Welcome to our MtG artists interview series #12, There’s no Magic without art.

Today we share with you our interview with Seb McKinnon, who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with some of his best work.

Here’s what Seb told us.

“Like seeing shapes in drifting clouds” – Seb McKinnon

Essence Flux © Wizards of the Coast

Hi Seb. How did you start working on Magic, and what was the first card you made?

After graduating from Dawson College from their Illustration and Design program, I submitted my portfolio to Wizard’s ArtDrop. I was working at Ubisoft as a concept artist when I got an email from Jeremy Jarvis several months later.

It was a dream come true. My first card was Attended Knight from M13 – and it was published in Spectrum later on. I am immensely grateful towards Jeremy for giving me a chance, for inviting me into the Wizards of the Coast family.

I still can’t believe I have the privilege of working amongst titans of fantasy illustration.

Rite of the Serpent © Wizards of the Coast

Were you familiar with the game at the time?

Yes. It was a staple of my childhood. I grew up with 4 brothers and we collected the cards for the artwork alone. In time we learned how to play, and it became a summer tradition.

Can you give us a brief description of your painting process?

When I first started digital painting, I came across a video tutorial by Craig Mullin’s, in which he took a scan of one of his watercolor paintings and started messing it up, pushing and pulling digital pigment to form something abstract and unrecognizable.

From there, he kept working until something emerged from what seemed like chaos. The process struck a chord within me and I’ve been working in a similar way ever since.

Duskborne Skymarcher © Wizards of the Coast

I try to not think too much at the beginning of a painting… just kind of let myself go… let things emerge from my subconscious.

It’s a bit like seeing shapes in drifting clouds. There is a moment when, all of a sudden, something will click in the imagination; the subject reveals itself, and then all I need to do is render. I use a lot of textures and apply them in washes, building up the layers, using various blending modes.

Rhystic Studies did a fantastic video [see bellow] on your work, where he showed how highly conceptual your work is. How do you transport the art description into your ‘own universe’?

Again, I try to put myself in a state of “non-thought” and let ideas come to me… eventually something jumps out in response to the art descriptions. What’s great about the art directors at Wizards is that they are really open to your ideas and what you can bring to table. Such a welcoming and creative environment, essential to conceptual work.

Archfiend of Ifnir © Wizards of the Coast

You mentioned that you’d love for Magic to return to Shadowmoor/Lorwyn, what do you like about these planes?

I’ve always been fascinated by faeries and the folklore that surrounds them. It’s a realm I’d love to have the opportunity to paint. I like the ambiguous nature of faeries. Are they good? Evil? Somewhere in between?

I like the contrast the planes that Shadowmoor/Lorwyn offer… its light vs darkness aesthetic, the way nature is depicted… It just seems like such a rich place to explore.

Everything about those planes call to me as an artist… I know I’m associated with often grim and macabre pieces, but honestly if I could paint faeries and treefolk all day I’d be really happy! My dream Magic commission would be to paint Oona, Queen of the Fae.

Pale Rider of Trostad © Wizards of the Coast

What cards were the most challenging to paint?

I think they are all more or less equally challenging. “Stasis” was one of the most challenging because of all the little details – the blue flowers, the lichen and moss on the armor… The more details a painting calls for, the greater the task!

Do you recall the art description for Dirge of Dread? This image also appears to ‘continue’ on Rite of Belzenlok. 

Yes. Mark Winters was the AD on that one, and he asked for two paintings that would depict a song. How abstract! He said Dirge of Dread was supposed to represent the verse, and Rite of Belzenlok was to be the chorus.

I came up with the skeleton choir motif to link the two together, as a storytelling tool.

Dirge of Dread © Wizards of the Coast

Can you name some favorites among the art you made for Magic?

I personally really like the vampires I did for Ixalan; Duskborne SkymarcherTwilight Prophet and Sadistic Skymarcher. I have a soft spot for vampires, and I think my love for them came through in these pieces.

I am also proud of my Stasis piece. I put my heart into all my paintings, but that one especially.

Stasis © Wizards of the Coast

Where can our readers find you and learn more about your work?

They can follow me on facebook or instagram.

I also make films and music. I have an original IP called KIN Fables that I’ve been developing for the past 5 years. It’s a cinematic universe, a sort of grand scale multi-media project.

I direct, produce, create the paintings and compose the music for it all. At the moment I’m raising funds for the first KIN Fables feature film through Kickstarter, selling playmats and prints of some of my best work for Magic.

It is a fantasy-genre movie, and it will be my debut as a feature film director (if I can raise the funds!) So far the response on Kickstarter has been incredible – I’d like to take the chance here and thank the MtG community for their immense support. Thanks to them, my film is getting closer to getting made.