Artist Scott Chou is relatively new to MAgic art, with his nineteen cards starting in Zendikar block.
The first step of the creation of a card's art is its art description. The art description tells the artist what the card will do, what its flavor is, and what the mood of the illustration should be. Here were the instructions Scott was given for Strata Scythe:
Location: Tangle floor
Action: Show us a Mirrodin-style scythe, sort of: a long steel bar with a gently scooped scythe-blade on the end. We see a golem using it to shear a layer of metal from the Tangle floor, revealing gleaming copper underneath the thick verdigris.
Focus: the strange carver-scythe
Mood: Harvesting verdigris or digging for treasure?
Armed with that art description, Scott submitted a sketch to Magic's creative team.
The creative team asked for a few tweaks to the piece, allowing the scythe to be the focus. And this is the result!
Here's what it looks like in Scars of Mirrodin packs: