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 Hangarback Walker by Mike “Daarken” Lim from Magic Origins.

Take it away Mike.

Hangarback Walker Final

I think obviously the most important element is the walker itself and the fact that other flying machines take off and land from this machine.


Color: None (artifact creature)
Location: Streets of Kaladesh
Action: On the plane of Kaladesh, the city buzzes with “whirlers,” rotor-bladed flying drones embedded with intricate gears, each about the size of a large bird. This creature is a kind of walking “aircraft carrier” for whirlers, where they can land and take off again. Maybe it’s a four-legged automaton about the size of a truck, with a dome on its back that releases flying whirlers. It doesn’t need a head but it should look like it can move around and walk the streets of Kaladesh.
Mood: An ingenious device to send forth a host of whirling drones.
Notes: Every artifact on Kaladesh, including this one, should look hand-crafted and elegantly made.

Honestly, I think I failed on the part about making it clear that other ships take off and land from this machine. I got too caught up with making the intricate designs, so you probably can’t tell what this machine actually does.

Maybe I should have made a more obvious deck with some ships sitting on it, I don’t know.

Hangarback Walker 01

I didn’t use any reference for this piece. I actually created a lot of concepts for the machines in Kaladesh during the concept push at WotC, so I had a pretty good idea what it should look like.

The metal filigree is pretty important for the look and feel of the machines on Kaladesh. I had also added these thin gold chains to some of my character concepts, so I wanted to add them here as well in order to add a unifying element across all things in Kaladesh.

Hangarback Walker 03

In the brief it mentioned that this machine should look like it can walk around the streets of Kaladesh. I cheated a little and moved him outside of the city.

When I first read that part, I got a little nervous. The cities of Kaladesh are crazy detailed, so I didn’t want to have to worry about painting an insane city in addition to this walker and airships. I felt like that was a little too much to tackle, especially at card size. Plus, how would I fit this big guy in a city street?

Hangarback Walker Old

I think moving him outside really made the walker the focus of the painting and it probably reads a lot better than it would if it was in the middle of a bustling city.

After I originally turned in my final, I received some notes about changing the airships in the background and making the walker more gold.  I’m actually glad they asked for changes because when I turned in my original final, I forgot to turn off an old layer that had some unfinished buildings in it.

I think conveying the size and the aesthetics of machines of Kaladesh was the most successful element of the piece. Although, this guy is probably too big to actually walk around inside a city.

Hangarback Walker Final

I’ve been working on some other IPs at WotC, so be on the lookout for some new paintings and concepts from me.

I also just launched a Patreon that begins in September. If you are looking for video tutorials and a cheaper mentorship, be sure to check it out!

Hangarback Walker 01

The original artwork for Hangarback Walker was created digitally.  Anyone interested in purchasing prints or some of his other work should check out his website.

Thank you Mike for sharing this story with us. 

Check back Tomorrow and next Thursday for more Art in Focus.