Good morning everyone and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast for the triumphant return of my Behind the Brush series!

Today we’ll explore the Showcase Basic Lands from this new set and meet the artists behind them.

These five basic lands, ‘illustrated’ (more on the quotes in just a second) by Hari and Deepti, were previewed at MagicCon Barcelona back in July.

Preview in two languages at MagicCon Barcelona

We saw them again when the Wilds of Eldraine previews officially kicked off last week (begins at 52:39), and Art Director Sarah Wassell talked about exactly why they’re so special: they’re paper!

Hari & Deepti are papercut artists, creating their work with incredibly precise painted and cut paper, expertly lit into shadow boxes, and then photographed for the cards. It’s something entirely new for Magic, and blows away everything we’ve seen before in terms of both basic land art and three dimensional artworks used for cards. I was able to catch up with the artists from their Mumbai studio, and find out exactly what went into these truly enchanted artworks.

Donny Caltrider: Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do? 

Hari & Deepti: Hi, We are Hari and Deepti, husband and wife art duo and together we create art primarily using paper and light but not limited to just this medium. We paint, sometimes paint murals, sculpt etc. We started our careers as Designers, Hari as a Graphic Designer and Deepti as an UX designer. In 2011 we started exploring ideas to collaborate and work together and in 2014 we took the leap into life as full time artists.

DC: Sounds like there is a story here- how did you begin your art career?

HD: We moved to Denver in 2009. We were in a new country (having moved from Mumbai). The move was a big change for us having lived in big cities in India all our lives, and life in Denver was different and slow paced. We were newlyweds in a new country and we were itching to try something new apart from our day jobs as designers. We loved being around the mountains and it inspired us to create art.  We were regulars at the Denver Art Museum. Inspiration was everywhere and we had the time to explore something new. We have always been passionate about art and wanted to create something together. We started to explore new mediums and found something that could incorporate both our skills. The Denver art community was very welcoming and we received a lot of support from them. We got our first art show at the Superordinary Gallery with Tran & Josh Wills (they believed in us more than we did) followed by a show at BlackBook Gallery with Will Suitts & Tom Horne. Our first big art assignment was to create this 6ft installation in New York through AIGA Colorado and that changed the direction of our life. We subsequently moved to India with Mumbai as a base in 2014 and have since been working as artists, traveling the world and working on projects / shows.

DC: Are there other things you’ve worked on we might recognize?

HD: We worked on a children’s book titled The Seekers that we authored and illustrated with Alfred Knopf Publishers released in 2019, and we have another one releasing on Nov 9 titled We, the Curious Ones with Candlewick Press – authored by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by us.

Apart from that we were chosen as the artists to design and illustrate Artist Series – Christmas stamps 2019 for Royal Mail UK, this was very different and a learning experience for us since the scale is so small. The art was created much bigger and then the images were scaled down but still had to hold the integrity of the art at a smaller scale which was quite a challenge.

We have also done the background art for the game – Just Dance by Ubisoft. 

We have done multiple large scale installations in Taiwan including a lighthouse by the Pier at the Pier2Art Center Kaohsiung which houses 8 of our works as a permanent installation depicting Stories from the sea.

We love how our process transcends into various mediums. 

DC: This is amazing- I don’t know that I’ve ever interviewed an artist with such a breadth of work. Do either of you have any particular art heroes or artistic influences?

HD: We are constantly inspired by other artists. We love the work done by artists who worked in various mediums, experimented with materials and have an element of sculpture in their work. 

We love artists who challenge the norms of their times. We love Duchamp, Matisse, Phillip Guston to name a few.

We love artists who are playful with their work and can bring in the childlike enthusiasm and we love works of Miro, Calder and Klee.

Louise Nevelson, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, Eduardo Chillida for their sculptural works.

We also like children’s books and think that they play an important role in inspiring young artists. We love works by Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey for the weird yet challenging nature of his books. 

We find our inspirations in the movies we watch and the directors we love. Satyajit Ray, Wes Anderson and Miyazaki to name a few. 

DC: Fantastic. Now that we know you a bit better, I’m very excited to hear about these five new works you’ve created for Magic!

Wilds of Eldraine- Showcase Basic Lands

DC: As we’ve now seen, these are not just paintings- tell us about your process of paper and light!

HD: Yes they are not paintings, but painting is one of the processes. We start by drawing the scene then dividing them into layers on a piece of translucent vellum and then hand cutting these layers into individual layers of paper. 

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Sketches for each land

Layers Upon Layers

We hand paint a few layers, especially the backgrounds. Our aim is to get this balance where paper and light are equal players. The assembly of these artworks take time and it’s only when they are arranged in layers together and the light is lit that they come together. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We then start the process of adding lights, removing layers or painting new backgrounds if needed. It’s exhausting but it’s also so much fun. 

Putting it all together

DC: These are truly unbelievable. What’s something we wouldn’t know just by looking at these cards?

HD: The blood (in the literal sense), sweat and hard work that goes into creating these works. That every layer is meticulously hand cut by the two of us. The final artwork is essentially a photograph of the physical diorama which in some cases has close to 15 layers. 


More often than you think, the viewer thinks it’s digital art which we take as a great compliment but then sometimes we have to remind the world that it’s a photo of a physical piece 🙂

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The finished works, lit and photographed

DC: Were there any particular challenges or triumphs you’d like to share?

HD: Weather plays a huge role in how paper behaves. We had to learn this the hard way from starting in Denver which has near zero humidity to moving to Mumbai with about 70 percent to doing projects in Taiwan during typhoon season with nearly 95 percent humidity. During that season cutting paper feels like trying to cut cloth with a knife, and glue refuses to dry. Wooden frames bend. We had to unlearn a lot and innovate ways to make paper strong and stay rigid in these conditions. We have nearly 11 artworks in Taiwan that are open to the weather conditions (protected of course in a frame with a glass) and they still stand and survive after 5 odd years which is something we are really proud of. This is something we advocate when people are skeptical of working with paper outdoors, that with a little care paper will survive, paper has survived. Some of the early artworks from Japan, China are all in paper and they are still around, “paper is alive” (hence our email id: [email protected])

DC: Paper is alive indeed! How does it feel to be an official Magic artist?

HD: It feels great. We had some fellow artists who were a part of this world and we have always wanted to design a card. The community has been really welcoming, with a lot of questions and curious inquiries which we really enjoy. And our Art Director Sarah Wasell understood what we could do, and what help and direction we might need. She also gave us the freedom to experiment and the time to work on it. We couldn’t have asked for a better Art Director to bring us into MTG.

DC: Do you have anything else exciting in the works, with Magic or otherwise?

HD: We have some projects in the pipeline that have some serious NDA attached to it, so won’t be able to speak about it much. We do have our aforementioned next book – We, the Curious Ones with Candlewick Press releasing next month (Nov 9), this book is special because its written by children’s book author Marion Dane Bauer and it came to us during COVID when we were really doubting our role as artists in a world where Doctors and Health care workers seemed more relevant. But this kept us going and we believe this book has its message that will resonate through ages. 

DC: Amazing. Where can we find you online to follow your work?

HD: We do have a website that needs some serious TLC-

But we are more current and updated on our Instagram page – harianddeepti

You can also write to us at [email protected] for any questions / inquiries / collabs

DC: Hari and Deepti, thanks so very much for this insight into these works, your process, and wonderfully prolific art career. You both are an inspiration to us all, and these lands will hold a very special place in the art history of Magic: The Gathering forever. 

Wrapping Up

Three dimensional artwork is not new to Magic, and yet when it turns up in an expansion, it’s such a delightful treat. It’s innovative, pushing the envelope of what Magic: The Gathering artwork can be, and opens the doors for further discovery and experimentation in new worlds and from new folks in the future. What Hari and Deepti have done here is truly pioneering, not only setting the stage for possible future work from them, but for others working in alternative mediums. Just as Eldraine has brought fairytales to life, they too have made paper come alive, and it’s been a true pleasure to show you all exactly what went into these. The artists should be proud of what they’ve done, for these are a triumph we’re not likely to see again soon.

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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