George Doutsiopoulos: Art in Board Games #23
This week we have George Doutsiopoulos an artist who has recently worked on board game STEM: Epic Heroes and with publishers such as Hologrin and Desyllas Games.
Hello George, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi Ross! You are very welcome and thank you for the kind invitation. I am a full-time freelance illustrator living in Thessaloniki, Greece. I work with publishing houses and companies, painting for storybooks, book covers, games, and advertising.
Now we know a little more about you, I have to ask, as a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist! There were, of course, the occasional dreams about becoming an astronaut, an archaeologist or an astrophysicist, but I have been passionate about sketching and drawing ever since I could hold a pencil.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
Well, to begin with, I absolutely love board games! Things like the fun memories of being a kid playing Hero Quest have stayed with me and inspire me both as an adult gamer and as an artist. Looking back, it is very clear to me that I have always wanted to be a board game illustrator, although I took it more seriously rather recently. A couple of years ago I did a few boxtop illustrations for Desyllas Games, a big board game company in Greece. I remember thinking “hey, I really like doing this”! The next step was to enrich my portfolio with some personal work that I felt would attract the kind of board game jobs I would prefer the most.
When you are working on the art of a board game can you give us a quick overview of your creative or thought process and has this changed at all since you first started?
It’s really not very different from the process of creating any other illustration project. The first thing is to make sure I have a very detailed and thorough brief. The preferred art style, palettes, target group, theme, dimensions, etc. are things I need to know beforehand. When I have everything I need I just stare at the brief for a few minutes (or tens of minutes!) and try to visualize the finished game – what it looks like, what playing it feels like, how my friends and I would react to it and what kind of art would make it as fun and memorable as possible. The next step is research and finding a reference from online sources. I love doing research for the visual elements of my illustrations (faces, clothing, buildings, etc) because it also serves as a form of brainstorming, although it can become time-consuming. The rest is pretty straightforward. I draw my sketches as close to what I envisioned as possible and try to figure out the final palette. When all is approved I move on to the finished artwork.
You were involved in the creation of STEM: Epic Heroes so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
STEM is a card game that centers around prominent figures from the realm of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and their inventions/discoveries. My job was to paint character cards. In order to create rich and accurate illustrations, I needed to do extensive research for every character and find a reference for their face, body type, clothing, inventions and so on. A good facial likeness was important to me but sometimes finding appropriate reference was difficult, especially if the character lived before the 20th century. Another important challenge was keeping balances. I needed to find a good equilibrium between realism and cartoonism, historicity and superheroism, seriousness and colorfulness, all while making sure that the likeness of the characters and emotional impact of the cards were as good as possible.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on STEM: Epic Heroes?
First of all, STEM was an absolute godsend. It came at a time when I had become very tired of working mostly on children’s books and had been longing to work on something more realistic and adult. 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. Aaron Hanna, a great art director and person to work with, noticed this and assigned to me characters mostly from the late 19th and early 20th century. So, this perfect mix of science and progress, character illustration, past eras, and gaming was more than I could wish for inspiration!
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
Oh, all kinds of things. I’m halfway through “The Shortest History of Europe” by John Hirst, finishing Jeff Smith’s “RASL” and about to begin Phillip Pullman’s “The Book of Dust”. Which are very indicative of my favorite genres: history and science, graphic novels and fantasy literature.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
First of all, I’d say make sure that you love (or at least, like) board games. Liking the object of your work makes things so much easier and more pleasant. Also, take the time to play lots of different board games, whenever possible. It’s the best way to become familiar with great board game artwork, different game mechanics and get lots of inspiration (and fun)!
Secondly – and very importantly, make sure that you’ve put some thought into what kind of games your artistic style would look better in. As soon as you have the answer, hone your skills and build a portfolio with appropriate art.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
I’m always working on books, but I’ve also begun working on a very fascinating board game for Restoration Games! I am not sure I can share details at this point but please stay tuned!
(All images provided by George Doutsiopoulos, 2017).