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  • July 16, 2023 6 min read 0 Comments

    Last week I shared an abbreviated synopsis of how I came to be interested in original Magic art. While it’s great to have discovered a new way of enjoying my favorite hobby, my personality is such that being a fan alone is insufficient. In order to truly embrace this hobby, I was insistent on purchasing my very own piece of art!

    It didn’t take long to realize how expensive of a pursuit this was. In order to achieve the goal, I started fervently selling cards and sealed booster boxes out of my collection. Since I refuse to commit any hard-earned money from my “day job” to Magic, I was left to creative shuffling of my collectibles to raise enough funds for the purchase.

    That was the easy part.

    Once my PayPal account had a plausible number after the dollar sign, I started browsing the MtG Art Market Facebook group. To say I was overwhelmed would be an egregious understatement. Browsing the group for available artwork for sale is as intimidating as facing down a Hall of Famer at a large Magic tournament!

    While gorgeous pieces of iconic Magic art flooded my vision, I had to quickly streamline my window shopping—I needed to decide what type of art I was after.

    Final Artwork

    The final, completed artwork for a given card was what I pictured when I first thought about acquiring original Magic art. It’s the most logical connection: a card has an illustration on it, and that illustration may have a corresponding physical painting (more on digital art later).

    This is where my quest began. Wanting something iconic and recognizable as a piece of Magic art, I browsed auctions and sale posts of completed paintings. One that caught my attention early on was Thalia’s Lancer by David Palumbo.

    thalia's lancers

    It wasn’t until I started looking at price tags that I realized just how costly the finished painting could become. As far as finished paintings go, this one is on the cheaper side, with an asking price of $3,000. Many pieces sell for far more, some reaching well north of $10,000. A finished painting is not something to be purchased on a whim for most individuals, and I was no exception. With a fixed budget, I had to get more creative.

    A Not-So-Sketchy Budget Option

    As a newbie in the Magic art world, my going-in assumption was rudimentary: every card had a piece of art associated with it. The artist painted the illustration for their respective card, submitted it to Wizards of the Coast, and then (if they wanted to) could sell the original artwork to an interested buyer.

    This is how some artists go about things, but apparently there are many more approaches!

    I quickly learned that not only could I purchase a painting of a given card’s artwork, but I could also purchase an array of other art-related items associated with certain cards. For instance, many artists create a sketch of a card before completing the final piece. Tyler Walpole’s illustration of Talrand, Sky Summoner does just this.

    talrand art

    These sketches are a cost-effective away to own a piece of Magic art without necessarily breaking the bank. While paintings can sell for thousands of dollars, many sketches don’t crack the $1,000 mark, making for a more affordable option.

    If you want to save even more money, you may find an artist who creates “loose” or “concept” sketches for their art. These are different from final sketches because they don’t contain all the details of the final piece. Often concept sketches also don’t mirror the final artwork directly. Instead, they’ll contain the same characters so the drawing is still recognizable.

    Maria Abagnale implemented this approach for her painting of Mistbind Clique.

    mistbind clique art

    While the auction for the finished painting closed at $3,300, the loose sketch and concept sketch sold for $275 and $125, respectively.

    Color Studies

    In addition to sketches, some artists will also create a “color study” for a card. These tend to look like the finished product, but the medium implemented may be different and the details may not be complete.

    Maria Abagnale created a color study for her Mistbind Clique as well:

    mstbind clique color study

    The color study is an attractive option to obtain artwork from the artist that looks very close to the finished product, but at a fraction of the cost. The final bid on this color study was $700—more than the sketches, but less than 25% the cost of the finished artwork.

    Last year, Andrew Mar auctioned a color study and an ink study for his Firkraag, Cunning Instigator.

    firkraag dragon

    While dragons tend to sell at a rich premium, the color study and ink study sold for $1,200 and $725, respectively. They lack the detail of the finished piece, but are still easily recognizable and would look great on the wall.

    The Great Re-Paint Debate

    If someone is insistent on owning a finished painting, and not a sketch or color study, then there is one other option that could help save money. Enter the re-paint, indistinguishable from an original piece. The only difference (as far as I can tell) is the timeline. Original art is created before a card is released, whereas a 1/1 re-paint is created afterward.

    The MTG art community differentiates between the two with a hard and fast line. In fact, the MtG Art Market group moderators recently implemented new rules to treat re-paint auctions differently from original art auctions. This leads to softer demand for re-paints, which leads to lower prices of entry.

    Why would an artist do a re-paint? There can be several reasons! One popular case is when a card’s artwork is created digitally first. An artist may want to bring their digital creation to life in a physical medium, so they’ll create a 1/1 re-paint so that someone can hang the artwork on the wall. Nana Qi recently followed this approach for her Cute to Brute series.

    avacyn cute to brute

    Per the Facebook auction post, “This is the auction for a 1/1 'Afterpainting' Repaint of Archangel Avacyn by Nana Qi for the Cute to Brute Secret Lair Deck. Because she worked on the entire set for this deck, she was not able to paint the cards traditionally, but has now recreated each one in acrylic on canvas. They will not ever be repainted again, making each a unique, traditional original for each card.”

    Personally, if only one instance of a painting exists, I don’t care if it was created before or after the card was spoiled. Some collectors are purists, however, and shy away from these re-paint or “afterpainting” auctions. All I can say is that the repaint tends to be cheaper, and this make them more attractive to me. A lot of the time art depicting an angel can command a significant premium; this afterpainting sold for a reasonable $3,000 at auction.

    Another reason an artist may pursue an “afterpainting” is if their card was made strictly for digital play! This is the case for any art created for Arena’s Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate set. Zara Alfonso created a final painting for her Lukamina, Moon Druid. Per the Facebook post, “She did start an original painting for this image but ran out of time. That piece is available in a separate auction. After finishing she really wanted to bring it to life in oil. This is a 1/1 oil repaint based on the image of her card art. She will never do another.”


    This piece sold at auction for $2,250, and I suspect that if it had been an “original” and not a “re-paint”, it would have sold for over $1000 more. Despite the lower price, the finished product is no less beautiful, and no less rare. This is a budget-friendly, novice-friendly consideration when shopping for Magic art.

    Wrapping It Up

    As it turns out, after all my research, I decided to pursue the Lukamina piece above. I wasn’t in the market for art when this auction was initially listed, but through the help of artist and art collector Phil Li, I tracked down the buyer and negotiated a deal with him to purchase the piece. It’s now hanging on the wall of my living room!

    Now that I own a piece of Magic art, is my journey complete? Far from it! While I don’t expect I’ll be dealing in artwork left and right, I do hope to acquire one or two more pieces to round out a nice collection (and mini-gallery) to fully embrace my appreciation for this hobby.

    Since doing all this research, I now know there are numerous options I can pick from when shopping for Magic art. Depending on budget, I hope to explore each of these options—sketches, color studies, and afterpaintings—to find the best balance of price and appreciation.