Meet Felipe and Kevin, movers and shakers on the Brazilian MTG LGBT scene.
By Leigh Fryling
It’s impossible to argue that some of the greatest draw to Magic the Gathering lies in its stunning, beautiful, and sometimes hilarious artwork (Goblins, am I right?). I can clearly remember the first cards I ever saw, a green red mess of a deck a forgotten cousin of mine brought to a snoozer of a holiday party. I didn’t even bother reading the instructions, I was mesmerized by vibrant flames and lush velds and one heck of a fiery dragon. I was hooked. The pictures told tiny snippets of story that was more fascinating than anything I’d seen before. And that was 17 years ago.
Now I’m enthralled not just by the card art, but the incredible fan art that has come out of storylines, cards, characters, and in this case, a push towards inclusivity with this stunning playmat and logo for MTG LGBT Brazil. Artist Kevin Silvestri and director Felipe Bracco have generously allowed Planeswalkers for Diversity to sell their playmat at our table at this year’s PAX, and we snapped up the chance to interview the two of them about art, MTG in Brazil, and diversity.
Felipe, tell us about MTG LGBT Brazil!
Felipe: Our official name is Magic: The Gathering LGBT, and our goal is to gather the MTG LGBT community in a “safe place” where we can be what we want without judgments. Then spread our views and wills to the MTG environment like Stores, Tournaments, etc.. so we can show ourselves and educate people. We got started when the MTG Facebook official page changed their profile picture (with the vivid grove in June 2015) to support the USA gay marriage, and we started a discussion praising WOTC for taking that position. Then a few of us had an idea to start a Brazilian community focused on LGBT people.
So how did Kevin and his art get involved?
Felipe: In our first months, we wanted to create our logo and identity, so we posted looking for someone to help us, and Kevin was the first to show up with will and an amazing talent. Worked so well, that we work together since then. We have a super respect for his artwork and we want him to go further with whatever help we can give him.
Kevin: Our group is very young; it was created around 2015 but has grown so fast. It’s so crazy and amazing to see so many LGBT people that play Magic The Gathering, while also having a safe place to talk, joke, and meet new people, you know?
During my participation of Magic-LGBT, members were asked to come up with a “logo” for the group. I had this idea of a five petal lotus icon (one for each mana color) because the lotus symbol is a very special thing in the MTG universe and to me; a flower sends a message of something new blooming… They ended up loving the idea and I became the “official” designer of the group!
Kevin what inspires you to make your art?
Kevin: So many things; usually it’s things I see, a song I hear, that suddenly strikes an image in my mind. Sometimes these images grow to become a character, a universe, or a whole history, so I’m constantly meeting new people in my head and thinking about the universe they live in. I might think up a story that would be cool to see them go through, to grow or achieve something.
That speaks to me, I feel like the stories or the potential stories we find in art are personal and compelling. What’s different for you between making your own art and MTG inspired art?
Kevin: MTG art for me is totally bat shit crazy, it’s definitely on another level. The style was the first thing that hooked me into in the game: I remember being nine or so, I found a lost card on the ground of my school and was mesmerized by the artwork. The card happened to be Hollow Hounds of the seventh edition (it creeped the hell out of me!). I still have it, by the way. So I started to research more about the game after that. I started to collect the cards for the art alone, but little by little I learned to enjoy and love the game. MTG art is not totally my style (well, maybe in the first editions when the art was more crazy), but usually I draw more B&W, concept oriented, sketchy, children’s book cartoony style. The main difference I think is that Magic art is so realistic, with a very thought-out character and universe design process. You really have to follow these guidelines to create something that feels like it belongs in “Magic the Gathering”. If you just look up the art you know that the “weird plant thing” is from the Kamigawa set, or that metallic monolith-like sphinx is from Alara. It’s a very well-constructed universe and I really love it, it’s something that makes the game so special to me.
The playmat and logo are both amazing, but even more amazing is how quickly Magic the Gathering: LGBT has grown and expanded! What are the challenges you’ve been facing, and what are your hopes for the future?
Felipe: For me, it is keeping things up and always search for new opportunities, ideas, and partnerships on the MTG environment.
For our group, it is keeping the inner management and join the brazilian no-capital community; some foreigners don’t realize, but Brazil is such a BIG country.
By the way, the Brazilian MTG community has been very welcoming (like stores, organizers, some players, etc…)
For the future of our group, we want to keep the Brazilian community stronger and stronger and exchange more and more experience with other groups. But a near goal is to make a 2017 playmat, which Kevin has great plans for.
Kevin: I think what any artist would want: to wow people, make them feel something, tell a story that brings them happiness, sadness, nostalgia… to raise a question or put some issue in the spotlight. I think that the greatest joy of an artist is being able to create and finish something and see the people react to it, have their work respected and cherished.
More acceptance, more inclusiveness, more discussion. We still have a long way to go, but I’m really liking the new but small details that Magic is inserting into the world, like the flavor on Guardian of Meletis card or the trans character Alesha. I was very happy with the new planeswalkers Kaya and Saheeli Rai, they look so badass and cool.
To reiterate: we still have a lot of work to do. but I wish that WOtC would take these small details and turn them into bigger things. I would love a LGBT planeswalker, more non binary characters. It’s so good and important to see something that represents you in a product that you love. You feel like you can be as powerful and cool as that character you know? And that’s a big thing, especially when you’re young.
And just a quick teaser haha: I’m already starting to work on the 2017 edition playmat that I want to be much bigger and powerful!
Kevin I’d really like to ask you more about your art, but I think that’s a whole article by itself. And Felipe, we need to know more about Magic and the LGBT community in Brazil! For now, is there any last thing you’d like to say before we see everyone at PAX?
Kevin: When it comes to the design in the playmat, I made it to be like a medal, like an engraved memorial on stone, to remind you to always be proud of who you are.
Felipe: Just thank you!