Plume Pegasus is a gorgeous artwork that delivers all of the beautiful color values that we've grown accustomed to in Melissa Benson artwork over the past few decades. I recently asked Melissa about the background behind how she developed the concept, and the response was fascinating! Throughout the article, Melissa's comments are included in blue text.
I love drawing horses, so I wanted these two pieces [referring to Plume Pegasus and Phantom Steed] the moment Erik offered them to me. The pegasus idea came from a sketch I did for Mesa Pegasus that was rejected.
The first image below is Melissa's original sketch for Mesa Pegasus, which was rejected by Magic the Gathering's original Art Director, Jesper Myrfors. Mesa Pegaus is one of the cards from the original MTG Alpha set. The subsequent color image is the final painting for the card, followed by the card itself. Fittingly, the card had the "flying" effect (one that is closely associated with Melissa's early MTG work because of the hugely popular 'Shivan Dragon'), and in Sorcery: Contested Realm the 'Mesa Pegasus' has the "airborne" effect.
I submitted a pegasus with a peacock tail jumping over a wall, and Jesper thought, given how small the printed image would be, a more readable pose would be better. He was right, of course. So Mesa Pegasus morphed into what you are familiar with. This left the peacock version available to me for another time. Sorcery came around, and that was a great opportunity to complete the idea, so I did.
It is fascinating how this concept stayed with Melissa for nearly thirty years before seeing use in a brand new card game, Sorcery: Contested Realm; a project that includes original paintings from several of the original MTG Alpha artists. The images below show the original rejected sketch, the transformed and final Mesa Pegasus, and Sorcery's Plume Pegasus. How fortunate we are to have Ms. Benson's beautiful artwork in this wonderful game...