Interview with Artist Jerry Tiritilli
- Christian Tobehn
Jerry Tiritilli created Magic artwork from Visions to Onslaught. He had his most prominent output in the Urza's Saga and Mercadian Masques blocks. During this time he illustrated unique Magic cards like Rishadan Port, Goblin Lackey, and Sneak Attack. He still does lovely alters for the fans of his work.
I am very happy he affirmed my inquiry to do a short interview!
Dr. Exhume: Mr. Tiritilli, please tell me how you came to illustrating.
Jerry Tiritilli: When I was young and out of school, I worked in print shops and then commercial art studios as a designer and paste-up and layout artist. I could draw well and so eventually I took a chance and left them and became a freelance illustrator. I tried to get illustration work from wherever and whoever I could and picked up some steady clients and worked hard and intensely studied illustration and graphic design and the art field, and my portfolio samples improved. Eventually I was receiving some very wonderful, exciting assignments.
Dr. Exhume: You illustrated Magic artworks since Visions, right? How did you get involved with Magic: The Gathering?
Jerry Tiritilli: I was at the San Diego Comic Con with friends and I heard that Wizards of the Coast were looking for fantasy artists for a card game they were producing. I didn't know who they were or what the game was. But I loved fantasy art and the Sword and Sorcery genre, and I made a connection with them and received a few cards to do. And they seemed to like them and sent me more card art assignments when new sets came out. I didn't know how huge MTG would get, and that it would become a global phenomenon.
Jerry Tiritilli: I always liked Sneak Attack. I was happy it became a popular card. I'm usually critical of much of my artwork and usually wish I had had more time to rework, refine, and tweak them.
Dr. Exhume: Even though Bravado is my favorite artwork by you, I have to ask a question concerning Rishadan Port. Looking at it is like immersing oneself into a little world of its own. How did you come up with this insane artwork? Did you already know all the details of the scene or did it grow in the process?
Jerry Tiritilli: All fantasy art usually is some kind of insane; odd, otherworldly, and surreal. As I worked on it, I added details, so, yes, it grew in the process. Usually it starts with shapes and a general idea and a basic composition, and then takes on details and specifics.
Dr. Exhume: The Port is such a detailed piece. Could you describe the development of it a little more in-depth?
Jerry Tiritilli: Well, I received the assignment, as I did other MTG card assignments. I certainly didn't know it was going to be such a major card. Artists receive a brief description of what the art should be, a few sentences describing the scene from the art director. A sea port with ships, or something, I don't remember what it was or the exact info I received. It didn't have to have any precise structures, or specific architecture, or have any exact reference to anything in the rest of the expansion. Basically, come up with an interesting seaport image that would embellish the Magic card and have some impact or mood to it and fit into the fantasy world the card set was creating. I thought an overhead shot seeing the town and the sea and docks and giving it some dimension and depth with structured foreground and receding background and clouds on the horizon would be nice. I tried to sprinkle it with details. The painting was actually returned for me to rework; the art director thought it looked too bright and clean, and wanted me to give it more age and decay, and so I went over it and added more cracked roof tiles and old walls of buildings falling apart with loose bricks and concrete deterioration. I guess it worked out, fans really seemed to like it. I was happy about that.
Dr. Exhume: Your last artworks for Magic: The Gathering were released in the early 2000s. Will we ever see a new Tiritilli artwork on a Magic card?
Jerry Tiritilli: I would really enjoy doing more artwork for MTG; creating new cards. I lost contact with them. Different art directors came on the scene and brought in different new artists and the company changed hands. Things happened and I never reconnected with Wizards. I should try to get in touch with them again.
Dr. Exhume: What are you currently working on? I saw a couple of playmats and a very nice alter of Rishadan Port with the Power 9. The market for Magic memorabilia seems to be pretty healthy?
Jerry Tiritilli: I'm working with Vintage Magic, selling some prints and doing alters and otherwise just working on some private commissions and personal pieces. It's great there's so much interest and enthusiasm for MTG and still a great fondness for the older cards, artists, and artwork.
Dr. Exhume: Thanks a lot Mr. Tiritilli! I'm very happy about Magic culture being in it for the long haul as well. There are so many treasures.
Jerry Tiritilli: You're very welcome, it was a pleasure. Thanks much for the interest.
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