MTG’s head designer became a card artist for just $1

Magic The Gathering Mark Rosewater Artist - an elf painting on an easel in an ornate room.

If you’re even just a little bit into Magic: The Gathering, you’ve probably heard of Mark Rosewater. The man’s been Head Magic Designer since 2003, and often shares his design stories and insights on the game with the MTG community. But did you know Rosewater has also had an illustrious career as an MTG artist? Well… sort of. He drew official art for an MTG card, you see, but his fee was just one dollar.

Rosewater shared the story of how he became an MTG artist on Monday, in his Making Magic column. It was for the parody unset Unglued – in which everything, from names and flavour text, to the card art itself, was supposed to be funny. One idea for humorous art was to have a little kid’s crayon drawing on a card. “Having a desire to one day illustrate a Magic card but knowing that I have no artistic ability, I realised this might be a golden opportunity,” Rosewater explains.

And so, it is Rosewater’s hastily scrawled crayon drawing that appears on the Unglued card Look At Me, I’m The DCI, which depicts a blindfolded stick figure chucking darts at a board covered in MTG cards (to decide which to stick on the banlist).

We say hastily scrawled, but Rosewater clearly put some graft into the illustration, as he says he drew about 60 different versions of the art, before picking out his favourite. “My artistic process is unlike that of any other Magic artist,” he admits. However, Rosewater also said that, while there had to be a fee for Wizards of the Coast to own the piece “it just felt wrong taking money for my amateur attempt at art”.

Magic The Gathering Mark Rosewater Artist - a crayon drawing of a stick figure throwing a dart at a dartboard covering in MTG cards.

In the end, Rosewater decided to charge just $1 for his artwork. Amusingly though (and judging by his article, much to the annoyance of Wizards’ accounting team) he demanded his payment in the form of a check. Here’s a choice moment from Rosewater’s recollection of the conversation that followed:

Them: You do understand it costs us more than a dollar to make a check.
Me: I didn’t know that, but I was going to be paid a lot more for my art and I volunteered to just take a dollar, so the company’s saving a lot of money, even if you cut me a check.

Rosewater wanted a check so that he could frame the artwork and his payment alongside it. It hangs on his wall to this day.

Magic The Gathering Mark Rosewater Artist - a framed crude drawing with a check beneath it.

Since his artistic debut, Rosewater has actually illustrated a second (equally silly) card, the test card Maro’s Gone Nuts (which doubles doubling effects) from the MTG Mystery Booster set.

Unglued, where Look At Me, I’m The DCI was printed, was the first of Magic’s unsets, but certainly not the last. Find out about the upcoming fifth unset in our guide to MTG Unfinity. And if you’re interested in MTG artwork, you might want to check out the best Secret Lairs.