Update: Wizards of the Coast provided Dicebreaker with a statement on Novemeber 20th. The original story continues belows.
"We recently became aware of claims that David Sondered's artwork on the card Wayfarer's Bauble used art created by another artist without that artist's permission. Such misuse of art is expressly prohibited by our artist guidelines and does not reflect the values of Wizards of the Coast. As such, we will be suspending any future work with David Sondered until further notice," a Wizards representative said.
An artist has apologised for using allegedly stolen artwork in the background of a card that appeared in Magic: The Gathering’s Lost Caverns of Ixalan set. Fellow MTG illustrator Lorenzo Lanfranconi accused David Sondered of plagiarising the background of Lanfranconi’s work in the recent printing of Wayfarer’s Bauble, prompting a swift response from both fans and the artist in questions
Lanfranconi brought the allegedly theft to light on November 18th, posting to X with his own Morning walk to the city painting set against Sondered’s art for Wayfarer’s Bauble. He tagged MTG’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, and mentioned that the background was pasted “as it is” in Sondered’s composition. “I don't even want to know the reason behind this. It's so stupid that deserve a prize. LOL”
The card in question’s background does bear similar architecture, vegetation, clouds and even whitewashing stains on the building when compared with Lanfranconi’s original art. An Oltec figure in the foreground holding a glowing fantasy version of a sextant was obviously added on Sondered, but the public quickly pointed out the overwhelming similarities by overlaying the two images in a .gif comparison.
David Sondered published an apology to social media shortly after Lanfranconi’s accusation, saying that his Coulrophobia Studio supports accountability but that he “screwed-up badly” in his latest commission with Wizards of the Coast
“In my process of painting I collect references, especially for things I feel uncertain about, and sometimes I put those positioned on the canvas and paint over them. I sometimes use this as a way to make my illustration unique by overpainting and altering the reference until it isn;t possible to see the original piece anymore. Occasionally I do this with poses, but I also use art from colleagues as references,” Sondered posted to Facebook and X (he has since deactivated his X account).
“In this case, I have unfortunately not done a good job of turning it into a uniquely mine painting. I could show how I have painted over things but in the end it does not matter. The matter of the fact is that it looks too close to someone else’s original piece of art,” he continued. “It is 100% on me, and I made a very bad call on this one. Most likely (as it is so long ago) I came to a point where I wasn’t looking at the reference anymore and was just trying to make sure all the colours and lighting matched.”
@wizards_magic just want to let you know one of you artists stole one of my paintings to paste it as it is in the background of their illustration.— Lorenzo Lanfranconi (@L_Lanfranconi) November 18, 2023
I don't even want to know the reason behind this. It's so stupid that deserve a prize. LOL pic.twitter.com/hxfxaGKGTj
Sondered then apparently contacted both Lanfranconi and Wizards of the Coast. The fellow artist chose not to pursue any action, saying, “I'll don't do nothing more than sharing this image and to me, if this was the only case this happened, it's ok...just a weird situation and a stupid mistake.” He then posited that overworking may have led Sondered to cut corners, but there’s nothing to support that claim beyond a general belief that creating artwork for Magic: The Gathering is a vaunted but stressful freelance contract.
Dicebreaker reached out to Wizards of the Coast for comment but did receive a reply before publication. The popular trading card last brooked controversy over stolen art in 2021, when an independent illustrator pointed out the similarities between their MTG fan art and Crux of Fate, a card printed in the Mystical Archive special printing released as part of the Strixhaven set.
Wizards of the Coast acted swiftly to cut official ties with Jason Felix but has yet to make any announcement regarding Sondered’s actions. Both Sondered and Lanfranconi are fairly comers to MTG’s stable of artists. The former is best known for several cards in the Warhammer 40,000 Universes Beyond Commander decks, as well as a few from the more recent Doctor Who Universes Beyond Commander decks. The latter specialises in vistas and sweeping landscapes as evidenced by their piece for Dominaria United and the Tales of Middle-Earth MTG sets.