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Today’s article has been translated into Portuguese by Meggie Fornazari, PhD. Meg earned her doctorate from the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in English Language, specialized in Translation and focused on Localization of Trading Card Games. She is an avid MTG streamer and cosplayer, and you can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Good morning, and welcome to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast! Today I’m going back Behind the Brush with another brand new Magic artist, Ernanda Souza. She makes her debut to the game as a part of the ground-breaking Black is Magic Secret Lair, and it sounds like she’s not stopping there. Our interview will give you a lens into her work, a walkthrough of her incredible illustration of Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and tell you a bit more about where she’s headed from here.

Let’s jump into it and open those Mirror Gallery doors to Ernanda Souza!

Hi Ernanda, and thanks so much for visiting the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast! First things first: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

Hi Donny! I’m Ernanda Souza, from Recife, Brazil, and I am a Freelance Illustrator.

Did you go to school for art? What’s it like being an artist in Brazil?

I did not. My country (Brazil) still has this culture where Art, Philosophy or Sociology are not important things, when you see no support from it, the society tends to spread the same message, now we can see more online art schools and all, but being a teen 15 years ago and search for those here, was impossible. In all honesty, I can’t say if anything changed at all.

But, I’ve had full support from my mother since I was a child, she was a modern art critic in my early years, for a local newspaper. She used to travel and bring me things from other places when she could, and that only made me love art even more.

Now I’m trying to fill some gaps from fundamentals and storytelling with courses. At the moment I’m studying at OC Art Studios, with Larissa Marantz and other amazing professionals in the area. I suggest everyone take a look, including new artists.

You’re new to Magic, but certainly not to the industry—who are some of your past clients?

Some of my past clients are Rite Publishing, Pelgrane Press, Misspent Youth with Robert Bohl, VOLTA, The ABEA RPG with Christopher Kastensmidt, Paizo, UNKNOWN Comic Books, and of course, Marvel Comics!

Ah yes the Marvel variant covers! I just love those colors. Is this going to be a continuing project?

Marvel Voices Legacy #1 Cover by Ernanda Souza. Digital.

Thank you, I try sometimes to make people blind with my colors!

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I’m still working for them, which is a dream! Almost every week they ask me to do some Variant Covers, so yes, it is a continuing project, and I hope I can keep them in my clients list for as long as they want me in.

War Machine Cover Art by Ernanda Souza. Digital.

Read more about her Black History Month Variant covers in an interview with Marvel.

You also do some personal work too—any favorite pieces?

Unfortunately I’m not having plenty of time to do any personal pieces, but I’m in this Artists Collective Challenge called Month of Love/Month of Fear, and you post twice a year following a Prompt list, I can say my last piece “Rest”, is my favourite. I applied some things I studied in it.

Rest by Ernanda Souza. Digital.

Also my “Six of Pentacles” card art for the Color Tarot Project by Stephanie Cost.

Six of Pentacles by Ernanda Souza. Digital.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty

Let’s dive right into this brand new Magic artwork. How did this commission come about?

I was finishing my first cards for MtG, when Maxx Marshall contacted me on Artstation asking if I wanted to do one card for them, at first I did not know it was for Secret Lair until I saw the briefing.

What were your first steps?

After reading the briefing I worked on some rough ideas on my sketchbook for Shalai’s concept, I had Victor Adame’s previous card art of her, plus the Serran Angels concepts to help me out, the design was already amazing and it just made the whole work easier.

Shali, Voice of Plenty by Victor Adame Minguez. Digital.

Also the briefing was very specific about Shalai’s face and armor. It was more about finding a good composition than anything else without lacking those key informations, because the card had to show how much Shalai cared about protecting the innocent, less fortunate, with her whole beautiful background when she decided to protect the Llanowar elves, and how brave she was.

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Shalai has quite the story, and you can read more about her in Sydney Adams article Designing Black is Magic. Adams was the Creative Director of the project.

Is there anything special we might not catch at card size?

Not 100% sure about this, but I think you can’t see the people behind her that clearly. Some kids holding their parents’ hands like they were trying to reassure things were going to be okay now. But that’s more of a personal interpretation. Sydney Adams, the Game Designer of WotC, was the Creative Leader for this Secret Lair, and it makes me happy she understood exactly what I tried to represent.

How’s it feel, seeing your artwork on a Magic card?

Weird! Becoming part of something you always had only the “outside view”, it was one of your goals and you never thought you could have a chance to be In, is very weird, of course it is an honor, but still weird.

Looking Ahead

What does it mean to you, being a part of this group of black female artists joining Magic, and the Black is Magic Secret Lair?

It means everything, being one of them. Like I said for Marvel: Representation matters!

I wish when I was a child, to see more women of color doing art for big Companies. It means a lot for a kid to see these things, trust me I know, I still remember when I met very few, but still, women of color who I felt represented me.

Also, we do not have a lot of Brazilians working for Magic cards, and I hope someday I’m going to see another artist from my hometown working for them as well, Recife has a really strong artistic background, and I think it is just a matter of time now.

What’s one thing you’d like to say to that young woman or aspiring artist of color who might be reading, or read this in the future?

That’s a tough question! So many things! I can only say from my point of view, of course, and that can not be the same as the person who reads this. Being that said: Don’t be afraid to make art that you feel it represents you! Also don’t feel you need to make something that represents you just for the sake of it, do what you think you would love to do for the rest of your life.

As for the other side, some people get to work doing what they want to do, sometimes doing art that fits a specific company, and that’s okay also, having a wide range of styles is as good as having only one.

Any chance you’ve got more Magic in the works for the future?

Oh yes! Shalai was not my first card, actually it was the last card I made for them last year.

WotC is also another client I hope to keep in my clients list as long as they want me in.

Where can folks find you online to follow along with your work?

Artstation | Website

Twitter: @ernanda91 where you can see my process art, some art I may not share on my portfolio or Artstation and talk to me 🙂

Ernanda, thanks so much for this look at your career and this beautiful reimagining of Shalai. I love your Marvel covers, and can’t wait to see what else you’ve created for MTG. And once again, welcome to Magic!

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this look at Ernanda’s career and her brand new piece of Magic art. Despite the robust Magic community in Brazil, there are almost no Brazilians working on Magic, and equally very few women of color. This Secret Lair especially extends a voice to artists who haven’t yet an opportunity to tell their stories on this stage, and I cannot emphasize how important this is. Diverse voices tell diverse stories, and these tales are what Magic: the Gathering is all about. I’m looking forward to seeing her upcoming cards, and hearing what she has to say as projected through her illustration.

I plan to continue trying to raise up artistic voices where I can, throughout the rest of this year and into the future. I hope we see more projects like this as Magic continues to diversify its art and give more artists the opportunity to join in the game’s immense storytelling efforts.

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!

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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