Good morning everyone and welcome to the first Mirror Gallery of 2020! Last year I started off this column with a Behind the Brush interview of Seb McKinnon, and would like to follow suit to start off this brand new year.

My guest today is an artist new to Magic who has illustrated three electrifying cards for the game’s newest supplemental product, Secret Lair. It’s Justine Jones! Her new Sliver Overlord, The Ur-Dragon, and Reaper King artworks are radically fresh and totally exciting.

Let’s open the Mirror Gallery doors and head Behind the Brush to hear her story of these three brand new and fantastic pieces of art.

Don’t miss my twopart series of Secret Lair anecdotes! 

Hi Justine, and welcome to The Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast! Let’s start with an introduction: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

HI!!! I’m Justine! I’m an artist from Baltimore, Maryland, but I actually just moved to Philadelphia this month, which is really exciting for me!! I draw wizards and monsters and spooky things! I specialize in detailed line work, but I also like to use really crazy psychedelic colors.

A hometown hero! I love it. Before we get into your recent Magic pieces, can you tell us about some other projects you’ve worked on?

Haha, on The Command Zone they introduced me as a comic book artist, which is I guess what they were told, and is technically true, because I’ve made a couple of self-published horror comics. But mostly I’ve done a lot of work for small-press and weird fiction book publishers, as well as many of the covers for Kobold Press’s Patreon zine, Warlock. It’s like, an old school black and white looking supplement for 5th Edition DnD (it’s very cool, check it out if you love 5e!!). I sell t-shirts and prints at conventions sometimes; lots of random things. I love drawing and designing wizards and monsters. Anything fantasy, horror, or sci-fi.

A snapshot of some of Justine Jones’ previous work

So being brand new to Magic, can you take us through how the Secret Lair commission began?

I got an email that was like: “Hey, we need three cards in this amount of time, is that possible!?” And in my head, I was like, “No that is totally not possible, and I’ve never done anything that fast before.” But I also knew that I had to do it. I definitely didn’t leave my apartment for a couple of weeks, and turned into a total crazy person, but I got it done haha!

These are three incredibly popular legendary Magic cards. Were you nervous at all?

Haha I was VERY NERVOUS!!! I had very limited time, and I don’t work in color that often, so there’s that. And then to get these really intense cards, I was so scared that people would hate whatever I did!! I mean, obviously really excited too. They didn’t tell me what the cards were for though, so it was confusing.  Like, really? Me? I’m drawing these? Hahah okay!!! On the other hand, it made my job easier to have really cool monsters to draw that already had pretty cool designs, so I was able to build off of those. It’s easy to draw things when they’re fun, and cool monsters are always fun.

These are definitely some of the coolest monsters in Magic, made even cooler by you! Let’s go through them. First up is Sliver Overlord. With such an established creature design, were there any challenges with this one?

Sliver Overlord by Justine Jones. Digital.

The sliver was maybe the first sketch that I finished. I had a lot of fun drawing its weird lumpy/snake-y body, and playing with different textural ideas for it. I was told that I could really make it my own, but it needed to have the same number of claws and heads as the original, as well as the original’s colorful tummy pattern.

The original Sliver Overlord by Tony Szczudlo. Traditional.

And THAT was what gave me trouble. I took a lot of time to draw this creepy, kind of alien looking monster, and then I had to somehow work in its very colorful looking tummy design, and I was scared it wouldn’t work.

Sliver Overlord (Sketch) by Justine Jones. Traditional. Collection of the artist.

Sliver Overlord Color Preliminary. Digital.

When I was done, I still wasn’t sure that it worked, but looking at it now, I feel like I pulled it off. It’s what makes the Sliver Overlord look unique, so I get it!

Next, let’s explore The Ur-Dragon. Looking at some of your other work, I think you like dragons a bit, yes?

Yes, I love dragons! I especially love drawing dragons, because I love to play with textures in my line work, and dragons give so many opportunities for that!

The Ur-Dragon by Justine Jones. Digital.

The Ur-Dragon was definitely the least challenging for me. I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it, like, the exact image in my mind. It ended up turning out exactly how I’d envisioned, which doesn’t happen that often haha. I really like drawing wings, and showing off the shape and spread and texture of what an imaginary creatures wings might be like. So I decided to do a detailed dragon with its wings spread out, and then I could do a cool painted sky behind it, to sort of show off the line work.

The Ur Dragon (Sketch) by Justine Jones. Traditional. Collection of the artist.

The only real trouble I had was deciding what to do with the mountains in the foreground, but when I decided to black them off a bit with shadow (or Mike Mignola-d it, as I like to say) it all came together. I originally wanted to include a bunch of tiny dragons flying around, to show off how huge the Ur-Dragon is supposed to be, but they all just kept looking like weird purple blobs, so I gave up on that.

The original version of The Ur-Dragon by Jaime Jones. Digital.

The original Ur-Dragon (above) is sort of a golden color, but I always like to think that a dragon’s scales could probably reflect light in cool and different ways, and not just be one color. So I had a lot of fun playing with gradients and making sure that the dragon was shining gold in the sun, but also reflecting all sorts of different colors from its environment.

It’s really something special, what you were able to do with the Ur-Dragon.

And that takes us to my personal favorite, the Reaper King! What can you tell me about this guy!?

Reaper King by Justine Jones. Digital.

The Reaper King was tougher, because I love the way the original Jim Murray version looks, so I was afraid of trying to emulate or recreate that.

Reaper King by Jim Murray. Traditional.

I wasn’t sure I could do it justice. So I initially went more with the “reaper aspect,” and drew a skeletal figure holding a scythe. I thought it might be neat to have a skeleton made out of gnarled vines and branches.

Reaper King (Preliminary/Unused Sketch) by Justine Jones. Traditional. Collection of the artist.

This was shot down, and I was told to make it bigger and grosser, with a bigger rotting head! Haha, and I was really delighted by that, because I had been holding back a lot, not sure how far I could go. So I drew the biggest and grossest pumpkin guy that I could! There’s nothing more fun than drawing something detailed and gross! I went super detailed with the line work of the figure, and then did the background more misty and minimalist.

Reaper King (Sketch) by Justine Jones. Traditional. Collection of the artist.

I really wanted to have an eerie green glow going on in the environment, so it was a challenge to do that, and also keep the colors from being one note. I’m very happy with how the piece turned out, and I love my big gross pumpkin guy!


Are there any plans for prints or sketches on artist proofs cards in the future?

Yes! You can get prints now on Inprnt. I may do some fancier ones in the future, but with life stuff being so crazy right now it’s all I can manage.

There are also extended art playmats now available from Original Magic Art in their Pre-Order Store. And those will most likely come signed by me!

And Artist Proofs, either with or without sketches, are now available on my Etsy!


Oh man, that’s something for everyone! So overall, how does it feel to have your name on the bottom of a Magic card?

It’s really surreal. I used to look at Magic cards as a kid, and think wow; I would love to do that as a job! And now I did it as a job! Being an artist for Wizards of the Coast either on DnD or Magic is something I’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t think I’d ever be able, so it’s just really crazy!

I have to ask. Is there any more Magic in the pipeline?

I hope so! I’m hoping that the response to these cards will let that happen. I did also do a shirt for Magic, which you can get on the Legion MTG Pro Shop. It’s a Dark Ritual shirt and hoodie made to look like it’s for a metal band. But yeah, really hoping that they ask me back to do more cards!!


I had no idea that Dark Ritual design was your artwork! How cool! It’s been quite the hit with folks from what I hear.

And finally, where can the community find you online if they want to keep up with what you’re doing or buy your work?

I am most active on Instagram @Tean_Witch, but I am trying to post more on Twitter @Teanwitch. My website is here and my Etsy where you can buy other art, prints, and whatnot is here.

Justine, thank you so much for your time and taking us through this visual journey of your Secret Lair artwork. I wish you the best of luck in your art endeavors, and can’t wait until we hopefully see more of your work on Magic cards in the future!

Thank you so much for talking to me!!! I can’t tell you how much it means to me that people like these cards, and seeing people so excited about them has been really amazing!! Like, I don’t really think I can convey through words how happy I am that people like them, so just like, thank you to everyone, it really means so much!!

Wrapping Up

I hope you all enjoyed this incredible insight into these three cards and astounding pieces of art. I’ve found myself enamored with the artwork of Secret Lair—these three pieces in particular—and it was so exciting to see exactly what when into reimagining these ever-popular Commander creatures and bringing them to life in a new way. The apparent smashing success of all these Secret Lair alternate artworks, then coupled with the undoubtedly popular storybook showcase art from Throne of Eldraine, proves there is both a want and a need for varying artistic style.

It’s not about finding the right artistic style for the game. It’s about finding the right artist styles, plural. And this is something I’ll talk about more in a future article.

Looking forward, Magic is in the thick of Theros Beyond Death previews, and here in the Mirror Gallery we’ll be deep diving into that world as well, with a pair of exclusive artist interviews and the perennial Grand Art Tour of my favorite pieces from the set. It’s shaping up to be another visual buffet of Greek goodness, so be sure and tune in over the next two months.

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

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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