Interview with Artist Seb McKinnon
- Christian Tobehn
Seb McKinnon is one of the most prolific and possibly the most popular contemporary artist working on Magic: The Gathering. He is a true ambassador of the game's heritage, its past and present. In his work, he unites the deep fantasy flavor of the old days with today's more modern direction of Magic art.
Some of his recent masterpieces include Silent Clearing, Assassin's Trophy, Deathsprout, and Soulherder. No wonder he is one of five artists who were entrusted with illustrating the five enemy fetch lands for Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition. Luckily he found a moment in his busy schedule and was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Dr. Exhume: Mr. McKinnon, please tell me about how you came to illustrating.
Seb McKinnon: As a child I drew a lot. I used to love watching my mother draw things, and I think my love for creating art must have started around then. As I grew up, I started identifying with fantasy/fairytale art, especially the work of Alan Lee. After graduating from a technical illustration and design program at Dawson College in Montreal, I worked for a few months at Ubisoft as a concept artist, before deciding to jump into the world of freelancing.
Dr. Exhume: How did you get involved with Magic: The Gathering?
Seb McKinnon: I sent my porfolio to Wizards of the Coast. Art director Jeremy Jarvis decided to give me a chance. I'll forever be grateful to him for that.
Dr. Exhume: Do you have a personal favorite among your own Magic illustrations? Is there an artwork you regret these days? What is your favorite artwork done by a colleague?
Seb McKinnon: I think my favorite Magic art I've done has got to be Stasis, and most recently, Answered Prayers. I have a few artwork regrets, but I won't tell them publicly, since they may be others' favorites! I keep my regrets to myself. I recently discovered Sheya's work — an illustrator from Beijing. She provided two amazing designs to my latest Kickstarter campaign, and she aparently has an artbook coming out soon, so I'm eagerly waiting for that!
Dr. Exhume: I would describe your style as gloomy, but also very warm and harmonious. How long did it take you to develop that? Was it there from the beginning?
Seb McKinnon: I don't think style can be forced. Style comes naturally, without thinking about it. Personally I don't really see my style, I just do what feels right to me.
Dr. Exhume: Can you name your biggest influence?
Seb McKinnon: For illustrators, I have many, and they keep changing, but top three are Alan Lee, John Bauer, J.W Waterhouse — for now.
Dr. Exhume: Do you prefer a specific mood when drawing?
Seb McKinnon: I do like drawing on rainy days, and preferably in a quiet location surrounded by nature.
Dr. Exhume: Growth Spiral, the stunning Throne of Eldraine promo art and your version of Chalice of the Void all show mushrooms or other symbols of nature. They are beautiful manifestations of life and death to me. Many of your artworks give the impression that you are very in tune with nature. Is that correct?
Seb McKinnon: Well I like to think so! My being feels best when in nature.
Dr. Exhume: The alternative card frame for Sagas, originally introduced with Dominaria, was a great innovation and returned in Theros Beyond Death. You also did a showcase frame artwork in Throne of Eldraine. Do you have a different approach when dealing with those kind of frames?
Seb McKinnon: Not really. I try to keep things simple. I try to approach every card as though it was my first assignment for Magic. Each card has its own challenge and solution. My approaches are constantly shifting. I suppose the only constant in my process is chaos. I like to work and find ideas in chaos, in a state of non-thought. I'm trying to rely and put my trust in feeling only.
Thanks a lot, Mr. McKinnon!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.