This week we have Saskia Rasink an illustrator who recently worked on the current Kickstarter game The Open Road.
Hello Saskia, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and studied illustration graduating in 2013. During my studies I started becoming obsessed with old maps and old graphic designs from buildings from the 1960’s and 1970’s. 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. Nowadays, I illustrate my love of architecture, cities, and traveling every day for many different companies which I am very grateful for.
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?
The funny thing is, I always wanted to do ‘something with drawing’. My grandfather used to paint beautiful landscapes and he really inspired me to do the same. When I was young, he taught me all about paint, techniques and the different kinds of paper that work best. Nowadays I don’t illustrate or paint by hand, it’s mainly computer (Illustrator) based, but my grandfather definitely inspired me to become an illustrator.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
Blair Berg and Carl Strycharske, the people behind the Open Road board game, saw my work and thought my illustrations were perfect to visualise their board game idea. They approached me and told me about the game, and I got really excited about illustrating it. There was a lot of creative freedom in this game, which is not always the case in commissioned work and I also thought the idea of a bicycle board game was very original. I cycle my treasured old 1970’s ‘grandmothers’ bike everywhere around Amsterdam and as cycling is very common in this country it felt like a subject very close to my Dutch heritage.
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?
With the map of the USA, I started the same as I always do for maps. I research everything, from the local landscape, to landmarks, to trees. After that, I first pick a color palette to start working with and then start with the landmarks. Then I place them on the map, and I start working on every other detail like mountains, trees, people on bicycles, tents, animals, or other local things. I keep working until I am satisfied and I feel the map is getting nearer to the finished product. When all the details are illustrated I usually put it down for a few hours and come back to it, and I start to switch around details, or maybe add another detail because it’s too empty somewhere in the map. Sometimes I switch colors too if I feel it’s not ‘there yet’.
You were involved in the creation of The Open Road, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
Before I started designing the game board, there was already a route of the USA created, with lots of lines, dots and city names, as this is the gameplay. At the beginning all these lines and dots, which were the cities and routes you could take in the game were a huge challenge because they took up a lot of space on the map but weren’t visually attractive yet. It was my work to combine everything and make it look like an actual board game. Sometimes all these lines and dots, and every city name, made it hard to have enough space left for illustrations of local landmarks or details that were important to show the local area, especially as I could not place them somewhere else in the map.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on The Open Road?
The first thing I looked at to inspire me in making the big map of America for the Open Road board game was all the different kinds of landscapes in the USA. I felt this was really important to research because I had to get a certain atmosphere onto the map that was fitting to every area in the USA. After that I researched local landmarks that people would recognize, to add on the map.
For the cover of the board game the different landscapes in the USA were especially important and pictures of these really inspired me in creating the illustrated cover. We wanted to have three different kinds of landscapes, that represented the nature in the USA you’re bicycling through. You have the snow capped mountains, the pine tree forest and the jagged desert rock formations near Las Vegas. I had a lot of creative freedom to make this one big illustration, where the landscapes were different, but flowed into each other for the cover.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I currently have an obsession with vintage matchbox labels from Eastern Europe and Russia from 1950-1960. They are being sold on Ebay, and I love to search for hours to find the most beautiful labels and buy them for my ever growing collection. They are a huge inspiration to my work, as the labels are very beautiful designed but at the same time they are graphic, minimal and have lovely colors. For their very small size they are so very clear and communicate so much.
Also, colors inspire me a great deal. If I need color inspiration, I always turn to “A dictionary of Color Combinations” by Sanzo Wada. It was originally published in 1933. This book is really old, but the color combinations are surprisingly still very up to date!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
I never thought my illustrations would work in the board game industry, as I had always thought board games looked a bit different to my illustration style. If your work fits the idea of the board game, and you personally love the subject, go for it! It doesn’t matter if the board game looks different, it will only make it more special and people will want to buy that game because the artwork looks different to what’s already out there.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
I can’t tell much about it yet, but it has got something to do with Summer landscape illustrations!
Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
You can see my work at:
My website: http://www.saskiarasink.com
And the board game I designed is on Kickstarter until 4th July 2017: kck.st/2rtFuNk
(All images provided by Saskia Rasink)