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The fantastic fantasy art career of Massey painter Jason Rainville

He parlayed his artistic talent into a pretty incredible freelancing career centred on role-playing games like Magic: The Gathering and Pathfinder
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In every corner of artist Jason Rainville’s work, there is something to see. But rather than filling space, or adding colour, each and every detail is specifically and thoughtfully chosen. 

Though it may seem antithetical to join practicality and fantasy – specifically in high-concept art – one look at Rainville’s work, and you can see his research, his study, and his patience; whether he’s creating a simple character or an entire world. 

But it wasn’t always this way. Though Rainville describes himself as someone who has always been interested in art, he didn’t initially pursue it as a career.  Like many creators, Rainville had passion, drive, and a healthy dose of self-doubt. 

“I come from the small town of Massey, and from a very early age I was very interested in art,” says Rainville. “I'd doodle for hours at home, and quite often during school hours as well. In my small school I became known as the ‘artist kid’ and once actually stood in for the teacher to teach art for a period. 

“This passion extended into high school and college, but I never consciously decided to pursue it; due to a lack of direction, confidence, and familiarity with the various commercial art industries, I initially chose to enroll in a police foundations course at Cambrian College. I quickly switched to something closer to my passion, graphic design, and had a great time in the three-year program.”

It was during this time Rainville discovered a website that would change the path his life was taking. A hub for professionals, amateurs and beginners interested in commercial art development, www.conceptart.org became a place of learning for Rainville as well.

“This was the first time that I really internalized the idea of art as a developed skill, something I could work toward improving,” he says. “After many studies from observation as well as self-directed lessons in anatomy, colour theory and many other concepts, I found myself steadily improving.”

It was this commitment to excellence that found Rainville his first paying illustration, for the company Rite Publishing.

“Rite Publishing creates third-party content for the popular tabletop roleplaying game Pathfinder. Most of my early work for them involved fairly straightforward fantasy subjects, but my favorite project with them occurred much later on: Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, a diceless role-playing game that I ended up creating most of the art for. As it involved travelling through many different worlds, the art had to reflect many different settings and people. It was satisfying work and some of my favourite pieces are for that book.”

It was from this point that his tentative first steps became giant leaps – designing a piece for the first collectible card game (also known as a trading card game) ever created. 

“I landed my first Magic: The Gathering card, and freelance became sustainable for the first time. I've been freelancing ever since,” he says. https://

Since then, he has worked with numerous companies and even some of his idols. 

“I've had fun working for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (the name of the company and game system they publish) creating horrors and gruesome scenes set in a relatively historically accurate mid-17th century Europe. Pathfinder, a game very similar to Dungeons and Dragons, kept me busy with fun fantasy tropes like mischievous goblins and heroic paladins, and I had the honour of working with Hans Cummings on two of his books.”

When Rainville receives an assignment from a client, he is usually provided with what’s called a brief, detailing what an art director is looking for, and any reference material that’s required – though the information can be highly specific, or really quite vague. It’s at this point Rainville begins extensive research. 

“I sometimes start with an observational study of a related subject to get myself familiar with what I'm about to paint; I might paint clouds to get ready for a scene in the sky, or brush up on my animal anatomy if the brief calls for creatures to be included. I always begin the creative process with thumbnails — small, simple sketches — to try to figure out the big questions first. I try to work out what goes where, how the large sections of values (the range of light and dark) are arranged, basic poses, and sometimes simple lighting.”

His achievements are numerous, with his features in art publications like Spectrum or Imagine FX and his continuing work with Magic: The Gathering and the actual Dungeons and Dragons, he says his proudest achievement was honouring his mother, whom he refers to as his biggest fan, as a model for a Pirate Admiral on a Magic: The Gathering card.

“She's supported my artistic interests since I was three, and she deserved recognition for being my No. 1 fan all these years.”

When he’s not working for a client, Rainville indulges his own personal illustration, but most important to him, he works on studies which he details on his blog

“Studies I find helpful not just because they represent growth, but also because I often find them relaxing; all of the visual information is in front of me, I just have to decipher and interpret it.” 

And though he usually favours digital rendering – Photoshop specifically – there is another he enjoys on more personal level. 

“I have to say I've had my most fun when painting traditionally on canvas or board. I hope to find the time to actually train myself in traditional media, as it's very satisfying.”

Though Rainville did not arrive at his chosen career in the manner that most would – even considering himself a “late-starter” at the age of 21 – the journey has given him an understanding and resourcefulness that others might not possess. For him, the answer to his artistic quest lies in the advice he now gives to others: never stop studying. 

“Always challenge yourself to improve. Take whole nights just focusing on one subject, copying it from observation and trying to work out how it functions. Anatomy, form, colour, landscapes, whatever it might be, find images of it and reproduce it. Make sure to study it thoughtfully though; don't just simply copy it as if you were a machine, try to understand why the elements are arranged the way they are.

He also advises aspiring artist to seek out others online, and to learn to embrace thoughtful critique. 

“There are many groups online on social media that have lots of good information to share and many people to connect with,” he says. “Critique might be difficult to listen to at first, but an impartial view of your art is essential to make sure you develop your own critical skills.”

You can find Jason Rainville’s work online at www.jasonrainville.com

Jenny Lamothe is a freelance writer, proof-reader and editor in Greater Sudbury. Contact her through her website, JennytheWriter.wordpress.com.




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