Gary Paitre and Natalie Dombois: Art in Board Games #15
This week we're lucky enough to have a joint interview with Gary Paitre (Art Director and Designer) and Natalie Dombois (illustrator) who worked together on KIWETIN by Flyos Games.
Hello Gary and Natalie thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gary: I’m from Montreal, Canada. I’ve been working for advertising agencies for about a decade and I also had my own agency for a while but now I freelance. My best friend and I decided to create Flyos Games and create the games we wanted to play a year ago.
Natalie: I’m from Hamburg, Germany. I’ve worked in various different fields, e.g. Advertising, Books and Animation. KIWETIN was my first try at Board Game art and I immediately fell in love with this field.
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?
G: Like many children, I wanted to become an astronaut. But my father told me that I had to be fluent in Russian, so finally I changed my mind and decided to become a bus driver. Yep, kids.
N: I wanted to join Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. When I realized that this wasn’t possible I started to change my mind on a weekly basis. Police officer and Artist were on the same level for a long time. But the Artist direction definitely works better for me.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
G: I played many RPGs, video games and board games when I was a teenager. The idea of making our own games started a couple of years ago with my best friend. I had a lot of stories to tell and we were finally mature enough. So we founded our own game company and benefit the Kickstarter tools.
N: My friends have held a Board Game night every Friday for several years now. The first time I thought that it would be cool to do the Artwork for board games was when I joined them once and saw all the amazing games. But in the end I didn’t until I was contacted by Gary who told me about KIWETIN and I promptly was head over heels.
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?
G: When I work on a game aesthetic, my priority is to build a credible universe. I also focus a lot on finding the right illustrator for the right story to tell. It’s also very important for me to bring an original design to an industry that is used to Trolls, Dwarves, Orcs and Elves with a classical drawing style.
N: Like Gary I enjoy trying new things and while I appreciate the classic art a lot I’m all in for refreshing directions that haven’t been played with a lot. Usually I try to find the right feeling for a world and try to capture this feeling into the illustrations with little details. Nature and Culture inspires me a lot.
You were involved in the creation of KIWETIN, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
G: The biggest challenge I had to face building Kiwetin was to keep the creative and visual focus all along the process. When you’re your own boss you are responsible for the choices you make, and it’s quite easy to scatter and lose the creative vision. Plus when you make a game for the first time you have to learn to accept a back and forth of changes and criticism because your game play has to evolve … a lot.
N: Gary and Thomas were really great to work with and I had fun working on the game all day long. They told me what was important to them, but also gave me a lot of free space. It was most challenging to understand the game in the first place when there was only a summary of how the game would work. Afterwards, they created a prototype with blank pieces and that helped a lot.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on KIWETIN?
G: I wanted to cross two universes that were important to me. The first one was the native American. I immigrated to Canada almost 15 years ago and I wanted to explore and pay tribute to this culture. The second is the world of Ghibli’s studio approach. As a kid, I spent so many hours watching Miyazaki’s movies that my mind is full of its magic. It was a natural convergence to me.
N: The Canadian Woods and Nature in general were big inspirations but I also wanted to give the game a little “nordic” feeling, which shows in the characters that have warrior paintings and heads that looks a little like skulls. I also tried to capture the wind theme and the subtle magic in my paintings. KIWETIN should be mysterious and friendly without becoming too obviously magical.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
G: I spend a lot of time every day browsing portfolios on Behance. I’m also part of a famous website awards jury (Awwwards), so I’m aware of new tendencies in various domains. I’m very curious by nature, so i’m open to draw inspiration from any kind of creative field. I just finished reading the complete Foundation by Asimov and I’m moving on to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I’m listening a lot to old albums from Twin Shadow and some random playlists on Spotify. I cannot live without music
N: I like to listen to instrumental music (the original soundtracks of movies are my favorite). That inspires me a lot. Also impressive landscapes, culture and society in general blend into and fuel my work, not forgetting I have a thing for science, especially space.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
G: Work, work and work. Having ideas is one thing. I have thousands of ideas, but the real challenge is work. So stay focused on your objectives. Don’t let go and be original. Due to hard work, results will arrive.
N: I think it is important to try new things and to give your best during the project. Like Gary said it is important not to stop with the ideas but also to finish a project, so people can see and experience the result. You’ll learn from every step.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
G: We are currently working of 4 new productions. Our next game will be quite different from our first one. We are re-interpreting a classical game in a more strategic avenue with a great digital tool. Stay tuned ;)
N: I'm currently working with “Thundergryph” on a game called “Spirits of the Forest” which will be appearing soon on Kickstarter.
Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
G: My portfolio is available on Behance : www.behance.net/garypaitre
N: You can find my work on http://nataliedombois.de/ or https://www.behance.net/nataliedombois
(All images supplied by Gary Paitre and Natalie Dombois).