Art Appreciation: Drew Tucker
The art of Drew Tucker is among the more divisive contributions to Magic illustration. This week Sancho makes his stand in the pro-Tucker camp and celebrates the artist given credit for work that is not his, the artist behind one of Magic’s rarest cards, and the artist bringing nudity to your card collection.
So, let’s make one thing clear: I have no place writing seriously about art, well no more than writing seriously about tournament Magic, I suppose. I am a kitchen-table art lover as much as a kitchen-table Magic player. That out of the way, I will use my fanciest art critique lingo in leading off with asking, isn’t the Magic art of Drew Tucker just the coolest, huh? It’s like all dreamy and blurry in that special way that only watercolors can create. But instead of taking the viewer to the hazy summer days in lazy fishing towns and pastel colored landscapes of ripe fields that any would-be artist with a mail-order aquarelle course certificate would make, the paintings of Drew Tucker are dark, gritty, and often claustrophobic. Often, they have a nightmarish feel to them, and, at the very least, they are always odd. Being no critic and with many interviews available online about Drew Tucker and his art, I will not spend too much of your time here repeating what you may easily dig up elsewhere, but rather present a short tribute to a great artist and leave it up to the reader to fill in all the blanks.
Who Drew the Coolest Art?
So why write a piece on this particular artist, besides the fact of how cool his stuff is? Actually, as it turns out, Drew Tucker is the only artist whose work has hung on the walls of my home. And he has held that distinction for quite a while as well. Unfortunately, I cannot share that particular piece here, because I have not succeeded in finding it online, and I stopped short of unfurling all my old posters from their hiding in dusty old cardboard tubes for this article to discover if I even have it all. The piece of art in question is the centerfold poster from the third issue of Duelist, the now out of print official magazine of Wizards of the Coast. Each issue of the magazine had a featured artist and to my luck my favorite of the bunch was featured early on with cover art as well as an interview and a poster. This poster was a mixed media photography with some typical splattered Drew Tucker art combining abstract shapes and organic figures emerging together with (as far as I recall) some segment of a plaster wall with a hole revealing bamboo sticks.
The poster stayed with me for more than two decades and most of that time it lived a discreet life placed above the door in my bedroom. It is still uncertain if it made it with the rest of my belongings when I relocated my life from my old home in the cold and rainy Danish archipelago between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the sunnier climate at the Mediterranean. I do remember looking at the poster and thinking whether I should bring it or leave it on the wall when packing my things, but how the decision turned out, I will have to discover at some later date. In some ways, the resilience of that very poster as a wall decoration in my home is a testament to the power of the original sets of Magic going beyond the expected and obvious when it came to their art. I am convinced that no traditional fantasy art would have survived on my wall during my long exile from the game. But I must also say, that if I was to put a piece Drew Tucker made for Magic on my wall today, I would instead have to be the murky and somewhat tense art of the Dandân first printed in Arabian Nights expansion (and on a side note one of the Drew Tucker illustrated cards available in foil due to its inclusion as a Timeshifted card in Time Spiral).
Who Really Drew the Revised Plateau?
So how did my appreciation of this particular artist take root? Drew Tucker was one of the original 25 Magic artists creating the memorable and diverse look that made the first sets of the game stand visually in a world of roleplaying and tabletop gaming dominated by worn out clichés of muscular warriors, voluptuous ladies in distress and long bearded wizards. And among the small pieces of art decorating this all new approach to games that the TCGs represented Drew Tucker quickly came to stand out to me as much more interesting and noticeable than the rest.
I must however admit, that I did not take too much notice, when I opened my first card with art attributed to Drew Tucker. It was a Revised edition Plateau dual land, and, as it turned out, the art was indeed not by the artist who soon was to become my absolute favorite Magic artist. When printing Revised Edition, both the digital scan and the original of the artwork used for Plateau in the Alpha, Beta and Unlimited editions had been lost and had to be replaced. At that time Wizards of the Coast wanted the upcoming Ice Age expansion to be fully playable as a standalone and to contain a lot of the staples from the core sets. And since they originally had wanted to continue printing dual lands, new art had been commissioned for these dual lands. To solve the problem with the missing art, the Plateau of Revised was printed with the Ice Age art, but in the heat of getting Revised out the door checking and rechecking everything seems to have been of quite low priority, and the card was printed with Drew Tucker credited as the artist.
Who Drew A Butt on a Magic Card?
The first piece of art by Drew Tucker I noticed was indeed the first real piece of art by him I saw. It was on the uncommon card Power Leak and it made an impression on me, which in no way was matched by the in-game effect of the Enchant Enchantment, as the card type was called. But at least I could spend the time enjoying Drew Tuckers illustration, which depicted a distorted figure holding his leaking chest, every time Power Leak ended up as a dead card in my hand with no enchantments to target – just hoping to be targeted by the 20-turn clock of Wanderlust. Only one other card with Tucker’s art made it into Revised Edition, and being a Rare, it did take some time before Clockwork Beast made it into my collection. Luckily, more cards were added as Fallen Empires was released with Drew Tucker art on useless cards like Merseine and Necrite and on the somewhat playable Icatian Moneychanger. You can find some of my other thoughts on the "failed" Magic set here.
In total Drew Tucker ended up contributing 55 pieces of artwork to Magic spread out between Alpha and Eventide, most infamous of all is probably Holy Light from the Dark. Much later, in 2014, he was commissioned by Richard Garfield to illustrate a special card, Phoenix Heart sent out along with the invitations to the second wedding of the creator of the game. Tucker’s style has been described as anything from abstract and impressionistic to aethereal and enigmatic symbolism in the vein of Odilon Redon. I wouldn't know what fits best, as I'm not an art "Spike." To me it's just very cool, and I would like to share that experience if you're not familiar of this OG Magic artist.
I hope this short appreciation piece has inspired you to take a minute and enjoy the art of Drew Tucker and perhaps also look him up on your favorite search engines and social media sites to see what he has been doing since the days of illustration Magic cards. Let me give you some spoilers: Drew Tucker still signs and alters cards, and you can also find his later art on tokens produced for playing Magic.
As always, I look forward to reading any comments you may have in the section below. Feel free to share with what your favorite piece of Drew Tucker art is or who you consider your favorite Magic artist – and anything else relevant to this article.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.