The creative process behind each piece of Magic art is unique to the image and the artist.

From the art description to the final product, the Art in Focus series reviews every step involved in crafting the art of Magic the Gathering in the artist’s own words.

This week we shine the spotlight on Alchemist’s Vial by Lindsey Look from Magic Origins.

Take it away Lindsey.


The art order called for a colorless artifact in a non-specific setting. They wanted the card to depict a grenade made from blown glass with two separated chambers containing different colored liquids.

The idea was that if the grenade was thrown and broken, the two liquids would combine and create a chemical reaction. While the artifact itself is the most important element, I felt that the volatile mood was equally as important.


Attempting to figure out how the bubbles would look.

I would have loved to know what was going through the mind of the person who packed my Amazon order… motorcycle gloves, glow sticks, a couple of empty clear christmas ornaments, and a round bottom glass flask.


Getting some reference for the lighting on the hands.

I was still assisting for Dan dos Santos at the time, and he was gracious enough to hold the beaker for me while I shot a bunch of hand reference. Unfortunately, using the glow sticks as a light source didn’t work as well as I had hoped, so I opted for coloring the water and using some under-lighting.


Shooting a bunch of different poses for the hands, using the flask that was about the size I wanted. A glow was attempted with light sticks but they weren’t bright enough. The sticks also got stuck inside in the flask and it took me longer than I’d like to admit to retrieve.

The element that I most wanted to focus on was the chemicals being dangerous and reactive, so making sure there were different kinds of bubbles and wisps of movement was important.

My biggest focus was to create an artifact that looked like it could actually exist; how do you illustrate a magical alchemic grenade with tubing, glass walls, wax seals, and two brightly glowing/bubbling chemicals? Well, you get a lot of reference.

I looked at a ton of scientific equipment, ancient bottles, alchemic runes, and various methods of bottle sealing before deciding on how I wanted the grenade to look. (You can see a big difference between the sketch and the final image!)

Alchemist's Vial_Sketch

My original sketch, which was approved with the idea that the artifact look more home-made appearance.

I start with a quick roughing in of all the colors in oil paint, mostly to get rid of the white of the illustration board where I don’t need it. I worked translucently in the lighter and more saturated areas, so most of the blue and orange chemicals were carefully painted after the darks were blocked in.

The mage’s clothing was subsequently rendered, along with the gloves, followed by the remainder of the vial. The fingers were the last to be painted before I stopped and reassessed the image, taking a quick photo and messing around with it digitally until I figured out what else the painting needed.


On the board, about 1/4 of the way in to the painting.

The blue glow in the background and the tattoos on the fingers was a last minute decision. I wanted to add a bit of silhouetting to the mage, and the blue light behind him seemed like a nice tie in to the color of the vial. I felt the fingers were lacking in interest compared to the rest of the mage, so I decided that some tattoos on the fingers would give him more of a story.

I think the artifact itself was the most successful element. I’d never painted anything, liquids or solids, inside glass before, and though it was very challenging, I think it came out well. I’ve acquired a whole new set of visual vocabulary for how glass objects should be rendered.


The final image for the card, Alchemist’s Vial

I’m glad that I had the opportunity to illustrate for the last Core Set. Since I haven’t been working for Wizards very long, it’s also the first Core Set I’ve been involved with. While it’s a little sad that something that’s been around for so long is ending, I think Wizards has some really exciting ideas for the future.

I’d like to thank everyone I’ve met for being such lovely people! Meeting so many fans of the game was initially intimidating, but everyone has been so welcoming, and it’s been inspiring seeing how enthusiastic and devoted to MtG everyone is. I’m happy to sign cards (just email me for the mailing address and details!) and I also have APs available on my website.

The original artwork for Alchemist’s Vial is already sold.  Anyone interested in purchasing prints or some of her other work should check out her website.

Thank you Lindsey for sharing this story with us. 

Check back next Thursday for more Art in Focus.