Joan Guardiet: Art in Board Games #1
Today we have Joan Guardiet an Artist who has worked with Expeditious Retreat Press on several RPG adventures and most worked on Checkpoint Charlie with Devir Games.
Hello Joan, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I'm an illustrator from Barcelona and I'm kinda new in the gaming industry, though I've worked for several years as a freelance artist. I started a little illustration studio (called Pistacchio) with Núria Aparicio, working with clients in advertising and publishing. We even made animation projects. But now I'm going solo, and board games have always been an interest of mine.
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 wanted to be a comic book artist. Other kids were playing soccer or watching TV, but I was always drawing or reading. I guess I had an archaeologist period as well, after watching Indiana Jones.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
Well, I've always been connected somehow to the gaming culture. I'm part of a regular group that get together to play several games, mainly RPG, but also board games. I've also illustrated for RPG companies. One of my best friends, David Esbrí, is an editor at Devir, and also an illustrator himself. When he started developing the concept for Checkpoint Charlie, he approached me and asked me if I would be interested. I jumped at the opportunity.
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?
I approach it as I approach every project I work on, though it has specific challenges. First I dive into the idea, talking with everyone involved in it (the creator of the game, the publisher, the people that work in graphic design and so on). Then I play the game. Even if it's in its early stages I want to get the feeling of how it works. Then I move to references, looking for the best style and approach for the project. I sketch several ideas and propose them to the publisher, discussing with them what I think are the strong and weak points of every proposal. After we have agreed on how to proceed, I try to finish an illustration with all the specs I have, so we can all be on the same page regarding the final look. If it all goes well then I work on every illustration needed for the project and keep updating everyone so there are no surprises. Finally I make a final phase of checking out everything, to see if something doesn't work or can be improved.
You were involved in the creation of Checkpoint Charlie, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
Checkpoint Charlie is a card deduction game created by Jose Antonio Abascal, where you have to find the main spy that tries to pass through the border you are tasked to watch. The suspects are cats, and the players are dogs so it's a lot of fun. It was a challenging process. I had to illustrate several breeds of dogs, in a kind of vintage style. And I also had to illustrate a cat, with several possible combinations of elements. Those elements had to be easy to spot but also integrated in the overall art. I also 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. Seems like a lot, but honestly it was fun to work on and kind of intuitive. Once I had the first character created everything else flowed from it.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on Checkpoint Charlie?
I looked at several artists I love, like Andrew Kolb, Derek Yaniger or Owen Davey. I used Tom Clohosy Cole and Marcin Wolski's work for the Cold War feeling I needed, especially the color palette. I also took inspiration for the animals from the excellent Tumblr Daily Cat Drawings. I made a lot of research for the clothes as well, mainly via Pinterest.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I think artists must look for references and inspiration all the time, and this is a part of the job I especially love. I've just discovered Dean Cornwell lately, and his compositions blow my mind. I'm currently reading a lot around the subject of spying (I'm running a Night's Black Agents RPG campaign), but also comic-books. I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work (S*Town at the moment), as well as all kind of music (most recently Future Islands). I love animation as well and fortunately my two daughters keep me watching it. Also, who doesn't like the current TV shows? My wife and I are watching The Expanse and Black Mirror, and just finished all of Mad Men. It's a golden era for the inspiration junkies of the world!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
I'm not sure I'm qualified to give any advice, since I'm really new in this field. I guess the best thing I can say is that you must work every day, look all the time for inspiration and draw, draw and draw. Also, don't forget that you're your own company, so to speak, so concentrate some time on marketing yourself and learn the basics of legal and financial stuff too.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
I delivered to Devir some time ago the new art for a fun little game called 1, 2, 3! that's going to be published soon (I hope!) The game itself already existed, but they wanted a new look for it. It's been a really fun project as well, using some old animation characters as inspiration. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a finished copy.
Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
You can visit my website www.joanguardiet.com, or my studio's site as well www.pistacch.io. You can find me at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Behance. If it's Joan Guardiet, it's most probably me. Please keep in touch!
(Images supplied by Joan Guardiet)