This past weekend, I learned of Quinton Hoover's death.
I don't write about every significant artist's death. When the late Moebius died a year ago, I didn't write about it. I loved his work but I can't say it was very influential to me, nor did I know him personally. With Quinton, however, it was both.
As many of you know and as some of you remember from your own history, Quinton's early work in Magic: the Gathering, from its earliest days, was simply incredible. If I can say so without denigrating the ability of others from those earliest sets (many of whom are friends of mine still in one form or another), he was hands-down the best of that bunch. What was most amazing still was that he was essentially self-taught, and hadn't done much color work professionally prior to his work on Magic. He was a self-professed comics guy who ended up spending most of his professionally active years in gaming, doing color work.
And what color work! His Mucha-esque inks and drawing, coupled with a love of Michael Kaluta and other artists resulted in a drawing ability and style that was his own, easily identifiable, and lovely. His utter ease at drawing (no doubt the result of countless hours beating the difficulty out of himself) always amazed me. He rarely to my knowledge relied on models. From his head to paper via his hand. Amazing. In my earliest days as an illustrator, among that group working in the collectible card industry, he was my favorite.
I met him on a couple of occasions at signing events, and he was a fun and gentle guy, with his big head of frizzy hair and world-weary look. We corresponded often via email or as part of some email groups I've been on most of my career. I had the honor of having him critique my works, and was very grateful for his encouragements to me in my earlier years, often at times when I needed both. He was also willing to receive and appreciative of anything I had to offer him about his own work...which wasn't much.
Just a few years into working, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Quinton on a small Middle-Earth illustration. I don't know why he condescended to working with me, but we certainly divided the labor appropriately: he sent me a page of bristol with a delicately penciled illustration of Snaga coming to oppress Frodo, being held captive in Cirith Ungol. My job was to take it to color. It was intimidating, but proved the old adage that all good painting is good drawing, first. That the piece was of any worth at all was due to his pencils.
After completing it, we weren't sure what to do with it. We were both happy with it. Quinton wanted it so we traded. I sent him the final painting to keep, and he sent me a smaller painting I quite loved. I surely wasn't going to ask for one of his valuable Magic paintings, but I also greatly enjoyed his work on the first sets of Legend of the Five Rings,which I also worked on. One of my favorites was the character Isawa Tsuke. When the painting arrived, I hung it up for many years next to my work space. I haven't had a living situation where I can hang it for a few years, but I look forward greatly to reframing it when I have a larger space.
That same year I submitted Snaga to the Spectrum annual, and it was accepted. In those days we would have had to send a transparency. I had already traded the piece to Quinton, and didn't have a good enough scan nor transparency. I'm sure I've told this story before. It was during one of those periods where he'd disappear for various reasons, and we couldn't get it together in time for submission, which I'll always kick myself for (I should've had it shot myself).
Shortly thereafter I invited Quinton to participate in my online gallery, Daydream Graphics, where I was happy to support his work for a few years. By the early 2000s, however, life for Quinton became a series of difficulties. Life as a freelance artist is hard for most, but it was harder for him than many. It's much too complex to go into and much of it was private, but I was always saddened, sometimes angry, that his reputation and popularity did not continue to grow over time, for the various reasons that it didn't. I did what I could to support him and was happy to do so, and when the time came to pull apart from Daydream, as happened with many illustrators over the years, we did so amicably and with our friendship intact--which was the case with every artist who came and went through DDG, a fact I was always proud of.
And now he's gone. I must say that the past 6 or so years we lost touch more or less. I don't want to paint myself as being a greater or closer friend than we were. Occasionally he'd pop up on those email lists, but our personal interactions fell off. This was due to just working in increasingly diverging spheres and having no points of contact to refresh our friendship, but as I said, not because of any bad feelings at all. I am very glad to have known him and for all I learned from him. I'm proud of my time supporting his work actively, and am so very happy to own a painting by him. I've often talked about the very intimate and personal aspect of owning original art. At times like this, it is so much more special, and just drives home the belief that physical paintings are so valuable. They really are a tangible extension and record of an active and creative mind; Quinton's will no longer give us wonderful things to see, but what a record he left behind.