Good morning folks and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast. We’re just a few past the Harvest Moon, making this a fitting time for our next Grand Art Tour that focuses on Magic’s latest set, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. This third trip to Innistrad finds a worried populace facing an eternal night and all that dwells within. They’ve turned to the Harvestide Festival, and thus any means necessary, to keep back the werewolves and other creatures that go bump in the night. This autumnal version of Innistrad is both bone-chilling and beautiful, and we’ll look at artworks from both what is and what could be as we take a visual trip through the set.

As with each of my Grand Art Tours, this series was inspired by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz and his 2010 article he called A Grand Tour. That original article was a short trip through the museums of New York City from that summer, illuminating his favorite works of art and the stories they told. This article will seek the same pursuits, unlocking elements not seen at card size and offering bits of behind the scenes knowledge that can only come from close study of art and artist. The works I’ve chosen are exemplary in the realm of storytelling, and are the backbone of what makes this set the flavorful and fun experience it’s designed to be.

Come with me deep into the woods and I’ll tell you the story of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt though art; these are my favorite works from the set:

Overgrown Farmland by Donato Giancola

Overgrown Farmland by Donato Giancola, oil on panel, 18” x 24”

As I mentioned earlier this isn’t the same Innistrad we left on either of our two previous visits. It’s Autumn, and the harvest is in full form, as seen especially in Donato’s Overgrown Farmland. This landscape incorporates all the featurette elements of our setting: a frosty field full of pumpkins, with auburn shocks of wheat and auburn topped trees, all set beneath a night sky. Our eye, however, is drawn down the trail to the figure in the background. It’s a candleguide, a not-quite scarecrow that beckons us forth, into that unknown. We must learn what lies beyond that grove.

Island by Evan Cagle

Island by Evan Cagle. Traditional.

If Gustave Doré illustrated a Magic card, we’d probably find it in this set; new Magic artist Evan Cagle has brought that very pathos to the game in his Eternal Night Island. The Eternal Night Showcase illustrations function as a sort of foreshadowing of what Innistrad could become if the sun never rises.

Cagle has worked some incredible details into this piece, a balancing act between legibility at card size and keeping with the immense storytelling his linework is known for. It’s a piece that’s incredibly deep, full of emotion as waves and clouds seek to consume the figure at the center, just as darkness consumes the light. His unique style is the perfect addition to the Magic roster.

Path to the Festival by Darek Zabrocki

Path to the Festival by Darek Zabrocki. Digital.

Now that we’ve set the dichotomous scene of autumn bliss and the worldly dangers of the eternal night, it’s time to head deep into the forest to the Harvestide Festival itself. Concept artist extraordinaire Darek Zabrocki returns to Magic for this set, and has created a breathtaking immersion in Path to the Festival.

Candles light the way for the two foreground figures, increasing in intensity the further they go. There is so much to take in: the texture of the trees, the patterns of the candles, the reflections in the water. This work does exactly what it’s intended to do: show the way to the great ceremony, guide the reader into the story, and leave you speechless in the process. (View it in 16:9 for extra jaw drop!)

Unnatural Moonrise by Ryan Pancoast

Unnatural Moonrise by Ryan Pancoast, oil on canvas, 18” x 24”

So what is the point and purpose of the Harvestide? The increasing length of the night—or as this card is named, the unnaturally early moon rising—is causing chaos within the creature populace of Innistrad. It’s seen across the plane. To illustrate this very phenomena within the woods where we find ourselves, Pancoast gives us a masterclass on lighting: the boughs of the trees cross the hulking werewolves like war-earned scars, their eyes glowing and teeth bare in the full moonlight. It’s strong, ominous, and exudes that sense of impending carnage.

This is also a work of multi-layered homage: the tree you see is from one of his very first Magic cards, and the palette to his favorite painting by Saul Tepper.

Curse of Shaken Faith by Campbell White

Curse of Shaken Faith by Campbell White. Digital.

Out of the forest and into the cities, the ever lengthening night has encouraged the devils to come out to play once again. Campbell White is one of my favorite Magic artists working today, for his ability to make incredibly dramatic and wholly inventive storytelling scenes. The devils poke and scratch at the stained glass behind the cathar, a story in and of itself of Innistrad past, and feel as if they could smash through at any second.

The thinly veiled barrier, with hope on one side and doom on the other, is the perfect analogy for the knife edge that is the delicate balance between the current day and Eternal night on Innistrad.

Moonveil Regent by Joshua Raphael

Moonveil Regent by Joshua Raphael. Digital.

The stained glass we see in the churches of the city are not relegated only to architecture alone, but can also be found in Joshua Raphael’s very first Magic piece (and mythic!) Moonveil Regent. An absolutely gorgeous representation of an Innistrad dragon, this winged beast has wings of glass that shimmer in the moonlight with a translucent aura that makes this creature purely of this plane.

An impeccable entrance for a brand new Magic artist—well done and welcome Joshua!

Slogurk, the Overslime by Robbie Trevino

Slogurk, the Overslime by Robbie Trevino. Digital.

The creeping uneasiness extends itself to the swamps and waterways of Innsitrad too, and Robbie Trevino got another opportunity to work his unique stylings of alternate art magic in the Eternal Night version of Slogurk, the Overslime. He mentioned on Twitter he needed to channel his inner Bernie Wrightson to capture the details he wanted, and in doing so, has given us the perfect combination of contemporary creature mixed with classic horror. Again, this is a look inside at what could happen if things that are now in motion are not undone—if the sun never rises.

Necrosynthesis by Isis

Necrosynthesis by Isis. Digital.

Isis Sangaré is another new Magic artist who has completed their first card in this set. It shows the end result of the Eternal Night, where death becomes not only the status quo, but the fuel that continues the growth of the world. We look into the gnarled and encroaching mass we find on Necrosynthesis, as your eye that starts at the tip of the twig quickly recedes into the centralized, almost captured skeleton found at the tree’s core.

The feeling of existential dread is so very strong and excellently rendered. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more from this artist when things need to get a bit dark and contemplative. Welcome to Magic, Isis, and well done!

Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope/ Moon’s Fury by Emma Rios

Left: Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope by Emma Rios. Digital color over ink. Right: Arlinn, the Moon’s Fury by Emma Rios. Digital color over ink.

We’ve dwelt much on the dangers that lurk on Innistrad, of forever darkness and the gnashing of teeth. But remember not all hope is lost, and there are those who still fight for the next dawn and the sun to rise again. This is the alternate artwork for Arlinn, the planeswalker at the center of this story, and is presented in the Showcase Equinox frame. This frame, concepted by Justine Jones, is an extension of the story in which these characters reside, and a full extension of the events in which they are embroiled.

Rios is yet another new artist to Magic, and has captured Arlinn in her partial human, partial werewolf form—as well as her fully realized wolf version on the flip side. Both are as if torn from the pages of Grimm’s Fairytales. The dusky palette serves a feeling of both hope and uneasiness, a sense of calm amongst the chaos, reflecting the events underway and her ability to change them. It’s a beautiful double-sided piece of storytelling both in form and function, and an absolute artistic highlight of the entire Showcase Equinox lineup.

Sungold Sentinel by Marta Nael

Sungold Sentinel by Marta Nael. Digital.

I’ve saved this piece for last, because this painting by Marta Nael captures the entirety of the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt story in a single artwork. A soldier is seen at the Harvestide Festival, surrounded by glowing candlelight. Her hand is on her scabbard, sword half drawn, and her expression clues us that something surely moves off in the distance. Look at her face, in her eyes. It’s a blend of concern, and confidence, and fear, and faith; that feeling of wanting to run but knowing you’ll stand your ground at the same time. It’s the perfect encapsulation of what this tale of Harvestide is all about and jam packed with emotion, all the while legibly incorporating the elements of Innistrad and a story-within-a-story at the same time.

Marta’s first card for Magic came out almost exactly one year ago, and since then she’s been a regular in my Grand Tour articles (now five works over three articles). She has an innate ability to tell fantastic stories in her work, whether it’s a sinkhole on Kaldheim or this sunlight soldier trying to save the world. She is one of the best illustrating Magic today, and this work proves that in every way.

Wrapping Up

Folks we’ve made it: into the forest, through the festival, across the evils and out through the otherside. The artwork of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has basked this fan-favorite plane in a brand new (candle)light, and artists both new and old to the game brought their very best in the making. This level of diversity in art: the regular set, the Showcase Equinox, and the Eternal Night Showcase, is unparalleled in the industry, and the storytelling is second to none. It is different and yet cohesive, an almost impossible task, and both the artists and the art directors should be damn proud of what they’ve put together this go around.

The exploration and exercise of art criticism does not end here. I’m going to take everything I’ve spoken about today one step further—I’ve finally “finished” another article I started working on back at the beginning of last year. An article about Magic: the Gathering, art, and spaghetti sauce. More on that upcoming piece soon.

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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