'Magic: The Gathering' Concept Artist Creates a World of Vikings

Valhalla: Behind the Render

Imagine a time when the mead was plentiful and glory was a conquest away. That was the idea we wanted to convey with our latest 3D asset kit ‘Valhalla,’ which comes with all sorts of Viking huts, banquet halls, sacred ritual sites, armories, and more. So we searched all of Midgard for the worthiest cover artist and that led us right to concept guru Jose Vega. Recently, we caught up with Jose to discuss how the assets in ‘Valhalla’ inspired his cover art and his own personal series of illustrations.  

Valhalla cover art

KitBash3D: Can you introduce yourself to our community and describe your creative journey up until this point?

Jose Vega: Hello everyone, my name is Jose Vega and I'm currently a Senior Concept Artist for Magic the Gathering at Wizards of the Coast and I have been working in the industry for almost 10 years.

Valhalla cover art alternate 1

My first introduction to art was during my senior year of high school when I learned about anime and Dragon Ball Z. However it was not till in my late 20s, after graduating from college and starting my life from scratch again, that I decided to pursue concept art for good. I moved back to Puerto Rico and started working on my skills. In December 2012, I got my first freelance job and for the next 3 years I was a part time freelancer while working other jobs to support myself. After a few years I started getting more clients and was able to live off my art fully even if it was not that much.

Valhalla cover art alternate 2

Back in 2017 we experienced 2 major hurricanes, Irma and Maria, that devastated the island. At the same time I had a job opportunity to work as a background designer at Powerhouse Animation Studios working on the Castlevania Netflix Series. Me and my wife were able to leave the island during its state in a small air supply transport that was providing water to the island from Florida. From there we were able to get to Austin Texas to start my new job.

Valhalla clay render

After about 8 months I was promoted to a Lead Position and kept working on various projects as well as leading the Background Team. I kept working freelance during all this time with various clients, learning new skills, taking online courses, etc, and at the end of 2020 I got the opportunity to join the World Building Team for Magic the Gathering at Wizards of the Coast, where I still am to this day!

KitBash3D: Wow, it’s amazing that you were able to get that job opportunity, and so cool to see where it led you. What was your first thought when we asked you to make the cover art for Valhalla?

Jose: Well, funny story... Usually at the beginning of every month and year I plan out goals and things I want to accomplish and at the beginning of 2020 one of my goals was to be able to create an official KitBash3D cover. I am a client myself and was always a fan of the artists and artwork done for those covers, so I can easily say I was more than excited and honored to be among these great artists.

Viking story 1

KitBash3D: Happy to help you accomplish that goal! It’s definitely well deserved. What were your initial thoughts about working with Valhalla?

Jose: The kit itself is great and who does not like vikings? Hahaha. I think this type of topic goes very well with nature, so I wanted to have a good integration of the kit with a natural environment. I love nature, so I think that was my favorite part.

Viking story 2

KitBash3D: Did you learn anything as you were making the cover art, or was there something you tried to employ while making it?

Jose: Well, I think when you have some “limitations” with composition to try and fit the brief or the needs of the client, it becomes a “puzzle” to solve. There were specific things that are needed for the cover to work in terms of composition, so my main challenge was to use the models and lighting to fulfill those needs as best as I could. 

Viking story 3

KitBash3D: Yes, “puzzle” is a great way to put it. For a cover art, the puzzle is usually how to convey an emotion or story using a wide range of assets from the kit. It’s nice to show what’s possible while still leaving the door open for exploration. 

And we have to say, not only did you manage to do that, but you also created a series of illustrations that look like they are straight from a game!

Jose: Hahaha, to me, one image was not enough. I wanted to try different lighting and composition scenarios, and I also wanted to try and have a series of paintings to maybe have a bit more of a story behind them and play with the cinematography and storytelling. 

Viking story 4

KitBash3D: They turned out to be very compelling. It’s exciting to see how you were able to get creative with the kit and make it your own, and hopefully our readers will be inspired by the work as well. What would you say drives you to keep creating?

Jose: Agrhh… this might be cliche but is the truth. To me, art is life. If I'm not creating, what am I doing? 

I have always been very competitive and stubborn in anything I'm doing, so I think I will be in this unending path of trying to be a better artist – and knowing that there is no end motivates me to keep at it. Also, I am a fan for a lot of things like games, movies, etc., and being part of those projects and IPs as an artist will always give me the motivation to keep striving.

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KitBash3D: We look forward to seeing how your work continues to improve and seeing all that you become a part of! Are there any specific artists out there who you admire and help you continue to strive?

Jose: I think it's always changing. I remember when I first started this journey, Feng Zhu with his Design Cinema YouTube videos was for me a hero. I learned so much by just watching his YouTube videos. But artists like Jama Jurabev, Aliya Chen, Eytan Zana, Maciej Kuciara, Karla Ortiz, and so many others. 

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KitBash3D: Thank you for sharing – and we're sure that after this many people will be adding you to the list of artists that inspire them! Do you have any final thoughts for the KitBash3D community before we go?

Jose: Keep creating guys, grow with the community, and support each other.

KitBash3D: Beautiful. Thanks so much again, Jose!


ABOUT JOSE VEGA

Jose Vega

Jose Vega is a concept artist and visual developer working mainly in the video games and film industry. He is very passionate about working in a team and building great projects for the entertainment industry. Some of his clients include: Hirez Studios, Replicas, Shy the Sun, Wizards of the Coast, Cryptozoic Entertainment, Blur Entertainment, others.

You can follow his work on ArtStation, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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