An Artist Paralyzed By ALS Inspires Others To Fulfill Their Creative Potential
The new Magnus Rex Studio art book, RE:INVENT, actually started with some really bad news. In 2010, my good friend and colleague Francis Tsai was diagnosed with ALS, which is a degenerative neuralmuscular disease characterized by weakness, speech limitations, and muscular atrophy to the point of paralysis.
Francis was someone I respected immensely when I was in art school, and that respect only grew when we worked together on the Bourne and Tomb Raider gaming franchises. I admired his work ethic, his talent and the way he carried himself.
So, when Francis told me he had ALS, it was one of those moments that completely reordered my entire outlook on life. At the time of the diagnosis he was really hitting his stride in the industry. Francis had published two popular concept art instructional books, was featured in several art annuals, and landed huge clients such as Marvel and Warner Brothers Films. I thought it was such an unfair and cruel twist of fate that something like this happened to him.
The remarkable thing was that despite slowly being paralyzed, he was still creating art. When he lost the use of his hands, he started doing portraits with his big toe on an iPad. When his feet failed him, he began to create art using eye gaze technology from Tobii. It was amazing, he had used an impossible situation as a catalyst to create some of the best art of his career.
Francis’ story moved me deeply and I immediately began to share it with my colleagues. On the surface my colleagues were all successful artists, but at some point all of them had settled for something less than what they really wanted. The brutal truth was we are not promised tomorrow and if Francis could do what he was doing with everything he was facing, there was nothing stopping us from reinventing our own creative lives.
With that attitude in mind, the decision was made for us to create those dream projects we all had languishing on the back burner. These were the projects that could truly move us forward as creatives but we had been too afraid to tackle.
Artist Stephen Chang had been working on a Star Wars gaming franchise for the last six years and was ready to make something about the real world. He created What’s Next, a digital art series of what life and culture could be like in the near future.
Stephen seamlessly integrated photography, 3-D elements and digital paint in Photoshop to create images of a world that’s grounded in reality, but still pushes the limits of our current technology. He is currently building up enough material for What’s Next to be its own book project as well as short-form animations.