Mordenkainen the Wizard 34” x 25” Oil on Panel, 2020 Art Director: Zack Stella
I am honored to present the portrait of Planeswalker Mordenkainen the Wizard from the recent Magic:The Gathering. expansion: Dungeons and Dragons – Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
This painting is my most detailed and masterfully executed Magic: The Gathering cards as well as one of the finest portraits to grace my portfolio.
The portrait of Mordenkainen envelopes so much of what I love about my career as an artist – from portraiture, to narrative storytelling, rendering of reflective surfaces, dramatic lighting effects, and most importantly conveying a sense of wonder and mystery. We may never know what the wizard was working upon as we interrupted his contemplative thoughts in his study, but we can be certain we will feel the wrath of his ire!
Ever since discovering Dungeons and Dragons in my youth, I have enjoyed the complexities, challenges, and excitement of role-playing the character class of wizards. This portrait represents the deep passion I have for gaming and the art creation infused within my youth around roleplaying. It was this wellspring I returned to again and again as this work evolved.
Reaching back deep into those wizardry gaming roots are a set of bookends I created during my hard-core D&D days, with one side a diorama composed with the elements from Grenadier’s ‘Wizard’s Room’ lead figurine miniature set. I loved to paint these miniatures, owning handfuls of the diverse sets produced, and enjoyed endless hours of enjoyment in use in our campaigns.
Due to the lack of access to proper art supplies as a young artist, all small details on these figurines were rendered and applied with sharpened toothpicks. You can see this in the botched eye in the image above! I am happy to state those logistical hurdles are no longer a hinderance in my art creation now. I have long ago learned that proper tools are part of the pathway to creating masterful, professional works of art.
To those ends, as this painting came closer to finish, a proper frame was needed to house this image and complement its craftsmanship. Masterworks Frames in Utah was commissioned to create a customized silver frame with a slight accent of dark blue in the broad field of the frame.
I am proud to now publicly share this major work with you and the fantasy community!
Ps. The final image sent to wizards has a digitally added ‘Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound’. I felt that the inclusion of the hound in the oil painting would weaken the ambiguous nature to Mordenkainen’s spell work and take focus away from him as a portrait of a powerful wizard.
And for those interested, the original oil painting is now up for auction
in the Facebook Groups MtG Art Marketplace, closing July 11th, 11:30pm EST:
Born in 1967 and raised in Colchester, Vermont, USA, art was always a hobby for Donato as a young man, he would steal away into the basement of his parents' home to work on drawings, create his own maps for the game Dungeons & Dragons, paint figurines, read comics, and construct model tanks and dinosaurs. His love of imaginative play dominated his childhood, both indoors and out. At the age of twenty Donato enrolled in his first formal art class, the beginning of his professional training. Immediately after graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University in 1992, Donato moved to New York City to immerse himself in the inspired and varied art scene. Formative years in the early nineties were spent as the studio assistant to the preeminent figure painter Vincent Desiderio, and long days of study in the museums of New York. It was then that his love and appreciation of classical figurative art took hold. He continues his training even now, visiting museums regularly, learning from and sometimes copying original paintings by Rembrandt or Rubens, attending life drawing sessions with illustrator friends and constantly challenges himself within each new project. Pilgrimages to major museums are his preferred reason to travel.
Donato has released a revised hard cover compilation of his works on the theme of J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle-Earth: Journeys in Myth and Legend from Dark Horse Comics.
Love to see all your preparation steps before the final painting, really says a lot about how you can focus on making a great painting in the final.
Each step helps build a stronger ‘lattice work’ for other decisions to hang on that, strengthening the final in a feedback loop.
You rolled a 20 with this one Donato! Epic!
Thank you Brian, I might have even rolled back to back 20’s! 1/400 chance!
Daaamn this is tremendous – fantastic work!
What an amazing piece! So vibrant, filled with contrast and detail. Classical in so many aspects, but standing firm in this modern age. The AD must have been so happy 😀
Can’t wait to have it as a card!
Thanks for sharing some of the process, and your history with the genre which culminated in this.
Thank you Nico! The card hides so much of this art, again pushing my belief in making nice paintings, not just illustrations.
As an old Greyhawk veteran this is great to see. Well done that man.
Amazing painting, thanks for the close ups. How large is the colour sketch?
I’ve just come here from a Facebook link, and that is fantastic work! Definitely my favourite version of the arch mage 🙂