Mr Cuddington: Art in Board Games #17

Mr Cuddington: Art in Board Games #17

This week we have David and Lina, artists who worked with on games such as Santorini, Charterstone, The Grimm Forest and Brass and with publishers such as Roxley, Stonemaier and Druid City Games.

Hello David and Lina thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! David and I are a husband-and-wife creative duo living in Quebec, Canada. We work as one under the name Mr.Cuddington and we specialize in making immersive visuals for board games. 

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?
David: I grew up making short stop-motion films with my dad's camera and spent a lot of time writing fantasy novels as a teenager. I was very meticulous and would draw detailed maps for all my fantasy stories. I ended up graduating in 3d animation and worked in the video game and film industry before later branching out to freelancing as an illustrator with Lina.
Lina: I always loved art but I wasn't sure how I would make a living out of it. Another thing that was fascinating to me was science and biology so for a while I was aiming at being a coroner. I ended up changing my mind during my last semester before going to college and giving art a try.

So how did you first get involved in making board games?
We wanted to work on a creative project together for quite some time, and at first we thought it would be a good idea to design and illustrate a board game. We quickly realised that game design was an enormous task for us to undertake and that we were not ready for that just yet. On the other hand, sketching the cards had been so much fun! We wanted to do more of it. So we started building a small portfolio in order to get freelance work with established publishers.

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?
We generally both work on every piece of art for a game, taking turns until we've pushed it to the best we can. One of us does a sketch, the other does corrections on that sketch. Then we send it to the publisher and get feedback. One of us takes the work from there to an almost finished piece and the other does a final pass of tweaks. We send it for approval, do some corrections if needed, and we are done! Not much has changed about this process since we started, although we've definitely gotten more efficient with time.

You were involved in the creation of  Brass, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced? 
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 to the game's essence. We took it as a challenge to widen the scope of our skills and do something that was very different from what we previously did with Roxley (Steampunk Rally and Santorini). We are very glad of the aesthetic we did for Brass, and we realised that those challenges of trying different styles and creating a visual universe for each project was probably the most gratifying thing about our job. 

What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on Brass?
We discussed a lot with Gavan prior to starting any sketches, and we knew he wanted to do something gritty and somewhat dark but still classy. There Will Be Blood and Peaky Blinders were good sources of inspiration. Also we did lots of research about the industrial revolution and how the manufacturers were operating at that time. 

What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
David: I just finished The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins. We spend so much time immersed in fictional worlds in our work that I like to expand my knowledge of the real world when I have some spare time.
Lina: I'm reading Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, listening to the ''La la Land'' soundtrack and we recently dived into Bong Joon-ho's films. 

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
Play games to know what's out there and make a portfolio that focuses on your strengths. Also don't get too attached to your art, game design can be a very delicate balance and some stuff is likely to be thrown away during the process.

Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
We currently have Arydia and an expansion for Unfair in the works. They both are lovely projects to work on. Arydia is by Cody Miller (Xia: Legends of a Drift System) and is an open world, campaign-based, cooperative fantasy role-playing board game. For now only the cover art has been unveiled but we can't wait to show more! We do also have a lot planned for the upcoming year and although we can’t talk about it yet we are pretty excited about the future!

Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
We just updated our website with lots of projects that we did over the last few years (http://mrcuddington.com/) but you can also follow us on Facebook where we often post our newest pieces! (https://www.facebook.com/mrcuddington/)

(All images supplied and owned by Mr Cuddington).

Tristan Hall: Art in Board Games #18

Tristan Hall: Art in Board Games #18

Élise Plessis: Art in Board Games #16

Élise Plessis: Art in Board Games #16