A lot of the artist’s I’ve focused on so far have been known for very iconic cards, be they Hero Cards, player cards in general or central images within a Deluxe Expansion and AP Cycle. It isn’t too often, while I look through the various illustrators, that I find someone who solely works on encounter cards, cards that can bring us oh so much misery. But at least we get to look at something pretty in the meantime.
Today I wanted to draw attention to Joel Hustak. Looking at his contributions on the Hall of Beorn card search engine, I noticed that Mr. Hustak did a little bit here, and a little bit there, in regards to the cards he illustrated within the last few sets. Hopefully a sign of more to come, Mr. Hustak’s work is quite prevalent in the now finally released The Lost Realm Deluxe Expansion in the form of several encounter cards.
But allow me to derail and go to some of Joel Hustak’s earlier work. One card that I repeatedly noticed was his depiction of The Lonely Mountain used in the location card of the same name in the On the Doorstep Saga Expansion. Within the frame of the card lies the mountain, solitary and foreboding especially with the thick black smoke seemingly ripping through the the card. The top of the mountain looms above all, the light shining on its jagged peaks hinting at a place that could have been a place of wonder and joy and now lies in ruins. All of this seems pretty obvious to the many of us who know the story, but I think otherwise this illustration does a great job portraying it and selling it.
The whole image not used in the card allows for an even bigger sense of angst and decay, with birds circling the skies, dark clouds in the distance, and ruined buildings dotting the landscape. It’s very fun to try and dig through the image and see what little details you may easily glance over.
Going back to more recent cards, I want to point out Mr. Hustak’s illustration of the minions of Mordor, in the case the Angmar Captain. I really like his take on the orcs of Middle Earth. Despite that they may be more towards the cartoony side, I find something very intriguing about them. With the Captain, we get a shot that is reminiscent of the Helm’s Deep battle, a weather worn orc in the middle of the rain at night looking fierce and evil as always. Hilariously (and frighteningly) this particular Orc is dual wielding some very nasty looking weapons, liable to infect anyone it wounds let alone actually slays. Focusing on the full illustration, not the cropped image in the card, we get a better sense of the scene as a whole. Behind the Orc stands an army of sorts that appear very undead. You can’t help but look at the sword in the foreground and get a feeling of dread for whatever victim the Angmar Captain is intimidating behind the “camera.” It’s a very cinematic image and one of my favorites.
Before I go into some of Mr. Hustak’s work outside of the LOTR: LCG, I lastly want to bring attention to his illustration of SPOILER ALERT: Thaurdir. END SPOILER ALERT. I find the portrayal of wraiths in the Tolkien universe to be a difficult thing to accomplish. The only true descriptions we get of wraiths are the Nazgul (Ringwraiths) that antagonize our Heroes throughout the novels. But, as is revealed in Fellowship when Frodo is stabbed by a Morgul Blade, we know that it is possible for many creatures to be turned into wraiths. We just don’t know exactly what they look like. Do they look like Nazgul (who are invisible but keep themselves cloaked in rags) or are they undead looking creatures? Do they look normal until they go into “wraith mode?” I myself don’t know (though I would highly welcome anyone who could tell me more). All of this leads me to say that the portrayal of Thaurdir could have gone in an awkward direction. Thankfully, I think Joel Hustak hit the nail on the head.
SPOILER ALERT AGAIN. In the story we are presented, we rescue Thaurdir along with several other villagers after pursuing a party of orcs laying waste to the country side. Being very much covered in a large hood and cloak, Thaurdir looks like a feeble old man to the villagers and to the Heroes. It isn’t until night gathers and our Heroes are joined by a party of Rangers that Thaurdir reveals his true colors. Again, it’s not certain if his clothes were responsible for his concealment, or if there was a bit of sorcery involved as well. Regardless, when uncloaked Thaurdir looks like a menacing foe, no matter what his age may be. Most of his “monstrous” features are emphasized by his armor (note the claw like gauntlet), allowing a little bit of realism to keep the portrayal somewhat grounded. His face, despite its missing nose, looks shriveled enough to possibly be mistaken for the face of an old man. I like that the eerie blue light that is emanating from his “heart” is lighting his face from behind, hinting at his true nature. I would like to think that without this vibrant “wraith light” Thaurdir could easily be mistaken for a very old man. Mr. Hustak does an excellent job of making Thaurdir a supernatural foe worthy of fear without going too overboard, it’s just enough. END SPOILER ALERT.
Joel Hustak does a lot of work for various other FFG products, ranging from RPGs to other products. His style has a lot of depth and can go a lot of different directions, making each piece stand alone on its own quite well. A lot of his work is set in the Star Wars universe which again, covers a lot of other FFG products that use the Star Wars license. If you check out his facebook page you can see that he does a lot of work on the side, especially landscapes, which I find very enjoyable. He also has a personal website, a deviantart page, and a twitter. A quick and easy google search of his name can lead you to more places where you can find his work. If you are interested in purchasing any of his work you can check out his Society 6 Shop for prints, t-shirts, and other products that contain his illustrations. Mr. Hustak is very prominent in this most recent deluxe expansion and I hope we get to see him later on in the AP or at least in the next deluxe expansion. Good work, sir!
-The Secondhand Took
For more LOTR: LCG Artists and their other work check out my Art Page!