For over 18 years, Rebecca Guay's art added an element of whimsy and beauty to the savage landscapes that make up Magic: The Gathering.
Guay, who started working with Magic in 1993 with the Alliances set, said she was influenced by the turn-of-the-century children's book artists.
"I started out working in water-color," Guay said. "I was going for a certain aesthetic and I still love a fluid form and feeling to my art."
Guay got her start in graphic novels and had worked on the Magic: Homelands graphic novel for Wizards of the Coast.
"Some of the people at Wizards said, 'Why aren't you doing Magic cards? We really should have you doing Magic cards.'" Guay said. "I had been gaining a reputation with comics at the time.
"One of the loveliest things about Magic is that they set a precedence in the industry by giving artists credit right on the card. That ended up giving me global recognition."
After she started working on Magic cards, something neat happened, Guay said. She started hearing from fans about how much they loved her work.
"I had serious fans because of how beloved the game is," Guay said. "I have gone on to broaden my identity in terms of who knows my work, but I don't think that it would have happened as fast as it did without Magic.
"I've been all over the world for private and Magic-affiliated events. I'm eternally grateful."
If you were to somehow visit Guay's home, you might notice that she doesn't have any of her Magic work hanging up.
"That was a financial choice at the time," Guay said. "When you're a professional artist, especially a freelance artist, you can't afford to keep your own stuff. You just try to make a living in any way that you can.
"There were a couple that I wish I could have held on to. It was just a financial decision to sell the art to collectors."
Some of Guay's favorites that she wanted to keep are "Dwell on the Past," "Parish," and "Gaea's Blessing."
Despite contributing to the style of Magic, Guay didn't play much, she said.
"When I first went out to Washington to meet the Magic folks, they taught me how to play and we played for a couple of hours," Guay said. "I had fun with it, but I've never been much of a gamer. I've always been the person who sat on the sidelines and drew people's Dungeons and Dragons characters.
"I don't even like board games," Guay added with a laugh. "I can't stand video games. I pretty much just draw and work on art."
Magic: The Gathering may have been a "boy's club," but women like Rebecca Guay worked to tear down any sexist barriers that may have existed in the early days.
"Comics are something of a boy's club too," Guay said. "I was one of the few girls in high school who loved comics. I worked and decided that I would be really good at what I did. I would be very persistent and advocate for the work that I'd done. I knew I could draw fast and that I could do comics."
Guay started putting together her sample pages and approached some of the leaders in the industry.
"I didn't really think about what I was up against," Guay said. "I just hoped that there was a place for me and there was. Occasionally you'd get passive sexist opinions, but that was more out of ignorance than out of a willingness to exclude.
"People would say things like, 'Well, you don't draw like a girl.' I think they just didn't know how to interact with women artists, not that they were being malicious."
Guay didn't have to worry about speaking up for herself because her work spoke for itself, she said.
"Just by doing your best work and getting it published again and again, you become an example to other young women who want to work in the same industry.
"I'm tremendously proud that I was able to get myself out there and work so hard. The industry wants to welcome women, aside from the occasional stupid comment."
Guay's last card art that she worked on was "Channel." She said Magic was good to her, but her work isn't right for the game any more.
"I'm all about a certain aesthetic with paint," she said. "I had no issues with them going to digital art. Once Hasbro took over Wizards of the Coast, they wanted a more masculine look and a sleeker, almost futuristic look to the game.
"They decided to stop using some artists. I was one of the artists that they decided to phase out. That's always going to happen with freelance artists, though. You get dropped over company things."
When Guay was phased out as an artist, fans came forward and the outcry was pretty loud, Guay said.
"People were told that I was too gentle and feminine while they were looking for something more masculine. The Internet didn't like that. The backlash was flattering, but it was also kind of overwhelming. The fan support was sweet. My work isn't right for Magic any more, though.
"There are things that I want to say as an artist that I can't say in Magic because they want a specific character or topic. It's product illustration now. There's not a thing wrong with that, though. You just have to do things a certain way and I wanted some more room to play with."
Whether you're trying to get into the comic book world or you're an aspiring studio artist, Guay has some advice.
"Don't give up," she said. "Keep trying to produce the good work. Be critical of your own work so that you can grow and never stop improving.
"Be persistent to get your work in front of people who will give you jobs. It hurts to get rejected, so artists stop advocating. It's hard to hold your ego together, but persistence is the difference between having a career and not."