Your Favorite Magic Artist's Favorite Art of 2022

Nick Wolf • December 17, 2022

A Banner Year

It's December, which means we as writers are contractually obligated to provide readers an opportunity to look back at the year that was.

And this year was quite the experience. Despite all the hooplah surrounding Magic 30 this and Anniversary that, 2022 was technically the 29th year of the game's existence, and while the excitement of a milestone birthday might have people a little premature in their celebration, we shouldn't discount the monumental year Magic has had. For better or worse, we've seen more than 5,000 cards printed in 2022, between new cards and reprints. Excluding reprints, it's still an impressive number: 2,119 brand-new cards debuted this year. That's almost six cards for every day. Compare that to 2021, which saw 1,823 new cards, or 2020's 1,219 new cards. In fact, this year was the most prolific year in Magic's history, which seems like a fun record until you take into account that every year since 2011 can say the same thing, each one adding a few more cards overall than the year before. Still, it's the first time we've broken the 2,000-mark, so...yay?

When it comes to art, 2022 maintains its impact based on sheer volume alone. Between new cards and new-look reprints (and Secret Lairs and promos and showcase treatments and double-faced cards), 2022 provided us with 2,815 unique pieces of art. But have you ever wondered what the artists themselves consider their favorite work from a given year? Or what they liked from their fellow artists? Over the past few weeks, I've been asking those very questions -- or, specifically, I asked three:

  • Of your art released on cards in 2022, which was your favorite?
  • What's a fun fact or piece of trivia about your favorite piece (from question 1) that fans might not know?
  • What's your favorite piece of art done by a peer released in 2022?

Below, you'll find the answers provided by some of the artists who saw work released in 2022, representing a wide variety of styles, experience, and influences. We may grumble about the sheer number of releases, cards, and products that came our way in 2022, but it's hard to find fault in the year providing us with near-countless pieces of amazing art, nor providing artists with an opportunity to reach huge audiences. While there was plenty about 2022 we might like to change as the calendar flips over (both within the world of Magic and beyond it), the proliferation of incredible art created by incredible people is one trend from 2022 I hope continues.


Magali Villeneuve

Magali Villeneuve is a French illustrator and one of Magic's most iconic working artists. She's worked on a number of IPs, including for Valve, Fantasy Flight Games, and Random House, and is the creator of the art of more than 150 Magic: the Gathering cards. You can connect with Villeneuve via her website as well as on Twitter or Instagram.

Favorite art?
I would go for Death's Shadow, that was released in my Artist Series Secret Lair.

Fun fact?
I made two pretty advanced versions for this illustration. This version, and another one, with a more horrific side to it, where the "Death" had some arachnid features. I had the hardest time deciding which version I would choose. At the end, I went for the one that was closer to a classical Pietà, but you can still see a hint to the other version through the golden spiderweb around the Death.

Favorite piece by a peer?
It's definitely Steve Prescott's Terisian Mindbreaker for The Brothers' War. It's a pure masterclass for composition, values[,] and color use. I admire Steve's incredible talent for design and how he can make a piece look so dynamic in a very simple yet efficient way.


Ovidio Cartagena

Ovidio Cartagena is a Seattle-based artist and art director at Wizards of the Coast who has illustrated 11 Magic cards, including his first ever, an uncredited Golgari Death Swarm. Cartagena's art is available for viewing at his website, and he's active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Favorite art?
My favorite piece this year, hands down, was Ghoul's Feast for Jumpstart 2022, which let me make a painting I had been thinking of for a long time. I love the old masters, and so I was able to evoke a common motif (the Head of John the Baptist) in the classical style. The art director Kieran Yanner was very helpful in bringing this art together with me[;] his guidance made me create a painting that has been a bit of an impossible hunt for me: a work of art that belongs in Magic: the Gathering as much as it could belong in a classical art museum.

Fun fact?
I always try to bring a classical formality to my compositions, playing with the golden ratio and geometry, dim light and strong shadows. My composition was based on two overlapping parabolae (note the arch by the candle smoke, strip of paper and landing on the lonely green grape in contrast with the ribs on the platter). Parabola is the Spanish word for "parable," in a further word play reference to the Renaissance to Baroque religious art I love so much.

Favorite art by a peer?
It is very hard to say I had a single favorite piece, because Magic artists are always firing on all cylinders and delivering awesome art in different styles. An art that served as inspiration was Victor Adame's Serra Avatar. It was very inspiring in many ways, but more importantly gave me the idea to work with him on concept development for next year's upcoming Lost Caverns of Ixalan, to which he contributed greatly.


Billy Christian

Illustrator Billy Christian has 35 cards under his belt as an artist, starting with Minion's Return from 2020's Theros Beyond Death. Christian lives with his wife, fellow Magic artist Livia Prima, in Indonesia and can be found online on Twitter, ArtStation and Instagram, and some of his work is available for purchase as prints.

Favorite Art?
If I have to pick only one of mine, it has to be Runadi, Behemoth Caller for Jumpstart 2022.

Fun fact?
Runadi is my favorite because I "asked" my lovely cat Mucha to pose for reference, and I quite like how it turned out in the end. After the card got released, I love it even more since I used to be a mono-green player and it looks like a fur-midable card!

Favorite piece from a peer?
It's tough to pick only one artist. However, Victor Adame Minguez has always been my favorite, even though our art style is nothing alike. His Lord of the Undead Secret Lair is drop-dead gorgeous!


Jarel Threat

Jarel Threat is an artist based in Texas that to date has provided the art for 15 Magic cards, perhaps the most famous of which to Commander players being Inkshield. He can be found on Instagram, and original works, artist proofs, and prints can be purchased through his website. He also uploads videos of timelapse drawing, his Magic work, and more on YouTube.

Favorite Art?
My favorite piece that was released this year has to be Battle-Rage Blessing from Dominaria United.

Fun fact?
The first painting I made for Hit Point Press, called Spirits, was the biggest painting I made to date,  30"x 30".

Favorite piece from a peer?
My favorite piece from a fellow artist has to be Volkan Baga's Secret Lair portrait painting of Donato Giancola.

[el]Patron Wizard[/el], by Volkan Baga

Bruce Brenneise

 

Bruce Brenneise, based in the Pacific Northwest, has seen his art enjoyed over a number of properties, most notably Magic as well as Slay the SpireWhile his debut with Magic is relatively recent, he's already found a niche, painting a variety of landscapes, either terrestrial or celestial. If you want to know more about Bruce Brenneise, read Aaron Radney's interview with him here. Brenneise and his trademark hat can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, ArtStation, and Instagram, and prints, playmats and original works can be found on his website.

Favorite Art?
Tough, but my favorite was the basic island, "Baldur's Gate Harbor," that I did for the Battle for Baldur's Gate set. I was just so happy that the art director let me go with a nocturne for this one!

Fun fact?
Any fan of the Forgotten Realms is probably going to spot this anyway, but I was excited to show off Toril's moon, Selune, and its Tears (a string of asteroids that follow).

Favorite piece from a peer?
I have to give a shout-out to Discover the Impossible by Ryan Pancoast. I thought that piece was so gorgeous that I bought a print of it to hang up in my studio.


Ilse Gort

To date, 44 cards in Magic (and two tokens) have been illustrated by Ilse Gort, a Dutch artist who has worked with Blizzard and Valve in addition to Wizards of the Coast. Gort's art can be found online at ArtStation and Twitter, and prints are available via Inprnt. Commander players might recognize Gort's work on cards like Patriarch's Bidding and Spirited Companion.

Favorite Art?
Probably Jedit Ojanen, Mercenary!

Fun Fact?
In the sketch for this piece[,] Jedit was wearing a sleeveless jacket that was being blown back by the wind, revealing most of his upper body. I was asked to replace it with the sash, and I want to believe it's because it made the tiger man look a little too sexy.

Favorite piece from a peer?
This is such a difficult question, there has been so much incredible art this year! But the first that came to mind was Ao, the Dawn Sky by Chris Rahn. That piece left me speechless when I first saw it.


Joe Slucher

Defile, by Joe Slucher

Joe Slucher is an illustrator based in Cincinnati with more than 60 Magic cards under his name. He has prints and artist proofs available on his website and can also be found on Twitter.

Favorite piece from a peer?
An artist friend and I messaged each other simultaneously to say how great we thought Sarinth Greatwurm by Jesper Ejsing is, so that's my number 1 pick. Alandra, Sky Dreamer by Caroline Gariba and Urza's Command by Dominik Mayer are up there as well. Caroline Gariba did an excellent job of conveying scale, character and it's just a lovely composition. Dominik Mayer's focus on graphic compositions has been great fun to see, and Urza's Command not only has an interesting composition but has this ambitious goal of capturing so much story.


Liiga Smilshkalne

Liiga Smilshkalne is an illustrator based in Latvia and has worked on Android: Netrunner and KeyForge in addition to Magic. To date, Smilshkalne has illustrated 20 cards, with Volcanic Vision being the one likely most recognized by Commander players.

Favorite art?
One with the Multiverse [was] a great opportunity to go full throttle on the shinies, and for a very impactful moment, too! And there's even a beard involved.

Fun fact?
To my knowledge all references in it have been spotted, except for one - the Rampant Growth happening in the layer just above the volcano.

Favorite art by a peer?
Can Screaming Swarm by Irina Nordsol Kuzmina be my favorite for five years? No? Oh dear. For this year I just can't pick between Phoenix Chick by Brian Valeza and Sulfurous Springs by Bruce Brenneise -- both funny and beautiful!


Serena Malyon

Serena Malyon is a Canadian illustrator known for her work with Tor Books, Fantasy Flight Games, and Wizards of the Coast. She can be found on Twitter, Twitch, and Instagram, and prints are available online. To date, her work is featured on four Magic cards: three showcase treatments from Streets of New Capenna, and one stained-glass treatment from Dominaria United. 

Favorite art?
My favourite piece was Disciplined Duelist. It was my first ever piece for Magic[,] and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Fun fact?
To get the clothing and angle right, I took some embarrassing reference photos of me, rolling up my sleeves and trying to look menacing out there. You'll never see them[,] though!

Favorite art by a peer?
Demonic Bargain by Sam Guay.


Livia Prima

With 59 cards (and one emblem) under her name for Magic, Livia Prima is perhaps best known for her Secret Lair Artist Series released this year. Prima is based in Indonesia and can be found on Instagram, Twitter, and ArtStation. Her prints are available for purchase online.

Favorite art?
My favorite piece this year would be the [full-art, textless Store Championships 2022] Dark Confidant.

Fun fact?
I asked Billy Christian (my husband, who is also a Magic artist) to wear his wedding suit to model as the Dark Confidant.

Favorite art by a peer?
Billy [Christian]'s Resolute Reinforcements.


Eric Deschamps

Eric Deschamps saw his first illustration debut with Pygmy Giant from Unhinged in 2004 and has since contributed 197 pieces of art to the game, including nine pieces released in 2022. Deschamps is an American illustrator and can be found on Twitter and Instagram, with prints, playmats, and proofs available from his store.

Favorite art?
I think Giada, Font of Hope is my favorite from 2022. I enjoyed working on the Art Deco-inspired set, which was a nice change of pace. For this card in particular, we are focused on a vulnerable youth alone in a dangerous city[,] which is right up my alley. I like working on imagery that shows a little bit of the softer side of Magic.

Fun fact?
On one of the companion pieces to Giada I was given -- Soul of Emancipation -- originally, the silhouette inside of the avatar had an indication of Giada's flowery hairpiece. In the end, I was asked to remove it because they weren't 100% sure if the card would end up being associated with her.

Favorite art by a peer?
I was recently impressed by Victor Adame Minguez's Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier from Jumpstart 2022. I love how we are placed right in the middle of a horde of soldiers and greeted by the ghost of a fallen soldier from the past. Great storytelling. And as far as the technical side of painting goes, I always admire the subtleties in Victor's painting craft. Top notch 🙂


Phil Stone

Phil Stone is a Michigan-based artist who has seen his illustrations on 21 cards, all showcase treatments from the pair of Dungeons and Dragons sets released in recent years. He can be found on Instagram, and prints, posters, and other works can be found on his online store.

Favorite art?
My favorite card of all time in 2022 is the Clattering Skeletons from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Fun fact?
Bernie Wrightson was, and still is, a huge influence on my art career since I first discovered him in the mid to late '80s through Warren publishing (CREEPY MAGAZINE). Once I got this piece, I wanted to do an ode to Bernie with the skeletons.  Normally I submit four to five fully-rendered pencils for each card, and I wanted the art director to pick a certain one. I achieved this by putting very obvious "easter eggs" in the other drawings that I knew would have some serious IP issues. In one drawing, for example, I put Skeletor as one of the skeletons with the serial numbers filed off a bit, yet still recognizable. I figured Mattel would have a fit over that. In the other ones I put the original skeletal warrior from the '80s cartoon Dungeons and Dragons, and one of Dirk the Daring in his death scene in the video game Dragon's Lair. The art director had no choice but to pick the one I wanted, since the others were a bit too tainted with other IPs.

Favorite art by a peer?
My favorite piece by another peer is a tough one. I would have to pick Pedro Potier's Ancient Silver Dragon. The form and shadow on that beast is amazing and precise, all the way down to the gesture of the upraised claw.

Ancient Silver Dragon, by Pedro Potier

 


Aaron Miller

Aaron Miller is known for his work with Magic, with more than 100 cards illustrated, as well as his contributions to Blizzard Entertainment, eBay, Hit Point Press, Fantasy Flight Games, and Sony Online Entertainment. Miller is based in the midwestern United States and can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. He offers original art, tokens, artist proofs, and playmats through his website.

Favorite art?
Alora, Merry Thief. I loved the character and the challenges it presented. I worked with a community cosplayer for my model[,] which made the painting extra memorable for me. I hope folks notice the character has the rabbit's foot too!

Fun fact?
Even though I tried my best to share it, not many would know artist Tom Babbey was the model for the flip cards Panicked Bystander/Cackling Culprit. And we made a funny video when the art came out. A silent movie style edit. It was more fun to make than I thought it would be. Especially for one afternoon.

Favorite art by a peer?
I have a ton I'd put in a folder or whatever. But I love Victor [Adame Minguez]'s work so much as a painter. Rith, Liberated Primeval would be at the top of my list. Brilliant Restoration and Prayer of Binding by Wylie Beckert would also make the list because I just adore her style.


Howard Lyon

Howard Lyon has provided the art for 115 cards, starting with 2007's LorwynBased in the southwestern United States, Lyon can be found online on Twitter, Instagram, Patreon, and Whatnot, and his Magic art and other works can be purchased as prints and more through his website.

Favorite art?
Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist.

Fun fact?
The model for the painting was my wife (though it also bears some real resemblance to the awesome Wylie Beckert, due to the haircut).

Favorite art by a peer?
Lord of the Undead by Victor Adame for his Secret Lair. It's just so cool!


Nicholas Elias


A painter, illustrator, and tattoo artist, Nicholas Elias is based in New York and has seen his creations used in IPs ranging from Magic to Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Arkham Horror. To date, he's credited with nine pieces of art for Magic, starting with Circle of the Moon Druid and Ingenious Smith from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and prints, drawings, and original paintings are available for purchase from his online store.

Favorite art?
My personal favorite piece released this year has to be Fauna Shaman done for The Brothers' War!

Fun fact?
As many fans may know, this is a reprint of a card originally illustrated by Steve Prescott. The assignment from Wizards that I received was pretty different than the original, but I still wanted to honor Steve and give a wink to the work that came before! So I included a frog spirit just hanging out in the foreground of my version, since the frog always amused me in Steve's.

Favorite art by a peer?
It's so hard to decide a favorite piece from this year! There was so much tremendous art produced, with sets visually unlike anything that came before, such as Neon Dynasty. I think I have to go with Isshin, Two Heavens as One from [Kamigawa:] Neon Dynasty by Ryan Pancoast. His work always speaks to me as both an artist and a consumer of art. His dynamic compositions, painterly realism, and masterful control of color and light is always such a feast for the eyes!


Lie Setiawan

Lie Setiawan is an illustrator based in Indonesia who has worked with Valve, Blizzard, Games Workshop, and many other clients. For Magic, Setiawan is the artist behind more than 100 cards starting with Coral Merfolk from Core Set 2020 and was especially busy creating art for 2022, with 25 new pieces on cards this year. You can find Setiawan on Twitter and Instagram, with prints available here.

Favorite art?
Hmmmm, I think I love Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam the most.

Fun fact?
I put more love in creating the artifact than Drafna himself lol.

Favorite art by a peer?
Definitely Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant by Chase Stone.


Sam Guay

Sam Guay is an illustrator based in New England with seven cards to date bearing their art. In addition to their work for Magic, they're known for their Blood Moon Tarot, a fully illustrated 78 card deck. Fans can connect with Guay via their website, and can also be found on Twitch and Patreon.

Favorite art?
Invigorating Boon, my most recently released piece, is my favorite this year entirely because I got to draw some cute little thallids.

Fun fact?
There is a little mushroom butt in there, and I think that's important to know if you didn't notice it yet.

Favorite art by a peer?
This feels like an impossible question to answer, there was so much gorgeous work this year. I was excited to see debut pieces from Erin Vest and Serena Malyon. If I must pick one, I think Malyon's Soul of Emancipation might be my favorite.

Soul of Emancipation, by Serena Malyon

Art Appreciation

Whether you're a fan of the game since the beginning, or 2022 was your first year playing Magic, the chances are high that the art played a big role in your decision to pick up the cards for the first time. With 2023 around the corner, are there any emerging artists from whom you're hoping to see more? More established favorites getting the chance to interpret modern storylines? At any rate, 2023's set to be another huge year for the game, and thus, another huge year for art, so don't forget to swing by in January for more art, right here on Commander's Herald.