Garen Ewing: Art in Board Games #3
Today we have Garen Ewing, an artist who recently worked on the brand new release 'The Lost Expedition' with Osprey Games.
Hello Garen, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello, Ross. I’ve worked as an illustrator since the late 1990s, working for a variety of businesses and publishers in a variety of areas. From posters, book covers, editorial illustrations, packaging, educational, theatrical … the list goes on! I also wrote and illustrated an adventure comic called ‘The Rainbow Orchid’ which was published in the UK in 2012 and has also been translated into several European languages. I live in West Sussex with my wife (a writer and editor) and two young children.
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?
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.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
This is my first work for a professional board game company (not counting the handful I home-made as a youngster). Duncan Molloy of Osprey Games contacted me, I think after seeing my Franco-Belgian style artwork in ‘The Rainbow Orchid’, and thinking it would suit the world of ‘The Lost Expedition’. Of course I didn’t have to think for very long to say yes.
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?
After absorbing the brief I’ll start on some rough sketches. This phase will usually involve a bit of light research, but not enough to slow down getting some basic ideas down. With ‘The Lost Expedition’ my initial idea for the box cover was for the explorer party to be just entering the thickness of the jungle, with little hints of some of the dangers they’d face in the darkness ahead. Osprey liked the basic idea but wanted them right in the thick of it, so I worked up a new sketch and this was approved. Quite often I find the first image that leaps into my head after reading the brief is pretty close to what I end up doing - though not always!
You were involved in the creation of The Lost Expedition, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
There were four main jobs within ‘The Lost Expedition’ - the cover, the character cards, the adventure cards and the map cards. The adventure cards were the biggest chunk (65 in all) and trying to choose the best image to convey the meaning of each event was probably the most challenging aspect. I also had to make sure there was a fairly even representation of the six different characters across the cards - so I kept a tally of who was appearing as I went along, and whose appearances I sometimes needed to boost a bit. Research was also a big part of the task - sometimes fascinating (researching the characters, who are all based on real people), and sometimes not so pleasant (hook worms, leeches, etc!)
The map cards were also a bit of a technical challenge as there were nine in all and I’ve made them so they can go in pairs in almost any order. Getting the tree lines on the edges to match up, as well as giving each card a bleed required a lot of concentration to avoid a big jungle-y mess.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on The Lost Expedition?
I knew I’d been chosen by Osprey for the ligne-claire styling of my comic work, so keeping that Tintin/Blake & Mortimer vibe to help create the feeling of classic high adventure was important - but that’s the stuff I love anyway, so it was fairly easy to stick to that vision. I’d also already read, a few years earlier, the main source material which inspired Peer Sylvester to write the game - David Grann’s ‘The Lost City of Z’ - so I kept that in mind too. It was enormous fun to work on.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I’m currently reading Dickens’ Oliver Twist - I love history, especially Victorian history, and particularly love the filmed versions of this story by David Lean and the Lionel Bart musical, but I’d never read the book before. I grabbed it on my way to the airport for a recent comic festival in Munich. As for listening - I’m enjoying a playlist of Studio Ghibli songs - I made it for my children after I got them hooked on the films. Watching … not a lot - regular Ghibli with my children, and for myself I’ve been slowly converting my ageing Akira Kurosawa DVD collection to Blu-Ray. I watched Indiana Jones and the last Crusade last week, which seems appropriate for this interview!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
I’m pretty sure I’m not in any position to give advice on that, given that this is my first board game work! Do good work, get yourself out there, get involved in the community, network with the right people - not just online … all good advice that I should really follow more myself. Don’t wait for your work to be ‘perfect’ before you show it publicly - it never will be. I already wish I could redraw half the cards in ‘The Lost Expedition’ - but it all helps you to improve and then you move on to the next thing.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
I’m doing a couple of private commissions at the moment as well as some illustrations for a web design company, and I’ve just completed the cover and packaging for ‘The Scarifyers’ (an audio adventure series from Bafflegab). I’m also working on the next Julius Chancer book - it’s all plotted and partially scripted - I just need to get on with the drawing.
Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
My (somewhat out-of-date) work website is at www.garenewing.co.uk, my comics website is at www.juliuschancer.co.uk, and my blog is at www.webbledegook.co.uk. Thank you!
(Sketches and artwork courtesy of Garen Ewing. Product photos by More Games Please).