Good morning everyone, and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast! It’s hotter than the hinges of The Burning Yard at Castle Embereth here in Maryland, but I suppose that is fitting for this hottest new Grand Art Tour!

Magic’s newest set, Wilds of Eldraine, takes us back to the beloved fairytale plane of storybook wonder, and it’s imbued again with the classic ‘magic’ that made the first visit so memorable. For this article, I’ve selected work from the full main set and commander releases, which number almost 500 new artworks, and thus left the Enchanting Tales bonus sheet and Anime alternate art for future writing. This first trip to Eldraine was one of my favorite places in all of Magic’s history, and to this day is the only set to receive three distinct Grand Art Tours. This newest visit is a beautiful blend of imaginative realism and stylized storybook, bringing the best of both worlds together to tell a new and cohesive story, and it does just that.

If this is your first time joining for a Grand Art Tour: it’s my regular review series begun back in 2019 and inspired by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz’s 2010 article entitled A Grand Tour. As Saltz chose his favorite paintings from New York’s museums of that summer, what lies within are my favorite works in a given set, evaluated through a critical eye and weighed by their storytelling propensity and technical prowess.

There is plenty to look at and no two pieces are the same—I hope you enjoy what I’ve parsed. This is the Wilds of Eldraine Grand Art Tour:

Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator by Serena Malyon

Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator by Serena Malyon, watercolor and acryla gouache on arches 140lb cold press paper, 13” x 18”

Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator by Serena Malyon, watercolor and acryla gouache on arches 140lb cold press paper, 13” x 18”

We begin with a Planeswalker, a rare inclusion to these articles because of their often specific nature, but Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator by Serena Malyon encapsulates everything that is the Wilds of Eldraine. I’m not one to compare artists, but Serena has channeled her inner Mary Blair, and as such given us a storybook showcase that is at the very top of any card released for this setting. It’s instantly recognizable as Ashiok, both in character and card, but through a stylistic lens of what makes Eldraine special—and that is no easy feat. It’s my favorite card from this set, and I love what it says about the transformative power of art in Magic.

Beast Token by Vincent Christiaens

Beast Token by Vincent Christiaens. Digital.

Beast Token by Vincent Christiaens. Digital.

Tokens also have a hard time making these lists, if for no other reason than they’re not shown until the last day of the preview season. But Vincent Christiaens Beast token immediately lept off the page, just as it appears it will leap from the card frame.

Painted as if it’s stitched into the Eldraine version of the The Hunt of the Unicorn, this work takes a real-life art history reference and brings it squarely inside the game. It’s cohesively woven (get it?) into the story: completely different than any Beast token we’ve seen before, and yet perfectly at home.

Songbird’s Blessing by Eelis Kyttanen

Songbird’s Blessing by Eelis Kyttanen, oil on gessoboard, 11″ x 14″

Sometimes the simplest ideas on the most unassuming cards can be the most resounding final paintings.

[/mtg_card]Songbird’s Blessing[/mtg_card] is a new rare for the Wilds of Eldraine Commander release and contains no named characters, story spotlights, or anything that necessarily ties it distinctively to Eldraine…or even Magic. And yet to Kyttanen, it marks a return to traditional media, and as such, he’s gone full send on making it his absolute best. The result is a technically executed triumph of imaginative realism that transcends trading cards, while still fulfilling its commission to tell a tiny story.

Well done Eelis; this is phenomenal.

Farsight Ritual by Randy Gallegos

Farsight Ritual by Randy Gallegos, oil over acrylic on illustration board, 16” x 20”

I think this is a hat trick for Randy Gallegos and my Grand Tour articles. Farsight Ritual features one of the main characters in Hylda of the Icy Crown scrying over an icy pool of an adventurer in a faraway land. While this may sound straightforward, from a “how do I do it” standpoint, it’s quite the opposite. It even required the artist to paint her reflection, and subsequently paint over it!

Gallegos explained both his thought and physical processes in the MTG Art Market when revealing the painting for the first time:

The concept required that the viewer be able to make out what she’s seeing, and that necessitated some form of overhead camera view. Sometimes it’s nice to have the possibilities limited a bit like that since it keeps you from casting about in every direction.

As well, how close up to portray the scene was dictated by needing to be able to understand what she’s looking at in the pool, so I couldn’t pull out too far, and opted to close in a bit more, even though the figure would be cropped.

One tricky aspect was trying to decide how to portray the figure being scried. Logically, the scene would be oriented for her sake, in which case from this view it would appear upside-down to the viewer. Or, I could’ve had her figure on the bottom of the composition, and we’d be looking only at her back as she gazed downward, and then the figure could face oriented properly to the viewer. But it might be hard to understand who you were looking at, or what she’s doing.

Or, I could cheat and orient that figure correctly for the viewer, for understandability, and for the sake of seeing Hylda recognizably, even while she is having to view him upside-down. I honestly couldn’t decide which way to go, though I think I preferred preferencing the viewer (this illustration is for your readability, after all). I submitted the sketch both ways. To help with this, I created the studies of both figures separate so I could digitally composite them in both orientations. As well, to get the detail in the smaller figure I’d have had to draw her much larger in proportion; this way I could draw each at the scale needed for the detail required and put them together. I do like living in the digital age, even as a painter.

I love these looks behind the curtain as we see just what goes into some of the top-tier paintings that tell these stories.

Beanstalk Wurm by Aldo Dominguez and Restless Vinestalk by Sam Burley

Beanstalk Wurm by Aldo Dominguez. Digital.

Beanstalk Wurm by Aldo Dominguez. Digital.

Restless Vinestalk by Sam Burley. Digital.

Restless Vinestalk by Sam Burley. Digital.

I’ve got a pair of double entries I’d like to include here in the middle of the Grand Art Tour, and we’ll begin with two jolly green wurms in two very different styles.

First, Aldo Dominguez’s Beanstalk Wurm is exactly what you’d expect flipping through a fairytale: a wurm depicted on the grandest scale towering over a small town. It’s perfectly Eldraine, and with one look you know exactly where you are.

Second, Sam Burley illustrates what is essentially the same thing: a leviathan born from the beanstalk, but in a very different style. Burley’s highly rendered details show Restless Vinestalk through Magic’s contemporary cinematic lens, the other end of the spectrum of what this set can be. You may never look at these cards side by side, but together they work as stylistic bookends for the volume that is Wilds of Eldraine.

Mountain by Sarah Finnigan and Virtue of Strength by Danny Schwartz

Mountain by Sarah Finnegan, acrylic on wood, 18” x 24”

Mountain by Sarah Finnegan, acrylic on wood, 18” x 24”

Virtue of Strength by Danny Schwartz, acrylic on illustration board, 13.5” 14.5”

Virtue of Strength by Danny Schwartz, acrylic on illustration board, 13.5” 14.5”

The second pair follows the Beanstalk into the wild and once again provides the spectrum of style we can expect to see here.

Landscape virtuoso Sarah Finnigan painted two lands for this set, but the depth she’s managed in her Mountain is simply breathtaking. We’re standing on the edge of the world with the whole world in front of us at the same time.

And if you turn 180 degrees, we’re still on the edge of the world in Danny Schwartz’s showcase Virtue of Strength, but we know exactly what challenges lie ahead. This is Schwartz’s very first card for Magic, but by way of perspective and composition, he’s managed so much narrative into this tiny square: Who is the Knight? What lies at the top? What lies within? Will he make it? It’s a brilliant entrance to MTG, and we’re glad you’re finally here Danny.

Galvanic Giant by Borja Pindado

Galvanic Giant by Borja Pindado. Digital.

Galvanic Giant by Borja Pindado. Digital.

Borja Pindado is a first-time Grand Art Tour artist, hailing from Madrid, Spain, and slowly building their career in MTG with more than a dozen cards.

Galvanic Giant captures what it means to be a giant on Eldraine; the size and scale are evident, strength and subsequent usefulness apparent, and I’m a sucker for an over-the-shoulder forced perspective. It’s dynamic and well-rendered, and I’m hoping we get more really great stuff like this down the line from Pindado.

Graceful Takedown by Sidharth Chaturvedi

Graceful Takedown by Sidharth Chaturvedi, Oil on Canvas & Digital

Graceful Takedown by Sidharth Chaturvedi, Oil on Canvas & Digital

Another masterclass in forced perspective, Sidharth Chaturvedi is back in Magic with a single entry in Wilds of Eldraine.

Another unassuming card, uncommon in the main set, Graceful Takedown tells a phenomenal story as only he can tell it. Fellow Magic artist Jesper Ejsing commented on Chaturvedi’s Facebook post, noting the green bounce shadow—take a look under the arms and elbows, and the back of the satyr facing away from us. Instead of using a black or gray, the artist has used green. In doing so he enhanced the feeling of verdancy around them, adding to the dynamism and action that’s taking place. With just a single color!

Serendipitous that I saw that comment as it’s tiny things like this I love to learn about and that can make huge differences in how we receive and respond to card art.

Titanic Growth by Iris Compiet

Titanic Growth by Iris Compiet, watercolor, colored pencils, and gouache on paper, 13.19” x 9.65”

Titanic Growth by Iris Compiet, watercolor, colored pencils, and gouache on paper, 13.19” x 9.65”

Iris Compiet made her Magic debut during the first visit to Eldraine, and her signature style in watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache is all but synonymous with the set and setting. A faerie, just like we’ve seen her illustrate several times now, has become larger than life, looking down upon their potential captors with treetops for scale. Even though the title of the card as Titanic Growth allows for a very straightforward storytelling moment, the artist still has to execute accordingly, and she’s done exactly that.

The work is further enhanced by one of my favorite flavor texts in the entire set, read in whatever brogue might meet your fairytale fancy:

“Looks like you need a bigger net, mister fae-catcher.”

Prophetic Prism by Quintin Gleim

Prophetic Prism by Quentin Gleim. Digital.

Prophetic Prism by Quentin Gleim. Digital.

We’ll end with a classic reprint from the main set: Prophetic Prism.

I was first introduced to Gleim’s art with his Hierophant for the Woven Path Tarot, and although his contributions to this set are not his first for Magic, I think he’s really found his place in MTG with this handful of cards, Prophetic Prism chief among them. The artist noted on Twitter that this work includes his favorite hand he’s painted (it’s a very good hand) and draws particular attention to the lands visible within the shards surrounding Eriette. An inventive play on the Magic Mirror trope, he’s managed to capture the idea of mirror-bound foresight and the card’s namesake into a complete and cohesive package.

It’s the card’s sixth artwork and the one I’ll be using moving forward.

Wrapping Up

Here ends our trip through the woods in this latest new journey through the Wilds of Eldraine. This set is by definition is a hodge-podge of characters, styles, and settings, but even with all those moving parts, manages to still be perceptible and undeniably unique. A myriad mix of Art Directors was responsible for its fate, and while I may not have been quite as enamored as Cynthia Sheppard’s initial introduction to this world, Wizards made this work once again, and I will always be a big fan of anything and everything Eldraine.

Autumn is one of those times where I find no shortage of things to write about, and as such have all sorts of things in the works I’m furiously attempting to finish before the birth of my son. Be on the lookout for two new Behind the Brush, a 4D, a Secret Layers of Secret Lair, and even Choosing Commander Art, all (in theory) by Thanksgiving!

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 (he/him) is a Senior Writer at Hipsters of Coast writing about all things related to the art of Magic: The Gathering and the larger imaginative realism genre. 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. When he’s not writing for Hipsters or working with artists, you can find him traveling with his wife, petting his two cats, and watching the Baltimore Orioles.

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