Of Art and Dragons: An Interview with Chuck Lukacs

Of Art and Dragons: An Interview With Chuck Lukacs

From Kithkin to Dragons, Dragons to Changelings, Chuck Lukacs has drawn them all. He has certainly introduced some great art to the game since joining a talented group of Magic artists in Lorwyn (dropping hints about his apparent love of drawing Dragons). It all began in 2007 during the Lorwyn prerelease, when I cracked my first-ever Thorn of Amethyst. Somehow, the artwork greatly appealed to me. I set my mind on contacting the artist in early 2008. The idea of setting up an interview for MTGSal for the readers struck me just like that, and so I made it happen. Timeshifting a little to the future, the he and I eventually worked together to produce this following interview, having put the finishing touches to it very recently. It wasn’t easy, since he had to set aside time from his work to answer my questions. Mr. Lukacs has been a real sport, answering all the questions that were posed to him (with a fast reaction time too).

How did the interview questions for Mr. Lukacs come about? I needed original questions. Most of my questions were provided by fellow forum members, friends, and locals whom I asked and stepped up to the challenge. I'm sure there are some questions which the readers might want to ask that I might have missed. I'm sure that I’ll add them in, given the opportunity to do another article along the same lines!

To kickstart the article, here is the artist's bio from the man himself:

Artist Biography:

1970 - 1988: Born and schooled in and around Detroit, MI.
1988 - 1993: Attended and graduated College of Creative Studies, Detroit, MI.
1984 - 2001: Odd jobs including: busboy, factory work, chocolate maker, and book salesman.
2002: First cover, painted for Dungeon Magazine.
2003: First work for Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, WA.
2006: First work for Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast, WA.
2008: Published Wreaking Havoc, a how-to-draw-and-paint fantasy book.

Chuck has been illustrating for the SciFi and Fantasy community for the past eight years. The last six have been spent working in oils, but he has worked in many different crafts; from historical book-craft, papermaking, and wood-engraving to ceramics (which was picked up from his wife at the Earthenwood Studio).

In terms of technique, Chuck has been influenced by the many craft revival movements throughout history; Japan's Ukiyoe period, the Pre-Raphaelites, Art Nouveau, Music Poster Art of the 70's, and Hip-Hop Graffiti imagery. These periods hold a commonality not only in their similar imagery and techniques, but also in their ability to create positive Social change with their work.

In terms of philosophical influence, Buddhism, Taoism, and a number of World Mythologies have played rather large roles. Chuck keeps on top of global political and economic news, and is also a huge fan of Jazz Music and Comedy.

As for temperament, Mr. Lukacs lives happily with his wife and dog, and is about as sane as a chic-pea sandwich. Lacking any useful social skills, and being prone to extraordinary lapses of common sense, he stays up late into the morning, dreaming his daft-wit little dreams, and trying his best to bring them into light. When he is not pushing paint around, he is practicing traditional archery, thinking about solar and wind power projects, craft brewing, manned kites, musical effects and instruments, and wind-up toy design.

Today's invention is a result of yesterday's fantasy. And it is by this unique awareness that artists have a duty to better their culture and their world. It is Chuck's sincere hope that by reflecting the infinitely diverse patterns of Nature, directing focus on the inherent unity that exists within our Mythologies and Literature, and by bringing to light new and inventive imagery, he may uncover some of the hidden potential we all hold, and perhaps inspire a better future.

Chuck Lukacs: "The Forge Tender looks very classical
to me."
Chuck Lukacs has currently done art for the sets of Lorwyn and Morningtide. For a list of cards he has done for Magic, click here.

So one might ask, with Mr. Lukacs's love for Dragons, how many Dragons did he draw for Magic (excluding Changelings) so far? Will Mr. Lukacs be doing arts for upcoming sets?

Ready for some leaks? Oops, onto the questions themselves:

[ED: Mr. Lukacs's responses have been cut-and-pasted, largely untouched, directly from his emails.]

Magik: I'm sure the players would like to know more about the artist in the hot seat, so how about a brief introduction of yourself?

Chuck Lukacs: Well let's see.. I don't think I can add a lot that I don't say in my Bio, but I do enjoy meeting new friends and fans of my work and illustration in general, and feel very honored to be recognized in this way.. Smile

M: What's your daily schedule like as an artist?

CL: It fluctuates so much I can't really call it a schedule. I've worked freelance for the last 8 years, so I can make my own schedule to a certain extent. I do like working through the night into morning for less distractions when I can, but I normally work from when I wake until I sleep, putting in around 10-12 hours a day.

M: Sounds like you are putting in a lot of hard work! What is your philosophy towards your work? What motivates you to do your best at your job?

CL: This is so very difficult to put into a paragraph or so, but I'll do my best..

There are moments of bliss, when someone will really understand a painting, or a fan will just smile and really appreciate and relate to your specific style.

Thorn of Amethyst, the artist's first art for Magic.

There are moments of bliss in any creative Craft or technique; improvising a section of music, or a joke, lifting a print from a freshly inked block, having light and shadow say for you just what you need them to say in the paint (or even like Chuang Tzu's butcher, cutting the joints of the pig, so that his knife stays sharp for years).. Constantly developing new skills..

There's also moments of bliss in Content or thought, or in gaming it would be Strategy. This isn't at all limited to artists, but you receive a beautiful awareness, a gift, this special something that tells you "here's a little kernel of brilliance for you, you big brained monkey.. Go put your opposable thumbs to good use!! "... Hahahahaha.....

These moments are rare, but they're strong enough to motivate me to do more, and go through a large amount of financial, and emotional hardships to get there.

M: How long have you been drawing/painting?

CL: Since I was very young. Most Artists and Musicians will tell you their first memory, was creating something. It's quite Magical that feeling of making our own language with paint or sound. It's like in Paulo Coehlo's Alchemist, when we're young we know what our job is on this Planet, and (blessing or curse :)) we remember and become it as we grow older.

M: Will there be a point of time where you run out of gas for work, or stop doing art altogether?

CL: Only when my hands or eyes finally stop working. Smile

You really do have to love doing this for a living, as I don't know many artists that paint professionally and aren't fairly [financially] poor because of it.

M: Being an artist, you must have tinkered with various mediums for your arts. What kind of medium is your personal favourite?

CL: Hmmmm... Watercolour and water based paints hold an immediacy that I sometimes miss, but oils are very permanent, probably my "favourite", as you can build up transparent washes so thick, that an oil painting can glow like a stained glass window. I also like wood engraving, and printmaking quite a lot, but I've not had the time to return to it lately.

M: How do people react when you tell them that you are an artist? How do you think being an artist has changed your life and your character as a person?

CL: It really depends on where you're at, and who you are talking to really.. There's a whole section of folks here in the US that don't see merit in Government financed Art and Cultural programs like our National Endowment for the Arts or Public Radio and Television, or Public School Art programs at all. And we've seen a lot of these things gutted in the last ten years as a result.

But there's also folks like Magic the Gathering players, who see how artists inspire their lives on a daily basis, and how we ultimately fill a very important role in any society. So, curse to some, blessing for others.. Smile

M: I'm sure many Magic players would like to know this: how did you get your foot in the door with Wizards?

CL: It was around 6 years after college, as I was working in the fine arts for a long time before, and was working in Inks and Watercolours at the time. After getting a couple emails from people at Conventions, I just kept sending them printed promotionals in the mail, and emailing new work, and got my first couple pieces in Dragon Magazine. Illustration is a very competitive market, so it's kind of like you're always in the process of getting your foot in the door.

M: On to the topic on your artworks...how long do you take to complete a single piece of art for Magic? Is there anywhere you get the inspiration for your artworks?

CL: Sketches, revisions, paint time, blood sweat and tears... I'd say a little less than a week per painting. Sometimes if the AD needs a quick turn around then much quicker, but painting traditional oils is a fairly time consuming process at its quickest.

Oh man, my inspirations and influences are such a vast list, it hurts my brain to try and think of everything and everyone. A short list of visual Artists might be the work of; Moebius, Miyazaki, Patrick Woodruffe, Jefferey Jones, Wm. Kaluta, Venosa, Sendek, Waterson, Waterhouse, Alma, Mucha, Wm. Heath Robinson, Leighton, Leon, Wyeth and Brandywine School, Pogany, T.Blackshear III, Frazzeta, and of course all my peers in the Wizards illustration community. Actually, internet communication and research has exploded Worldwide in the last 5 years so that's inspiring; ConceptArt.org, MySpace, Flickr, and other sites have been great for photo reference, and poses. Above all, my beautiful and kind Wife has been the biggest influence on my life and work.

M: Are there any interesting anecdotes about your card image creations?

CL: In the initial sketch stages of the Thorn of Amethyst painting I tried to squeeze a Merrow in, but didn't get to go with the idea in the end. I do like how it turned out though, that was in fact my first card ever.

M: What is your favorite piece of art you have done for Magic the Gathering so far?

CL: From what's out now, I like Burrenton Forge Tender and NeverMaker. The Tender looks very classical to me, and I got to add a lot to that painting that went beyond what was called for. The NeverMaker's pose was very difficult to pull off, but I just LOVE painting Dragons in any form, so it came naturally. My idea of the "lure" light on that piece was pretty cool too. Smile

M: Here's a question that Magic players would like to know: do you play Magic?

CL: I played mostly when I was in college when Magic first hit the gaming stores. My group of friends were all artists, so we loved how the art played a major role, and we also played a lot of D&D 2nd Edition. Nowadays I can barely find time to take the dog for a walk, but these new lands look extraordinary and I'm sure there will be lots of cool tactics that will arise.

M: An artist that plays Magic! How cool is that? Will you be doing any artwork for the upcoming Magic Sets, namely Shadowmoor and Eventide?

CL: Shadowmoor yes, but not sure about Eventide. Just take a peek back at my website for updates, and join my mailing list as well..

M: Have you had an opportunity to tour with Wizards to sell your artwork? Were there any memorable places or experiences that you would like to share with the readers?

CL: No, I've not. Perhaps one day, but I've not been given that opportunity yet. I'm normally in the Art Show at GenCon Indy every year though, and I'm planning on that show being a big one for me this year, as I'll be rolling out a new How-To draw and paint Fantasy book called Wreaking Havoc.

Wreaking Havoc, available at bookstores May 2008
M: Speaking of your book, if you were to promote your book, Wreaking Havoc to people, how would you go about doing it?


Wreaking Havoc: How to Create Fantasy Warriors and Wicked Weapons
Chuck Lukacs - Jim Pavelec - Thomas Manning - Chris Seaman
:: Check it out at major book and gaming stores in May 2008 ::
or Pre-order your copy online now at Amazon.com

The folks at Impact are great, and we'll be at GenCon signing and selling our Fantasy Art How-To book, Wreaking Havoc there. We also have a small Mid-West book signing tour in the works at the moment, and there's some talk about making a RPG game module or monster manual with our characters, or perhaps some sculpted minis to sell paired with the book.

M: Do you have a website where we can see samples of your artwork, as well as purchase items such as art prints from you? I'm sure some members will be interested in this.

CL: Absolutely !!!

Prints are now on sale through my Wife's site;
Earthenwood Studio Home Page
Earthenwood Studio Print Gallery

M: All in all, how can you sum up the experience of doing art for Magic? Would you continue doing art for Magic if given the opportunity?

CL: I worked for MTG all of last year, and it was the single most fun, and fulfilling gig that I've had the opportunity to paint for!! With the variety of characterization, and imaginative variations that come out of Magic, I would be INSANELY happy to be illustrating for Magic for as long as they'll have me Smile

M: Finally, would you like to make a shoutout to the fellow MTGSal members and people reading the article?

CL: JJ, Stacy, Dawn & all the great D&D ADs I've had the pleasure of working for; P.Witty, S.Glenn, Erik Mona, K.Hunter, Chris Perkins, R.Raper, Stumpy, Miles Davis, Ney-Ney, MTG Podcasters, and GamerZero & Blue podcast, Ronco, Fuzzytooth, all those insane cats in R&D, Panda, Snowman, Drive-thru Lou, Pops, Smokey, Feebee, Levi, both Jasons, Derek, Scott, Portland Mike, Marcus, Nod, Phil, Pepper, Tex, Baldy, Mouse, Joebot 3000, Khan, Pseudo, Jethro, J.R. "BoB" Dobbs, Decoder Ring Theatre, Sowerby & Luff, Maron, Angus, Zoey, Much love to all my Fans, and for the Brothers and Sisters on the street..


So that concludes my session with Chuck Lukacs. Since this is an interview with an artist, here are some more non-Magic artworks from the artist himself.

[ED: Sadly, this last example is only a conceptual piece.]

I must say it has been a great time asking questions of the artist. Don't forget to check out the artist's site and maybe get some art prints there. Props to Chuck Lukacs for being a real nice person and agreeing to work with me to create this article. Without you, this article would not have been possible. If any of you guys see him during Prereleases or even GenCon, be sure to drop by to say hi, and maybe you could get some questions you have answered. Smile


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