Who Is John Avon? (An Interview)
Who is John Avon? I'm hoping to get some leads to that question in this interview as well as a look into the mind of one of Magic: The Gathering's best most-loved artists.
For a comprehensive guide to his art John Dale Beety wrote a great article in April of last year. Of course it's missing several of his more recent works which include some awesome additions like Clifftop Retreat Mirrorworks Vault of the Archangel and Witchbane Orb. But what I'm looking forward to is what he has in store for us in the upcoming Return to Ravnica block…
His Twitter seemed to imply one piece in particular would be the most complex he's ever done. (!)
If you'd like to see every Magic card he's ever drawn ever check out this search. Now on to the interview!
Interview question courtesy of Eric Klug: How are you?
I'm feeling pretty good thank you. Enjoying the fact that I have completed my contribution to Return to Ravnica which was an exhilarating experience as well as extremely time consuming. The whole world of Ravnica really appeals to me as I am passionate about architecture. However this 'world' involved more detail and time input than any other expansion because I attempted to paint everything in realistic perspective as I could not do it any other way. So getting back to your question: how am I? Currently I have a feeling of satisfied 'relief' and also am enjoying a bit of time off.
Could you tell us a bit about the Unhinged lithographs on sale on StarCityGames.com?
The new range of Unhinged lithographic posters are an exciting extension of my current range of prints. It is great to finally have my most loved work in giant form. I have been reluctant to go down this path for many years but the quality of print houses is now so incredible that this possibility has become a reality. I was staggered when I saw the results because these images were originally painted about 7 inches high! So the fact they look glorious as massive posters is an amazing feat.
Will there be similar lithographs made for the Zendikar extended art basics?
We have already produced Zendikar Forest in this size and it is our intention to do the entire range in the future.
Out of the five Unhinged lands you painted which is your favorite?
My favorite has always been the Forest because the small yellow tree represents that intimate moment when we connect with something magical and fragile while alone in a beautiful peaceful environment.
What's your favorite color of Magic to paint and why?
The most exciting color is red as this includes the capacity to use pinks and oranges which have the highest energy frequency. A bizarre paradox is that Mountains in Magic necessitate them to be red and yet of course Mountains are very rarely red so I confess to enjoying year after year creating red Mountains. Primarily because it represents an exciting color scheme that is challenging and unusual.
Which guild in Ravnica do you identify with the most and why?
I identify with the ethos of Selesnya but I also enjoy Orzhov because of the oppressive 'religious' superiority implied by the buildings which is cool to paint.
If you got to pick the world for the next big Magic block where would you go? What kind of world would it be?
I know this will never happen but I would love Magic to have a more futuristic science-fiction-styled world as my passion is all things futurist and sci-fi. I know Magic has to stay within the world of fantasy but I personally think an expansion that is 20% futuristic would be fully acceptable and I believe everyone would love to see this… Maybe I should make a phone call.
If you don't mind telling it what's the story behind Angelic Wall?
The story of Angelic Wall is very special to me; my father had been unwell for over two years and was critically ill in the hospital. I was in the middle of painting Angelic Wall and had to finish it off at my parent's house. My father passed away right in the middle of painting the artwork so literally as I created the angel in the background with the two figures who appear like father and son this was all magically happening at the same time. The whole vibe of the piece is a respectful cremation and the coincidence was utterly outstanding.
Are there any other stories behind Magic cards you've painted?
There have been various times when people ask me what I'm currently painting and I confess to enjoy revealing to very straight people some of the incredibly silly subjects I paint:
- A man who has just discovered his brain is on fire (Mindblaze).
- A meditating underwater octoperson (Quiet Speculation).
Having always had a surreal and rather rebellious sense of humor I just love the fact that some of my 'work' involves painting such unusual and bizarre pictures. All this to me is just wonderful fun. :o)
What are your thoughts on Magic card alters?
Altered cards by other people I think are largely a privilege and absolutely fine by me as long as it's clearly acknowledged that it is done by another individual. From my perspective any engagement with our artwork magnifies the enjoyment and the sharing process. I've seen some of Eric's work (from the first question) and it's very impressive!
Could you talk about the very first pieces you did for Magic: The Gathering and what it was like to move from painting book covers to painting for a trading card game?
When I first started working for Magic I had never heard of the game and only did the work because in all honesty I wanted a break from book covers. I could so easily have never taken on the work but many years later thank goodness I did. It was a point in my career when doing something different was a wonderful break from over a decade of book jacket art and painting what at the time were quite simple landscapes was a great divergence away from purely narrative artwork. Though my original work is comparatively simple it still hopefully has a place in Magic history as all the artwork in those days was more naive.
Interview question courtesy of @mrenglish22: What's the most memorable commission you've ever gotten?
The most memorable commission I ever had was to illustrate an advert for an underwear company called Brass Monkeys; this was all via my photographer friend Paul Spencer who knew the owner of Brass Monkeys. What was so cool is I got paid not with money but with a box of underpants. They were of amazing quality and I can say more about this at a later date…
I know that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has disrupted your ability to attend public events but can people still get cards signed or altered somehow?
On Twitter I have recently talked about my health condition Chronic Fatigue; this has impacted somewhat my output as an artist and also has reduced my capacity to attend events. Obviously I'm meeting thousands of people and though this is very exciting you can appreciate it is also exhausting. However in 2013 I plan to attend events again. In the meantime signings alterations and more are all available through my agent Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How did you get to be so awesome???
How did I get to be so awesome??? That's a wonderful and insane question. I am like any individual just trying to make a living and suffer the same highs and lows as anyone; however I see it as an incredible privilege that I happen to have the good fortune that has enabled my artwork to connect with so many millions of people. I have always been very mindful and am full of gratitude for the interaction and feedback I get from my printed artwork. This really is...Magic.