Good morning readers and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery. I’ve got something completely different for you this week, so I’m glad you’ve tuned in!

If you’re reading this you probably already know I follow a lot of past and present Magic artists on Twitter. This allows me to follow and keep up with not only their Magic work, but their work on other projects and games, and almost always introduces me to the work of other incredible illustrators. One of these artists and our special guest for today is Brynn Metheney. She has four Magic illustrations in her portfolio:

As well as having worked for a TON of other awesome clients on a variety of projects, from Dungeons & Dragons to the newest Men in Black movie.

Portrait Explorations for Baby Tarantian by Brynn Metheney for Sony Pictures’ Men in Black: International. Digital.

She is a master of creature creation and conception, and this will be the main subject of our article today. This past holiday season Brynn put some of her work on Black Friday special; truly incredible pieces at even more incredible prices. I did a Twitter signal boost as I try to whenever the opportunity arises, and mentioned in passing at home about how taken I was by her Falchester Cockatrice.

With the holidays coming I was trying to refrain from buying more things for myself, and it turned up sold in the next day or so.

But, come Christmas morning I opened a padded Priority Mail envelope and what was inside but:

I am notoriously hard to shop for, so when my girlfriend heard me gushing about a Cockatrice I saw on Twitter, she went first to my best friend and then to the internet to find when and where I had found such a thing. She was able to get in contact with Brynn and the Falchester Cockatrice had flown from sunny California to snowy Maryland with Santa just in time.

It’s back from the framer and has come out wonderfully; it now hangs over my bed:

I have to mention the framing just for a second: this was my first opportunity to use a fillet to frame the piece itself inside the mat. The blues bring out the feathers, the outer frame compliments the browns and tans, and the hand scraped features mimic the scales of it’s a tail. It’s just so fitting for the artwork.

I told you that story to tell you this one, so let’s get back to what you all are here for! I asked Brynn if she could show us behind the scenes of her process, and allow us an inside look on exactly what goes into conjuring her fabulous little beasties.

Creating a Commander with Brynn Metheney

Hi Brynn, and thanks for stopping by the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast! I just want to say thanks again for the Cockatrice- it’s found a permanent home on my wall!

Hi Donny! Thanks for having me. That is such good news! I am THRILLED that piece found such a perfect and good home. It’s one of my favorites. Thank you again for the support!


So I always start with the same three questions: Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

My name is Brynn Metheney, I’m from Southern California, and I am a creature designer for the entertainment and publishing industries.


Is there a favorite project of yours, either from the past or one upcoming (that you can share) where you really got to flex your creature conception muscles?

I’ve been fortunate to have quite a few jobs that have let me have some fun with creature design. I have a couple that I’ve loved. The first would be working on Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. I was brought on to redesign a bunch of classic monsters from 1st Edition; I liked that project because it’s really fun to solve problems with constraints like that. The creatures had to read as themselves, but I could bring some new ideas and solutions to the problems.

Lamia Concept by Brynn Metheney for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Digital.

Another project I had a ton of fun with in the opposite direction would be Alien Zoo with Dreamscape Immersive. Alien Zoo is a VR experience in which you visit an intergalactic zoo and interact with animals from all over the galaxy.

The team at Dreamscape gave me a ton of freedom to explore some really fun ideas! I also got to do a ton of writing, which is always a treat for me

Trunk Horse for Alien Zoo by Byrnn Metheney. You can see it in the trailer above!

Note: Readers, definitely check out Brynn’s blog post about her Alien Zoo work. You can find it here and it’s out of this world.

You’ve illustrated 4 cards for Magic: Common Iguana, Half shark, Half-, and Wild Crocodile from Unstable, and Gahiji, Honored One from Commander 2013. Today I’d like to focus on Gahiji, and in your blog post, you mentioned Gahiji’s inspiration came from a variety of different animals, but my question is…how did you even start creating this Commander?

I always start with asking where my creature lives. I knew that Gahiji lived in the jungle and was supposed to be something large and imposing; a type of god. Knowing this gave me somewhere to start! If my client doesn’t give me any sort of direction in terms on environment, I’ll usually choose one that fits the character or story. So, we start in the jungle. This gives me insight into what sorts of animals and references I can use to build the character. Gahiji was an open ended creature but my Art Director asked that he resemble a big cat. I looked to jaguars and leopards for this. To break up the big cat build a bit and push Gahiji into the realm of fantasy, I referenced bongos, babirusas, and tapirs. I even looked to parrots for coloration ideas and feather structures.

Bongo, Babirusa, Tapir, & Parrots. For explanative purposes only—not the actual images used for inspiration

I wanted him to feel otherworldly and powerful so making him huge was the first step. His tusks aren’t typical in terms of shape or orientation and he’s got vestigial limbs along the side of his body. He’s built like a predator but has elements that pull him into an ungulate build. These sorts of counter-balances help make Gahiji an animal that’s hard to place into one realm. It makes him feel like something other than an earthling.

So once you have a location (jungle) and some building blocks (animal soup), what comes next?

So once I’ve gathered references and such, I’ll begin to concept it out. I like to start at a ¾ or side view of the character. This helps me see the entire creature and keep the silhouette interesting and efficient. With Gahiji, I started out with the big cat look and added in elements from herbivores and other animals I was referencing. I’m always looking for balance too. Gahiji actually started out as a sort of unicorn but ended up with a more elaborate set of horns. I felt that antler-like structures would complement the look of the fur along the body.

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Multiple stage Gahiji concepts by Brynn Metheney. Digital

Really it’s pushing and pulling and trying shapes that help direct the eye to where you want to look first and what might be the business end of the character in regards to players.

Gahiji, Honored One by Brynn Metheney. Digital.

This is wild! It’s so fun to see how this creature was born from bits and pieces of other things, all combined in your imagination.

I know you’re working for Dungeons & Dragons right now, but, any chance we might see more Magic illustrations in the future?

I hope so! Magic is a bit sporadic with assigning me cards. I don’t reach out as often as I could and usually they like to assign me funny cards or cards that have to do with creatures. I would love to take on more creature cards with them, they’re a great client.

Magic Art Directors that read this column—Brynn would like some sweet creature cards please!

Something else exciting: you’re scheduled to attend Lightbox Expo, a brand new celebration of art, this September in Pasadena, CA. On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you and why?!

I’m stoked! A 10! Bobby Chiu is a great person and has assembled a really great team to help him run the show. It’s also exciting to see so many facets of art in entertainment come together under one roof! Really looking forward to that show. I’d love to see some sculptors and 3D artists involved in future shows, I hope it opens up even more.

I’m so excited to head out to the West Coast to meet you a dozens of other fantastic artists!

And finally, where can people find you on the web if they want to talk, buy stuff, or see what you’re up to?

You can find all of my web-links on my website: I have a store and social media links there!

Thanks for much Brynn! I really appreciate you taking time to show us what goes into making a monster, and I’ll see you next month!

Thank YOU very much! It’s been an absolute pleasure!



I want to once again thank Brynn Metheney for joining me for this fun interview, and taking the time to put together this insightful walkthrough. It’s no easy feat summoning a fantastic beast from one’s imagination, but she is one of the best in the industry and you all can see why. I’m very excited for her eventual return to Magic, and whatever new and exciting denizen she is able to dream from the depths of her mind and onto a game card.

Be sure to pop on over to her website ( and follow her on social media, and consider joining her Patreon Of the Fittest as she explores her brand new personal project illustrating how her creatures survive and solve day to day tasks. I’ve just joined, and I’m very excited to see what’s coming next from her!

We’re always looking forward here in the Mirror Gallery, and so coming up I’ve got a “mini” Grand Art Tour for some of the new art in Commander 2019, as well as a full exploration and explanation of the Whimsy, Wonder, & War Magic Art Show and 4x4s for a Cause initiative coming in early September.

I’ll also be at LightBox Expo September 5-8 in Pasadena, CA, so if you’re also there make sure you shoot me a message to say hello!

Remember, to see original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, follow me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

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