World of Warcraft holds a special place in my heart for a huge variety of reasons. One of those reasons includes the incredible art that accompanies the game, from the illustrations, to the concepts, to the in-game scenery. The quality of Blizzard art has always been truly impressive, and I was so excited to hear that a long-time Blizzard artist, Glenn Rane, would be a guest at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018. I immediately went to Darth Mexican and told him we absolutely had to interview Glenn.
On Thursday of PCF, I went to check out his booth and looked through the prints he had available. I was trying so hard to not just be an obnoxious fangirl as I flipped through artwork of some of my favorite World of Warcraft characters. I reminisced about all of the Burning Crusade raid bosses he had artwork of, and how that expansion had been my first real experience with raiding. His amazing and wonderful wife, Jojo Rane of Apotheosis Cosplay, was also there and I got to chat a bit with her too. I knew I wanted to buy some prints, but there were just so many I wanted that I didn’t buy them that day.
The next day I wore my “casual blood elf” cosplay, and again returned to the booth. I ended up buying 6 prints, and got a great selfie with Jojo. After chatting with both of them for a few minutes, I worked up the courage to pull out a Geek Lyfe card and ask them both about doing an interview with us. We agreed on Sunday being the best option, and I walked away before returning to gibbering fangirl mode.
Saturday night and Sunday morning I decided that I should probably be the one to interview Glenn, despite having never done an interview for The Geek Lyfe before. I just cared so much about being able to ask questions I wanted answered that I was willing to overcome my nerves! I began researching his art so I would have a better idea of exactly which pieces of art were his, and I was absolutely blown away. Since Blizzard has so many great artists, it’s not always clear when a piece is published which artist(s) worked on it. We see it, set it as our wallpaper, ooh and ahh, and often times don’t consider the wonderful talent behind it. I was amazed to see just how many of my favorite and unmistakably iconic pieces of art were actually done by Glenn. I had purchased the World of Warcraft Poster Collection a while back and covered my walls with art I loved, and now I realize just how many of those had been created by Glenn. I could start to list all of the iconic artwork he’s done, but if you’ve played WoW or Hearthstone at all, scroll through his galleries and you’re sure to see a ton of familiar pieces!
Schrei205: I’m here at Phoenix Comic Fest with one of my favorite artists who works at Blizzard, Glenn Rane. Would you like to say anything about yourself for people who don’t know who you are?
Glenn Rane: Sure. I’m Glenn Rane, and I’m an artist at Blizzard Entertainment. I’ve been working at Blizzard for nearly 15 years now. I’ve held the position of Illustrator, Art Lead, Art Director, Principal Artist and Illustration Supervisor, which is my current title. I’ve done artwork for World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, a bit of work for Starcraft and Diablo. Sad to say zero for Overwatch.
S: That’s alright, we love your World of Warcraft art! How did you get started at Blizzard?
GR: I got started by working for Blizzard’s parent company which was Vivendi Games. I got a job there in 2001 working on the box cover concepts for Warcraft 3. From there, I worked on various other Blizzard projects on the side. Ghost was one of them, the Ghost logo. I really, I think, got noticed by Blizzard when I did some marketing artwork for them. I talked to one of the art directors and said hey, I’m thinking about leaving this job here at Vivendi. He said, “Dude, you gotta come down and work for Blizzard.” I said, “Okay, sounds great.”
S: That is really awesome! So, you’ve been with Blizzard since classic WoW then, right?
GR: Pretty much, yeah. There was a little bit of time right before classic WoW where I still worked for Vivendi Games. Then they launched the game and realized how much artwork they would actually need to support the game, and that opened up the illustrator position for me.
S: Of all the work you’ve done for Blizzard, maybe you can categorize by like early, middle, and more recent, what are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve done?
GR: Ah, that’s a tough one. I think the ones that come to mind are the ones that have kind of defined characters over the years. Like the Sylvanas concept, some of the early blood elf illustrations, though I guess there’s really only one that I did that helped define the game a bit. The Draenei artwork, a lot of the temple stuff. The Blizzcon artwork also, the Burning Crusade box was one of those. All of them have a special place in my heart, the ones you’ve seen, since I actually finished them and I think they’re pretty good. There’s a lot though saved in my hard drive that no one will ever see because they’re not so great, haha.
S: I’m sure they’d still look really good in a Blizzard art book! I just wanted to ask, since I saw in the Death Knight concepts that you have posted, you mentioned you wanted them to be a two-handed weapon wielding tank, which, thank you, I love my Blood Death Knight. How much influence does the art team actually have over those kinds of game decisions?
GR: Some, a lot of it comes down through the designers. They have these ideas and we try to interpret those ideas as best we can. On occasion, for example the two-handed death knight thing, was just kind of an idea I thought was cool and I threw over the wall and I think they liked it enough to keep it. Some of those do happen on occasion, which is cool.
S: The art for World of Warcraft has always been so influential and it is one of those things that has such a distinct style. Has it been challenging for you at some points maintaining that style, or not really knowing where to take it from there? Like, this has already been done before, what now?
GR: That’s a good question. The style itself comes naturally to me, I think. It helps that I did this marketing artwork early on. Justin Thavirat, who was the art director at the time, he kinda helped point out some things that were distinctly Warcraft that I latched onto and made it my own. There is a little bit of, “Okay, well, what’s next?” We’ve done tier 5, tier 6, tier 20. I think what’s important is we’re bringing in new people that have new ideas and a new spin on things that still really believe and adhere and honor the Warcraft style, but just have something new to contribute. I think that’s why they’re concept artists and maybe I’m an illustrator, because I look at a lot of their ideas and then take it and interpret it and spin it out as Warcraft. But I’m not using my tired old ideas, I’m using their fresh, new ideas.
S: Battle for Azeroth is coming out in August, and I’m personally really excited to finally get to Zandalar. Is there anything in particular that the art team is really excited to finally get to do for the players?
GR: I can’t point to anything specifically, I think we’re just excited to work on it and do cool stuff. That’s what drives most of them I think.
S: And now, a couple silly questions, which class do you hate the most?
GR: Ahhh, I can’t answer that one. Which class do I hate the most? Uh, math class?
S: I agree, that one is always a little bit not fun. If you could choose any Warcraft character to become real and become your best friend, who would it be?
GR: Probably a Priest, because they could heal me and resurrect me if anything bad happened. I think that’d be pretty nice to have around. You know, a Mage to just spawn a plate of food, would be pretty cool.
S: And those portals!
GR: Yeah, portals! Tell me about it. How much would you save on airline tickets?
S: I think that’s all my questions for you! Where can we find you online?
I am so honored that I got the chance to talk with Glenn and ask him some questions I was genuinely curious about, as a fan. He and his wife are both such incredibly kind and wonderful people. Her interview will be available very soon too! While reading and transcribing, I realized there’s so many more things I want to know about Blizzard and their art team. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to track him and other artists down at Blizzcon to ask some more questions, like when we’re getting more skimpy armor for my orc!