Jesse Riggle: Art in Board Games #27
This week we have Jesse Riggle an artist and illustrator who worked on the game Unearth with publisher Brotherwise Games.
Hello Jesse, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure, aside from commercial work I do a lot of pop culture related paintings for gallery shows and I try to do a fair bit of personal work in my free time. I’ve also spent as much time as possible traveling the past several years.
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 an entomologist (insect scientist) or a cartoonist. I decided in my early teens to pursue the art thing instead of the science thing, but I still sometimes like to imagine a life living in a jungle looking for new bugs.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
I’ve only worked on one game, and it was something that kind of found me. I did a series of pieces in an isometric style that resonated with the right people and it grew from there. I was super excited to work on the project, as I am a fan of board games and am impressed with the volume of amazing games coming out these days, it seems to be a rapidly evolving art form.
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?
My main focus is making art that people will enjoy looking at. It’s kind of secondary to the gameplay, but I think something that is aesthetically interesting adds another layer to the whole experience. I’m also concerned how to keep the art consistent, but unique enough that the different parts are identifiable at a glance.
You were involved in the creation of Unearth, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
For Unearth I was given the task of creating the overall look and feel of the game. It was based on a style I had already worked in so it came pretty naturally, but I was faced with creating a large number of pieces with unique settings. The biggest challenge was trying to remain consistent whilst keeping the imagery from being too repetitive, which I tackled during the rough sketch phase. I tried to think of larger overall shapes for each piece and then picked different details to focus on as a sort of two-tiered approach. One detail might be a single central structure dominated by a water feature and another a series of smaller structures connected by stairs. I think it helped to try and sketch out as many pieces as possible before moving to the final stages.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on Unearth?
As I mentioned, the style was based on some personal work I had done just for fun. I often draw strange somewhat lumpy characters and faces, so I had a desire to do something more sculptural and environmental in nature just to mix things up. I'd also recently moved to Europe for a stint and loved seeing all the old castles and wanted to do something with that. So I combined that with my affinity for isometric projections and started to play around and liked where it went. The game features a bunch of unique environments, such as a desert world and an island world, so for those, I drew on my travels around the world to influence the visual language, shapes and color palettes of each environment.
I'm actually doing something similar at the moment in a totally different style to scratch the same itch in mixing up what I do.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. My favorites are probably The Adventure Zone, Judge John Hodgman, The Greatest Generation, and Lore. I also have a tendency to have old Star Trek shows playing in the background while I work.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
Stick to your artistic morals. It seems to be a growing and evolving world with a lot of room for fun and experimentation, so just have fun!
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
I’ve mostly been focusing on some personal projects and gallery work recently, so nothing concrete at this time, but hopefully something fun will come along!