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This page contains answers to questions Melissa is asked most often. It will be updated and purged as needed. If you have a question, don't hesitate to ask via the contact tab.

Do you alter your Magic cards?

Many of you have asked for alters on your Magic: the Gathering cards. Well, the good news is that I have finished my experiments, and  now I do offer this service.  

Because I paint in oils, these commissions take more planning and preparation. I have to finalize the design before I begin so I can mask off everything but the section that is going to be painted.

After that multiple coats of the base-primer go down and need to dry. I have found that foil cards require more coats in thinner layers because of their extra slickness.

All alter commissions are done on your cards and the cost is $75 per card. 

These are more expensive because of the extra time to create. So, if you still want your cards done, now is the time.

Do you do any digital work?

Yes. I design digital art for greeting cards, and fancy borders for my prints. Also, all the images on my Fat Boy Fossils POD are digitally enhanced scans of my husband's trilobite and ammonite collection.

Do you draw anything other than fantasy?

Yes, absolutely. I do have other interests! Much of that artwork can be seen in various Zazzle shops. In fact, I’ve added shops on Zazzle to keep "like" things together.

What are you working on now?

I have a project for Lammas. It is a portrait of the Lammas Goddess. You can see her in the "Works in Progress" page. 

Your Artists’ Proof page calls the white back cards tear sheets. What is a tear sheet?

A tear sheet is something you leave behind with the prospective client as proof that you have been published. Very similar to a "leave behind" which is more like an ad with your information on it.

Do you take commissions?

Yes, absolutely! See the Commission Pricing page for a ball park idea of how much it will cost. Then take a look at the discussion "Why Commission Art?" for a head start on the process. It is easy when you know what to expect.

Do you charge for your autograph at shows?

Yes. Two dollars a card unless you purchase something. I’ve been to shows where I’ve sold nothing, but I’ve never been to a show where I didn’t sign anything. It helps defray the cost of attending (read GAS) and for the time away from the board. This is only at shows. I will still sign your cards for free if I meet you somewhere in public.

How many cards will you sign at a show?

As many as you bring me. I do not restrict the number of cards. What I will do though, if there are a lot of people waiting, is sign 7 cards & send you to the back of the line. You can return as often as you like. I’d rather have a lot of people get a few cards signed than a few people get a lot of cards signed. But don’t get crazy & ask me to sign 40 copies of the same card. Nobody needs that many except dealers.

Do you sell copies of your own cards?

I only sell my Artists’ Proofs. See the Artists’ Proof Cards page on this site for more information.

Do you sign Magic Cards through the mail?

Yes, I do now, and there are two ways to do it.

I don’t go to as many shows anymore, so it is harder to get your cards signed. My intention was never to make it more difficult, just to make it more fair. But if I am not as available, it is less fair and that wasn’t the idea.

First way to get your cards signed

Send your cards to me with either an SASE, or, if you live in the US, include $6.80 to the total for a small, flat rate priority box (8 5/8ths x 5 3/8ths x 1 5/8ths) which I will provide. ( Just a note here, those giant Shivan Dragon cards won’t fit. )

The charge for signing your cards through the mail is $4 per card. Alternatively, you can send them to Mark Aronowitz for $3 per card, and he will forward them to me.

The catch with Mark is that you will have to wait until he gets enough cards from enough people before he will send them. Kind of like waiting for a container ship to be full before it will sail.

If you send them to me directly, you will have them sooner and they will be handled less, so the potential for damage is less. That is the added value.

If you are outside of the US, email me with your location and I will figure out your shipping and let you know the amount.

The address here is:

Melissa A Benson
C/O Ranting Centaur Studios
110 Rocky Rest Rd
Shelton, CT 06484

Mark’s email is if you want to go through him.

Second way to get your cards signed

 Or , I will sign as a thank you perk to you, my supportive online customers.

When you purchase something from this site or from any of my online shops ( NightmareartistFat Boy FossilsRanting CentaurMind ChatterThat Pagan ArtistFineArtAmericaArtflakes, Eclectic Artisans), you can send any 5 cards to be signed for each item you purchased. So when you purchase 2 prints, for example, you can send 10 cards to be signed. This includes any card from all games not just Magic. When you purchase an Artist Proof card, send me 15  of your cards for each proof card you purchased. When you purchase something from one of the shops, send a copy of the receipt with your cards, again, 5 per item purchased, in an SASE.

When you purchase an original, you can send 50 cards to be signed.

Do you answer your mail personally or does someone do it for you?

I do answer all my mail. Those of you who have sent snail mail are on the floor laughing. Hey, I didn’t say I answered it quickly. I do admit that I am not the greatest correspondent in the world under the best of circumstances. Please be patient. It’s why it takes so long. I’m much more conscientious about answering my email. If you need an answer quickly, please use email. Always include some text in the subject line so it gets by my filters. 

Where will you be appearing so that I can get my cards signed?

Click here to link to the Show Schedule page. I don’t do many shows anymore though.

Do you play Magic?

Nope. The only CCG I learned is Dragon Storm. Sue Van Camp taught me at a convention in VT. I couldn’t have had a better teacher since Sue created the game. But I do admit, Camelot Legends appeals to me.

Did you go to art school?

Yes. I went to Paier College of Art in Hamden CT where I received my bachelor's degree in Illustration. It’s a great school. Most of the instructors there are working professionals, so they are in touch with the actual problems that professionals face. I highly recommend it.

Where do you get your inspiration?

From my bills. Knowing that the only way to pay them is to get the job done can be very inspiring.

Seriously though, I read a lot. My favorite authors are predominantly older ones. Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C. M. Kornbluth & Fritz Leiber. Modern authors: David & Leigh Eddings, you get the idea. I also am very fond of Clive Cussler before he took on a partner &  I really love the Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mysteries made popular on Masterpiece Theater. Go figure. I also have an EXTENSIVE clip file and reference library. The Strand in NYC and Barnes & Noble are to blame for that.

Which of your own cards is your favorite?

I don’t have an overall favorite. I have favorites within groups but that’s it.

How long does it take to illustrate a card?

That’s really hard to say because I don’t work on each image beginning to end then move on to the next repeating the process. If I have more than one to do, I do them all one stage at a time. So if there are 15 cards, all 15 thumbnails are done at once, then all the tight sketches & so on. Some pictures are more involved & take longer than others so giving an average would be misleading. There is also the fudge factor. If something really bad happens (and at least one card will give me grief!) I need time to do damage control.

Do you work in acrylic or watercolor?

Neither. When size (& time) is not an issue, I prefer to work in oil. There is nothing that approximates the radiant glow that comes from glazing. And I have discovered D’Arches oil paper. I love this stuff. Now I can work in oils (which I prefer) and colored pencil instead of dyes and colored pencils. Works that is exclusively in oils are usually 22 x 28 inches or more. Certainly no smaller than 16 x 20 inches.

Gaming card art was done with Dr. Martin’s dyes & Berol Prismacolor colored pencils. This is because the required image size for the older card art was often quite small. In 1993 when Magic came out, the art was usually between 5 x 7 inches to 8 x 10 inches. I used dyes for color saturation & pencils for detail. More than anything , I am the most proficient with graphite pencil. I love pencil work.

Do you do the coloring too?

Yes. Only comic book fans seem to ask this.

Do you go to conventions often?

Not so much anymore. They are getting too expensive to go to and it’s time away from the board. I’m doing more local shows with my local art group, the Coastal Arts Guild of CT-based in Stratford, CT.

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