Good morning folks, and welcome to my very last article of 2021, my annual Mirror Gallery Reflection. I started this little end-of-year tradition back in 2018 after my first full year of writing, did an impromptu Twitter thread in 2019, and returned on New Year’s Eve 2020 after the strangest roller coaster ride of a year ever. I found myself with limited time as the year was coming to a close, but I find these reflective articles important. So today I’m looking back at the year that was, and looking forward to the year that will be. Let’s start in the rearview mirror, for you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.

Looking Back

I wrote 91 articles for Hipsters of the Coast over the last twelve months, from my standard bi-weekly Mirror Gallery to the Art Market Minute; as well as the Masterpiece Theater column, finishing my Marvel Masterpieces 2020 series, beginning the ongoing Parallels series, and continuing the Sketch Card Showcase. This is the first full year of writing that I haven’t hit 100 articles. It’s in part due to a lack of Art Market Minutes, because of an increasingly high number of private sales and undisclosed amounts, and partially from taking more time to try and create more interesting work within my regular publishing. But despite the lack of volume, I think my quality and variety is the strongest it’s been.

Return Upon the Tide by Martina Fackova. Digital. For Kaldheim.

January was all about Kaldheim, from new artists to some truly stellar artworks, as well as my first “external” news piece, where eBay contacted me to cover the announcement and sale of a PSA 10 Black Lotus that would realize a record breaking $511,100. These would be my most read articles of the year, and I’m very thankful to eBay for the opportunity.

As winter soldiered on, I was privileged to interview two brilliant women and new Magic artists, WolfSkullJack and Ernanda Souza for my Behind the Brush series; and more breaking news, from NFTs that came and went, to a plagiarism controversy.

Thrilling Discovery by Campbell White. Digital. For Strixhaven: School of Mages.

The weather began to turn warmer, school was back in session with Strixhaven, and I began a new project in my Marvel-related column entitled Parallels that will continue on to next year. Spring then turned to Summer and heralded in a bevy of Art Market Minutes covering the sales explosion as a result of Modern Horizons 2 and the smash hit Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. I think more money was spent on original Magic: the Gathering artwork in the middle quarters of this year than any other time in history.

Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth by Sarah Finnigan. Traditional. For Modern Horizons 2.

Left: Ochre & Red on Red (1954) by Mark Rothko, oil on canvas, 92 5/8 x 63 3/4 in. Collection of The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. Right: Aurelia’s Fury by Tyler Jacobson. Digital.

While on a brief vacation in August I was able to finally tackle two experimental articles I’d been meaning to write for some time: Mark Rothko and Magic: the Gathering and AP101: Artist Proofs & Where to Find Them. I think these two were some of my strongest and most important work in 2021, and I’ll be doing a follow up to each in 2022, no doubt. This was also when I completed the first of my Marvel Unbound Quarterly Reports featuring the amazing artwork by duo fred.ian, and solidified my choice to continue to cover Marvel trading cards featuring original art.

Jean Grey by fred.ian. Traditional. For Marvel Unbound.

Sungold Sentry by Marta Nael. Digital. For Innistrad: Midnight Hunt.

As the leaves changed and we turned for home in 2021, I was again able to work with the good folks at The Command Zone and Game Knights to promote their tokens Kickstarter, featuring art by my now friend Jo Cameron. I also found a new vehicle for covering the increasingly released Secret Lair, finally reprised my Choosing Commander Art series, and wrote perhaps my best Grand Art Tour since I started the miniseries. I also tried my hand at a Critic’s Choice for the upcoming Chesley awards. I’m eager to see how my choices hash out, and continue this exercise for awards season next year.

“Big Art Bizness” at IX14. Photo by Mike ‘My Flight Leaves in an Hour’ Linnemann.

October was also the return to my first in-person event in nearly two years, as I attended IX in Reading, PA as I’ve done since 2017. This event is my favorite of any I’ve gone to, and it was incredible to see folks in person again. I truly hope that we can continue to gather safely in 2022; it’s cliche at this point but after so long apart, it really is about The Gathering.

As the year ended I made sure to complete my Magic Artist Wishlist, Part I and Part II. This article is so much fun to write; and based on what happened last year, where folks were actually hired by Wizards as an adjacent result to what I wrote, I wasn’t about to let the year go by without finishing it.

2021 was not an easy year by any stretch of the imagination. I hit the same autumnal daylight savings time slump I did last year, which was no fun at all, but after two years of that nonsense I do think I figured out how to combat it. My goal here is to continue to look at art through an interesting lens that everyone can understand, juxtapose works in positive and exciting ways, and craft narratives that illuminate this artwork that is so very special.

Looking Forward

In year’s past, I’ve made mention of how many articles I wanted to write and times I hoped to be featured on the Mothership (the Magic: the Gathering homepage), but with my 100 article streak broken and Mothership features no longer a thing for work outside the competitive Magic sphere, for 2022 I’ve taken a different path of goal setting.

Retrospective Relevance

In year’s past many of my articles featuring a single artist’s work were call-and-response interviews for Behind the Brush or some other featurette. While Behind the Brush is not going away, this year I want to try my hand at more retrospective surveys of an artist’s contribution to the game, and what that might mean in a larger context, like an art critic’s exhibition review but over an entire card catalog. At least a half dozen of these are on my docket, and I’d like to see where they go.

Return to What Works

Things like the Magic Artist Wishlist, Choosing Commander Art, Grand Art Tours, Secret Layers of Secret Lair, AP101 and my article placing Rothko in Magic were some of my most enjoyable writing experiences outside 1:1 artist interaction. I’d like to think I’m nearly at the point of my regular readers coming to see what I have to say, versus me shouting into the interwebs, so I’m going to make sure to return to these now staple features of my yearly work and really let my mind wander as a part of them.

Holiday Card

This may seem like a silly thing to keep putting on here, but after three and a half years of writing, 330 articles, a handful of preview cards and a half dozen Magic art shows, being sent a Holiday Card from Wizards is one of those things I’ve yet to receive. Maybe 2022 is the year? We’ll see.

I’ve kept these few goals rather simple, more guidelines than specific direction, and I look forward to being able to hit 2022 with a full head of writing steam and explore more artwork than ever before.

Wrapping Up

2022 will be a big year. For myself, I’ll be getting married in May and starting a new journey with my partner Elli who has been by my side for nearly a decade. And the incoming 30th anniversary for Magic: the Gathering is set to be the greatest year the game has ever seen. As I’ve said before, I’m ever so fortunate to be a part of this world, and I can’t thank you all enough, whether it’s your first time in the Mirror Gallery or you seek me out each week, for reading what I have to say.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2022; may you be well and continue to push onwards doing whatever it is that makes you happy. Stay safe, be excellent to each other, and I’ll see you next year. And as always, thanks for reading.

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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