I wanted to start things out by posting the above illustration. This piece, illustrated by Matt Stewart, is called Dungrove Elder and can be found on a magic card of the same name. It was the first magic card I owned. The first rare to be more specific. I had thought it was the coolest card ever and though I had only a single copy I was building decks with it and with the hope of slamming it down in front of my opponents. Though not necessarily my favorite card, it holds a certain sentimental value to me and a lot of it thanks to its wonderful illustration!
Mr. Stewart is very prominent in the card playing community, having done several cards for Magic: The Gathering for several years. Thankfully, we have a few cards (and some very important ones at that) that Mr. Stewart has illustrated for the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game.
Of the five cards illustrated by Mr. Stewart that have been released so far, three of them are of Grima (A very thought provoking Hero), Saruman (An equally thought provoking ally) and Legacy of Numenor (A leadership event that can save a party in a pinch, but at a steep price). These three cards are very important given the set they in which they were released. Grima as a Hero was a surprising albeit juicy decision, with the same going for Saruman as an ally. All of these cards, including Legacy of Numenor, played around with the Doom Keyword, a keyword that until the release of Voice of Isengard could only be found on encounter cards. I mention these three cards because of this:
This piece of art pretty much set the tone for the VOI Deluxe Expansion and the Ringmaker AP as a whole. Within this piece are the three cards I mentioned above, albeit heavily cropped. Matt Stewart masterfully mixes clever lighting, sharp lines, and vibrant colors with grit, dull colors, and noticeable brush strokes to create a piece of art that is thought provoking. I already went into great detail here about how this piece, especially if you don’t know the story of Grima or Saruman, can be viewed as one of good or evil. And again, this wonderfully sets the tone for the rest of the set.
Mr. Stewart isn’t all about ambiguity however, and his skill still packs quite a punch when he goes in a different direction. I’m speaking of course of his illustration of a very controversial, desired, and powerful Hero… Gandalf.
The first thing that immediately came to my mind when I saw this card aside from (Holy CRAAP IT’S GANDALF!) was the image used for many of the promotional material in Ralp Bakshi’s: The Lord of the Rings. You can view that image here. This image of Gandalf in my opinion, strikes a chord with many a fan. Film fans, book fans, Bakshi fans, all of them can see something they love in this depiction of the Grey Wizard. It’s a very Heroic depiction of Gandalf (which is good given the Card Type) and it could have easily soured many fans if done poorly. Thankfully with a glowing sword, flowing scarf and beard, and a golden yellow sun to backlight him Gandalf looks more epic than ever and matches the powerful nature of his in-game ability and all thanks to Mr. Stewart’s approach.
In what seems to be a constant theme with the Artists I choose to cover, Matt Stewart hasn’t done too much for the LOTR: LCG but still seems to be busy with many other CCGs and card games. There is a glimmer of hope however, in a very new card in a very new deluxe expansion, The Lost Realm.
This depiction of the fortress of Angmar, amazingly illustrated by Matt Stewart can be found not only on an encounter card but on the box cover itself. I won’t be too upset if all we see of Mr. Stewart’s illustrations are of the titular image of upcoming Deluxe Expansions. Again we see Matt Stewart’s style and skill at work. Angmar, illuminated by a golden sunset (or sunrise), stands foreboding and awe-inspiring, nested in a hidden valley of sorts with mighty snow covered peeks on all sides. Seemingly abandoned at first, we are treated to images of burning braziers and small red lights along the left base, most likely signs that a great evil still stirs and awaits our companions who can barely be seen on the right side of the painting. Very small in comparison, these Heroes feel insignificant in the grand scheme of the illustration and that, frighteningly so, is the point.
I absolutely cannot wait to see what else Matt Stewart has in store for us. Though he seems to only make a splash in the beginning of these Cycles, I’m sure what comes out with his name attached will have me begging for more. If you want to see more now you have a few options. For starters, you can go play Magic: The Gathering. The most recent block, which covers the plane of Tarkir, a barren war infested land, has some very striking imagery. Matt Stewart’s depictions of the Abzan clan are just fun to stare at. One I’d like to point out, which is my personal favorite, reminded me of the powerful Mumakil in our very own Middle Earth:
For more of Matt Stewart’s illustrations, and what games you can find them in, you can check out a few different sites. Though he doesn’t have a twitter (or at least one that I could easily find) he does have a blog and a general website that shows his work. For even more options, you can check out his etsy and his more consistently updated facebook page.
What are your thoughts on Matt Stewart’s work? Are there cards of his that you didn’t realize belonged to him in other games?
-The Secondhand Took
*If you have any suggestions or thoughts on these art focused articles, please let me know, as well as any particular artists you’d like to see!
Matt Stewart isn’t the only great artist who provides illustrations for the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. If you’d like to see more look at my Art Page.