. we hope to have you and Lisa in Italy again!

    • richt
      October 13, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Well, thank you for a great choice of local restaurant! It was exactly what Lisa and I were hoping for – we could say that at least one meal was not a tourist spot! 🙂 Glad there’s interest in Pugmire, too. I’m reading through Eddy’s draft of the Early Access Material today. Caio!

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