There's an inner child in me that guides almost everything I work on. The sense of wonder I had when experiencing new worlds when I was young is one of my biggest reasons for creating games and settings.
From the perspective of the work that I produce, the gaming industry allows the rare opportunity for me to create a complete product. For most of the games I work on, everything in the box, and the box itself, is designed by me (apart from the game itself of course!), and that level of ownership is pretty rare.
Working freelance isn’t for everybody. You have to manage your time and your workload as well as deal with crunch periods (or self-doubt in the opposite situation). It’s often a good idea to go for projects for which you don’t necessarily think you’d fit, as they often are a good opportunity to try out some new things.
With any game design, before making a big change, you have to understand what the problems are that you are solving. My process is to find what's fun about the game and design everything else around it in support of that fun.
I was so pleased to be able to work with such a diverse brief because diversity REPRESENTS. The idea was to include several characters with some cultural-anatomical features. Latin people, Asian people, Arab people, white people, gender fluid or/and androgynous people/trans people, curvy people, gay people. I think this is the right direction to work in. Visibility matters.
Although we were using a lot of fantasy tropes, I always found it odd how so much of fantasy was so white. It made sense in Tolkien's days, but being persons of color ourselves we felt like why not create a world where our heroes could be from other backgrounds?
I look back on the work from those years and it seems like every brush stroke and ink spatter holds some little story of personal struggle, tragedy, or triumph. I chose to inject humor and lightness into when my day was painfully absent of it, or some little bit of cartoony pathos and sadness when that's what I needed to vent at the moment. They're just weird little cartoon cards, but there's a lot of my heart in them.
I took my passion for drawing to another level by practicing daily and trying to develop a workflow and an identity in my work. Now that my personal work is more defined, I realize how that has an impact on the possible opportunities that are more in line with what I love to draw.
There are surely those who would argue that a Sicilian setting is the most classic one, but we always had an American setting in mind. That allows for a wide variety of characters and illegal businesses, as so many different people and cultures were present in the US gangster scene during the first half of the 20th century…
I have been into tabletop games since I could remember. Fireball Island was a pin in my childhood timeline. Soon after that, Hero Quest began to open my eyes to all the possibilities that you could create with a game; the worlds that could be designed and all the adventures to be had exploring them. With such a love for illustrations, games just felt like the natural next step.
The first thing I showed the rest of the team were different color palettes that were very limited, for directions we could go in. Having a limited amount of colors was very important in establishing the style as unique and recognizable. The hope was it would be eye-catching and different enough to warrant a further look...
I think there's so much to learn from traditional methods arts and crafts, and other things such as making and growing food. They can take a lot longer, but the products are so beautiful and there's so much more intention and engagement with the process.
At first I just started designing the characters that were going to be based on Heinze and me. I read ‘Understanding Comics’ and ‘Making Comics’ by Scott McCloud and just started drawing some. Three out of four were jokes about board games, so together with Heinze I decided to throw away the idea of a webcomic about geeky subjects in general and decided it would be better to focus on board games.
When I first started on Skyward I made an inspiration folder on my hard drive and kept filling it up with artwork I found [..] As I'd never really drawn any isometric art before, I didn’t know how long it would take or what style to do it in [..] I started looking at more pieces still in an isometric style but with a lot more detail, like something out of an RPG.
I wanted an old and detailed styled map. So I contacted Daniel Hasenbos who is a cartographer [..] and by intense research [..] added historically correct buildings and monuments throughout the Roman empire.
Joeri Lefevre provides the all the card art and the amazing box art. I wanted his art pieces to be classical and to depict different situations in the daily life of Roman people [..]
When I started out I tried to do everything for fear of upsetting people, and I still catch myself falling into that mindset every now and then. But I think it’s better to be upfront with clients at the start about deadlines, or whatever the issue may be, rather than dropping nasty surprises on them later..
Here's a special audio version of the Art in Board Games Interviews. This week I'm interviewing Alex Crispin the illustrator of brand new game Escape the Dark Castle by Themeborne. As we both live in Nottingham it seemed only right we meet up in person to have a face to face chat.
I'd also recently moved to Europe for a stint and loved seeing all the old castles and wanted to do something with that. So I combined that with my affinity for isometric projections and started to play around and liked where it went. The game features a bunch of unique environments, such as..
Never stop learning and practicing! As my professors used to tell me, it’s the mileage that matters. There are plenty of people with pure, raw, exceptional talent, that have their path laid out for them. But the rest of us just need to work hard. For both art and game design..
Achieving my life’s dream at 21 was eye-opening. Setting aside the 70-hour working weeks, what I found at Disney was that I didn’t enjoy being a cog in an enormous machine. Turned out what I really wanted was not to work with a specific company, but rather, the chance to shape my creative work in a meaningful way...
[..] the biggest challenge is that there’s no literal interpretation of the game outside of the pieces. So, we had to concept an entire art style and brand around two pieces of information: there are many games you can play with pyramids, and the pieces themselves...
The timing was perfect and so was the theme of the game. Some of my favorite things in the world are science, character illustration and board games, and STEM perfectly combined all three. What is more, I absolutely love vintage themes...
In taking apart another designer’s work and re-visioning it, you learn the inner workings of the mechanics and how the game is put together, thereby learning something about the design process. I suppose the best thing I have learned is to be open with my work [..]
As I do both the illustrations and graphic design for my games, I usually start with a crude layout for my prototype. While the first prototypes can be rough around the edges, I try to make them as user-friendly and clean as possible..
I’ve had a lot of tragic experiences with mental illness, and I have a very dark sense of humor. Knowing that many of the drugs we’re prescribed to make us well also cause us to become sick in other ways, I started to develop a game where you were racing other players to treat a series of diseases...
[..] I had the opportunity to work on Pandemic Legacy with my Z-Man team. I knew about the Legacy system at the time but had never played Risk Legacy, so I really knew nothing about the game mechanics. Everybody knew the game was going to be special, which really added to the excitement. So because of that there was a bit of extra pressure [..]
I wanted to play a beautiful classical RPG adventure game that recaptured the feeling of playing Dungeons and Dragons in one evening, which meant epic adventures, meeting strange people, going on quests, exploring ancient places, enlisting allies and overcoming enemies and obstacles and finding great treasures, and no game I’ve played before..
When we started working on Brass, we did not have much realistic art in our portfolio. We were lucky enough to have Gavan Brown trusting us for this big project. However, we could feel people were somewhat unsure that we could pull it off. Brass was already loved by many and we wanted to stay true..
We’ve imagined another world or reality which is inspired by the one we live in but more dreamlike. Nature has inspired me a lot. There are so many different shapes and colors around us. So much creativity and diversity in the millions of creatures and plants that exist. I wish I could have helped designing them..
The Canadian Woods and Nature in general were big inspirations but I also wanted to give the game a little “nordic” feeling, which shows in the characters that have warrior paintings and heads that looks a little like skulls. [..] KIWETIN should be mysterious and friendly without becoming too obviously magical...
I love character design so creating the character art was a joy. The game designer and I both have daughters who enjoy gaming and we feel strongly about making games that appeal to men and women, so we took care to make sure that at least half of the characters were female, and that none of those characters were sexualized..
I wanted to depict a diverse cast of characters, yet push each character just far enough to fit their given occupation/archetype. I wanted each character to feel distinct, and I based them off of people, faces, or characters that are memorable to me. I tried to capture those features the way that I see them..
This project meant working on a game for the revered authors of War of the Ring, surely one of the best strategic games for two players that exists and a massively popular best-seller. For David and I, it was a challenge to accept and live up to the demands of this project..
When I was asked if I would like to make illustrations for a bicycle racing game, it didn’t take me more that half a second to say ”YES!”. As a road bicycling enthusiast the subject was more than pleasing, but when I playtested it, I was thrilled. It really was a game..
A project always starts with research. First broadly, everything to do with the theme. Then narrowing down to the different elements required for the illustrations. I make a new Pinterest board for each project and look at as many different approaches and sources as possible to get away from the obvious.
The biggest issue with Fugitive was the amount of art that was needed. The cards are numbered (0 - 42) and we decided that each card would be unique and that if you laid the cards all out in order, you could see a story and a chase taking place...
[..] it was my first “big” board. There was some art already done and I had to respect the style by making mine very similar. When you don’t have a lot of experience, it’s a little bit scary because the board is the part where players are going to live their adventure..
This project should have been the best moment in my career. I was working with only friends (game designers and publishers) on a very fun and original game. Everything was supposed to be cool. Unfortunately, I’ve realised since then that it’s always when I think it will be cool and quick that it’s a painful and slow process..
Nature is a big source of inspiration for me; nothing is creepier than some of the things that already exist here on Earth. I’ve based monsters on parasites, diseases, carnivorous plants and deep sea creatures - I like that the Kingdom Death universe isn’t filled with the same old thing!
I used to go to second hand book stores and search for hours to find the beautiful maps in old travel guides. One map I found, from 1970, inspired me to make a personal map of Copenhagen. This actually started my freelance career, with many map-based freelance jobs coming in..
For me, the funnest part of these titles is when you get a piece to fit perfectly in a space and fulfil a plan you have been working towards. So when I started the design that became Bärenpark, I tried to make these moments happen often and be the real payoff for the players throughout the game..
I think I always wanted to be an illustrator, perhaps more specifically a comic artist - so I’ve been lucky. I was in hospital a lot as a child and my mum gave me comics to read and paper and pencils to draw with to keep me occupied - so perhaps my fate was sealed...
I had visited La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona when I was living over in France, and it was an amazing and beautiful structure! When the game was picked to me, I got really excited about the setting. I had also been playing around with stained glass as a graphical element in a couple of games before Sagrada...
I wanted the art to somehow convey a story, to have that Cold War vibe that the game needed. But also wanted to keep it light hearted. Once I had the first character created everything else flowed from it..