Good morning everyone and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast. Last week we cracked open the Mystical Archive of Strixhaven, and today we’ll venture onto campus and explore some of the artwork of the main set as a part of my Grand Art Tour series.

In case this is your first Grand Tour, this ongoing series was inspired by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz and his 2010 article A Grand Tour. In this decade old catalog, Saltz explores his favorite works on view in New York City that summer, why they’re important, and the stories they tell, focusing largely on the latter This article will do exactly that, except within the confines of Magic’s newest set.

We’ll look at two works from each College and explore art that best represents each group’s distinct look, telling the story of their school. As I’m always looking for connections, you’ll also see that these works tell their story largely by way of motion, whether literally, figuratively, or a composition that allows your brain to start or finish the scene you’re seeing.

Do you hear that? That’s the bell and class is now in session, and in no particular order, these are my favorite artworks from Strixhaven.


Thrilling Discovery by Campbell White

Thrilling Discovery by Campbell White. Digital

The College of Archoemancy says to “Leave No Stone Unturned,” and this piece by Campbell White shows just that, as a student seeks to learn their past by way of a hidden cave. It’s a hugely cinematic shot; the harder you look the deeper you go, descending into the unknown along with the Indiana Jones-esque figure seen in the center. You can all but the the whir of the rope and see them drop further and further into the lost abyss.

And who is that plunging pachyderm we see? Well that’s Quintorius, of course.

Quintorius, Field Historian by Bryan Sola

Quintorius, Field Historian by Bryan Sola. Digital.

Bryan Sola finds his way into his first Grand Tour with Quintorius, Field Historian, a mage-student of Lorehold College. The details of Quintorius—his trunk, the way the light bounces off his face, and the tools across his chest—are all impeccably rendered and make for a very clean and again very cinematic representation, like a movie still. Bravo, Brian!

He might be my favorite character from this new set, and you can read more about Quint in his story episode. I hope it’s not the last time we see him.


Elemental Summoning by Marta Nael

Elemental Summoning by Marta Nael. Digital.

Next are the Prismari, the creatives in Strixhaven—dance, theater, art and music within the College of Elemental Arts. They’re all about expression and the motion I mentioned in the introduction. One artist in particular has done a brilliant job of showing us just who the Prismari are and what they’re about. Marta Nael joined Magic in last year’s Zendikar Rising, and has wholly captured the essence of the Prismari.

On the left, a whirlpooling creature of red and blue mana matches a Prismari performer step for step. They are symmetrical, a well rehearsed dance of magic and might between student and elemental. The background matches their motif, defined so that we know it’s Prismari but muted to where it doesn’t distract from the performance.

Elemental Masterpiece by Marta Nael

Elemental Masterpiece by Marta Nael. Digital.

For Prismari students that performance, one fully mastered, becomes a fever pitch, and can be seen in Elemental Masterpiece, the final performance of Rootha, legendary mercurial artist of the Prismari. This is a complex and busy composition, but yet a strong Rule of Thirds and excellent control of color leaves it legible both in appearance and narrative. Again, a gorgeous pink and blue backdrop supports the work, we know where we are, yet it doesn’t distract from what’s going on.

Prismari Pledgemage by Marta Nael

Prismari Pledgemage by Marta Nael. Digital.

And finally, I’m throwing a bonus work in this section; it’s Marta’s third Prismari card, and you must see wondrous marbled stairs larger than card size. In each of these paintings she’s given life not only to the central figures but the backgrounds as well, I fell in love with her landscapes in Kaldheim and have done so again here in these three cards. I cannot wait to see what she has coming next.


Square Up by Manuel Castañón

Square Up by Manuel Castañón. Digital.

At the College of Numerology, “Math is Magic,” and it’s all about harnessing the savvy of shapes and power of patterns. These geometric designs are repeated throughout the artwork, and make for some stunning scenes. This is the first Grand Tour feature for Manuel Castañón, and Square Up is a striking work within the frame. An impossible shape radiates out from the center, and it really makes me want to spin this artwork, to literally make it move; there’s no way it doesn’t look awesome.

It’s also worth noting that this artwork differs from the published card art, and appears it was done in-house based on a comment from the artist. I understand the want to reinforce the “square” idea, but I think I prefer the art as initially created, as it fits perfecting within the math and geometry we see across the Quandrix cards. In both cases, it’s a very different and very fittingly work for this set.

Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy by Ryan Pancoast

Zimone, Quandirx Prodigy by Ryan Pancoast, oil on canvas, 18” x 24”

For regular readers of this column and the Art Market Minute, Ryan Pancoast needs no introduction. Of his six masterworks for Strixhaven, Zimone is perhaps my favorite. That sense of motion we’ve been following isn’t outwardly present in the scene, but Pancoast has created a sense of childhood wonderment so crisp and so clear you can see the wheel’s turning in this young wizard’s head. Her eyes are aglow, and you can’t help but smile at the joy she has for her study.


Shadrix Silverquill by Kekai Kotaki

Shadrix Silverquill by Kekai Kotaki. Digital.

At the College of Eloquence, sharpness is key as students hone their skills, snark, and speech as fine as they can, all in the tradition of the most formidable founding elder dragon, Shadrix Silverquill.

Swirling ink clouds surround the alabaster dragon in this striking alternate artwork by Kekai Kotaki, and it’s nothing short of overwhelming (in the good way) when you see it. The dragon exudes power, imposing amongst what appears a coming storm of black and white. His color choice mirror that of the College, and make for one of the most visually striking works I can remember in quite some time. I love Kotaki’s work, and this is probably my new favorite.

Poet’s Quill by Anna Fehr

Poet’s Quill by Anna Fehr. Digital.

Fehr is a brand new artist to Magic, and this Quill she’s created is the literal embodiment of the Silverquill. She’s brought this inanimate object to life as we see the script written on the page, and the burning candle and dripping wax give a sense of time, and of motion, to the piece. A static quill would have sufficed, but It’s what makes this work dynamic, and one that stands out.

She has two cards in Strixhaven, and I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of her work for Magic


Harness Infinity by Seb McKinnon

Harness Infinity by Seb McKinnon. Digital.

Witherblooms attend the College of Life and Death, and are most concerned with the symbiotic relationship between the two phenomena, whether it be the circle of life for an animal, or perhaps something great and more abstract, like what we see in Harness Infinity from Seb McKinnon.

This is actually the Extended Art version created for his Kickstarter, but on every level, McKinnon has done it again with his singular and breathtaking contribution to Strixhaven. He’s built an artistic narrative that’s told through the card’s flavor text:

“As I stepped into the star arch, it all became perfectly clear. Life and death are not opposites, but an endless path, twisting around and back upon itself, never ending and never beginning.”
—Zhaer, professor of biophilosophy

We don’t know who Zhaer is, or what biophilosophy means, but I want to see McKinnon continue this story in a future set.

Hunt for Specimens by Randy Vargas

Hunt for Specimens by Randy Vargas. Digital.

Randy Vargas has an incredible 10 pieces in Strixhaven, and this work stands out among them. There is such a story conveyed here, as Dina, Soul Steeper is out searching for pests (those little creatures you see), jar hidden behind her back, with a look of both adoration and maybe a little bit of mischief. Randy is known for bolts of magic and multicolored flashes of mana within his Magic work, but I hope we see more like this one serene scene of storytelling in the future too.

Bonus Igor Kierlyuk

Biomathematician, Creative Outburst, and Shadewing Laureate by Igor Kierlyuk

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Biomathematician, Creative Outburst, and Shadewing Laureate by Igor Kierlyuk. Digital.

To finish today’s Grand Tour I wanted to make mention of Igor Kierlyuk. His work is almost always on my short list for inclusion but rarely is the full artwork uploaded and available at my time of writing, so I don’t want to miss this opportunity to showcase some of what I believe to be the most understated art in Magic.

Kierlyuk is a digital artist that can give his work the appearance as if it was painted on canvas 300 years ago, a perfect compliment to scenes from an age-old school for Wizards, as if pulled from an ancient book telling of Strixhaven’s past. In Biomathematician, the mathematical motifs, that spinning helix, is forefront. Creative Outburst is literally an outburst by way of dance, complete with jagged lighting and a fractured background, from music so loud it broke the glass. And with Shadewing Laureate we can see the figure rise as Inklings emanate out from her hands and cloak—this is what it is to be a Silverquill. He’s captured the essence of each school simply and brilliantly, nothing less.

Take a few minutes and dig into his Artstation and you’ll see more of what I’ve described above. I also thought I heard mention that Sam at Rhystic Studies might be making an Artist Study video on his work in the near future, and I sure hope I heard right.

Wrapping Up

This Strixhaven art semester is over for this iteration of the Grand Art Tour Series, and I hope you enjoyed this examination of just a handful of the different artwork found in this brand new setting. I love when you can look within a Magic set and know exactly who is who and what is what; there is a great tradition of such art direction within the game and Strixhaven continues that example of the fan-favorite planes (here’s looking at you, Ravnica) that have come before it. I could honestly have written five separate articles to try and illuminate all the different themes we see in each College, but as we can only look at a handful of pieces encourage you to check out each School individually to see even more great art for yourself.

Next time, we’ll take a closer look and round out our analysis of Strixhaven with another Grand Art Tour-esque article, but this time of the art in Commander 2021. It will be a bit different than the Mystical Archive and Strixhaven articles that have come before it, and there are a couple choice works I’m dying to share with you, from super zoom details to the multimedia videos that chronicle their creation.

Until then, 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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