Steve Argyle is a freelance illustrator, which in his words is, “basically the fancy way to say I get to sit at home in my undies all day and doodle. I used to have to put on clothes everyday when I worked on video games for Sony, like Twisted Metal: Black, War of the Monsters, and Warhawk.” I met him at GenCon 2014 and his booth ended up being a favorite stop of my partner’s and mine during the convention. We ended up getting custom playmats from him (mine is the absolute best thing ever and you can see it in the GenCon 2014 wrap-up post I linked to above), as well as several signatures on some of our Magic: The Gathering cards. We even got a large print of one of his other pieces. Probably the most interesting thing we did at his table, other than talk to him of course, is join the Ascended Minion Project, a fan club that he’s turned into a method of rewarding his loyal fans. Ryan got a catthulhu card, and I got a merkitten. In general though, it was just a fun place to be around, and Steve and Kat were really down-to-earth, nice people to talk to. I gave him DGHF’s card and told him I would be interested in interviewing him, and we finally got a chance to catch up a few days ago. What follows below is the result of that conversation.
DHGF: How did you get started as an illustrator? Was art something you were always interested in? Did you do any formal training?
Steve: I got my start decorating my parent’s furniture with crayons and moved on to various other mediums from there. As I said earlier, I started out professionally as a 3D modeler in the video game industry but I had always wanted to be a illustrator since I was drawing on those drawers in purple crayolas and never really stopped. While I was working at Sony, I found out one of my coworkers, Matt Armstrong, was doing some illustration work on the side for Legend of the Five Rings. He was kind enough to threaten the art director at AEG with quitting unless he gave me a chance, and the rest is history.
My only formal art schooling beyond highschool ended in the professor telling me to “quit now; you have no talent for it.”
DHGF: Do you draw inspiration for your style from anyone or anything else? If so, who/what?
Steve: Wow, my artistic inspirations are vast, and cant really all be mentioned here, but I’ll attempt to scratch the surface.
In an attempt to channel my artistic tendencies (especially away from her away from her coffee table), my mom got me many Andrew Loomis “how to draw” books. As a teenager I loved comic books; my favorite artists were Allen Davis and Jim Lee, and I practiced drawing comic book characters for hours.
As I got older, I continued my decent into the dark and awesome clutches of nerdery with D&D and other fantasy/sci-fi things and was amazed by Brom and Frank Frazzetta.
Nowadays, my full nerd conversion complete, some of my inspirations are Rebecca Guay, Donato Giancola, and Wayne Reynolds. (P.S. Wayne, you owe me a Coke for the name drop.)
DHGF: What was the process for starting work with Wizards of the Coast like for you? How did you go about working for them and how did it feel to work on something like Magic?
Steve: Alcohol. I fist got introduced to Jeremy Jarvis at GenCon. Where we were hanging out at the bar with a bunch of other artists, we chatted for awhile and when I got back to my hotel room I realized I hadn’t mentioned a thing about wanting to work with him. I emailed him when I got home and awkwardly worked around to asking him if I could work with them. He graciously replied back that he been meaning to bring that up and he’d like to give me some pieces. I was really excited for my first piece, Ponder, and have loved working with them ever since.
DHGF: When you sit down to do work on a card, what is that process like? Does Wizards give you very specific details on what they want, or do they leave a lot of it up to you?
Steve: Wizards usually just gives a 1 to 2 sentence description with any important keywords like flying or creature types and then leaves it to the artist. They have really great and in-depth style guides too.
DHGF: How is the process similar to or different than when you work on something for, say, Legend of the Five Rings?
Steve: The process is much the same with most art directors with more of less of an art description. With L5R,I mostly just look at my self in a mirror and say “Self, what would you like to draw today?”
I then answer back: “How about a ginormous samurai?”
“Good call self, that’s just what I was thinking too…”
Just kidding, I’m mostly art director in name along for L5R, and Adrian Burton does a great job at the real art direction and does the usual description style stuff.
DHGF: How do you prepare to do work on any project? Is there a ritual you go through before starting, a warm up phase, or do you just get right to it?
Steve: Many times I start of with what we jokingly call a “BS Sketch” where I draw a silly cartoony sketch of the piece to kinda just get moving and getting my brain thinking on the topic. Many of these have been posted on my Tumblr, etc. Then I move on to done more serious thumbnails.
DHGF: I think I remember you saying you were getting into oil painting. What has that been like? How is it similar to and different from digital painting?
Steve: Oil painting is very… messy. And I really miss my undo button, but it is a lot of fun to do. It makes me almost feel like a real artist.
DHGF: What is your favorite piece you’ve done and why?
Steve: My pieces are like my children; I hate them all equally.
DHGF: Tell us a bit about the Ascended Minion Project!
Steve: The Ascended Minion Project is a wonderfully epic Steve Argyle fan club of sorts. It was all carefully crafted by Minion Prime, Justin, who has put so much into the whole thing. I marvel at it. It mostly takes place on Tumblr, where my awesome fans get together to compare collections, chat, participate in game shows and other fun stuff. Joining is free and comes with fun and nifty free shwag!
DHGF: What projects are you working on currently?
Steve: I can’t really talk about most of my current projects other than to say I’m very excited and I will be pulling out the oils for a couple of them. [Editor’s Note: Then we are extremely interested in these current projects!]
DHGF: What projects would you like to work on in the future?
Steve: I hope to keep working with Magic for a long time. I’d love to start doing more book cover illustration too. One of my dreams would be to do concept for the new Star Wars stuff, but probably quite unlikely.
DHGF: What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?
Steve: You mean like, not drawing? I don’t understand the question.
DHGF: What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators of any kind? For those whose dream it is to work with companies like WotC?
Steve: Just keep drawing all the time in any spare time you have, it isn’t about some mythical talent you do or don’t have, it is about what you’re focused on and simple time spent.
Talking with Steve is honestly a pleasure, and if you ever get the chance to talk to him at a convention, take it. Every Magic: The Gathering fan should be checking out his website, following him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr. Be sure to also check out the Ascended Minion Project and join today if you love his art as much as we do.