Jacqui Davis: Art in Board Games #29
This week we have Jacqui Davis an artist who has worked with on games such as Ex Libris, Euphoria, Manhattan, Purrlock Holmes and Skyway Robbery and with companies such as Stonemaier Games, Dice Hate Me Games, IDW Games, and Game Salute
Hello Jacqui, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m a board game artist and kid’s book illustrator currently living in Lytham St Annes, a little town in north-west England. I really love it because one of my favourite things to do besides drawing is to go on walks and when the weather allows, this is England after all, there’s plenty of places to go to unwind.
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?
It might sound cliché but I always wanted to be an artist ever since I realised that could be a way to make a living. There was a brief period where I considered becoming a scientist so I could invent either a morphing cube (thanks Animoprhs) or a stargate, but that didn’t pan out.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
Originally I had studied to be an animator but I discovered you need a certain sense of timing that I don’t possess. I also can’t dance, much to my ballet dancer mother’s disappointment!
I got involved in board games after I graduated university. During my studies I followed a few artists who worked in board games, and a good friend Katy Grierson already worked in the industry so I learned a lot from her. The first two clients I had that really got me into the industry where Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games and Dann May at Game Salute, I really owe them a lot of thanks.
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 work almost entirely digitally in Photoshop on my trusty Cintiq. Typically my process goes; sketch – colour rough – final, with changes done in-between as I get feedback from my clients. I find the sketching stage the hardest because often if a brief is really exciting I’ll have a finished image in my head and I just want to skip to that and ignore all the boring bits.
Sometimes we nail a design on the first round of sketching, but on others, things get changed along the way. If the brief asks for something specific I’ll always do research while I sketch and I often end up with files filed of references after a project.
You were involved in the creation of upcoming game Neverland Rescue, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
I think the biggest challenge I had with this game was that we didn’t want to reference Disney’s version of Neverland. You’d think this would be easy, but for me at least that’s where I go when I think of Peter (Pan) so to break that mental image was a bit tough. It was hard not to do a foppish Hook or an impish Peter.
Though the temptation was there I didn't watch or look at images of the Disney versions of the characters. Some things still snuck in, Peter's a redhead, though we tried black hair and decided it didn't work. I went back and looked at the original book illustrations and stills from several stage productions to get ideas since Peter Pan has been a stage tradition for years.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on Neverland Rescue?
In the case of Neverland Rescue, this one’s pretty easy; we wanted to stick close to J.M Barrie’s version of Peter. Dan Letiman was really great with providing descriptions and images from his copy of the book before I started sketching. He and the team also caught me out when I was leaning too close to Disney and away from Barrie. We got rid of Michael Darling's (Wendy's brother) top hat since that was a Disney invention.
There were a couple of things other things about Barrie's version I didn't know about prior to the game. First of all is the existence of Gentleman Starkey, a member of Hook's crew who has impeccable manners and is 'dainty in his way of killing' (and my new favourite character). The second was that apparently, Tink is 'embonpoint', something I had to look up, which means plump. Also, that mauve faires are boys, white are girls, and 'blue are sillies who don't know what they are'; Tink seemed to me to be a silly.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
What I listen to doesn’t always come through in my work. I enjoy having Netflix or an audiobook on in the background because it tends to keep me in my seat more than music. Currently, I’m working my way through Hell on Wheels, listening to the Silk Roads: A New History of the World and reading the King’s Curse. Anything about history has my interest and often this finds it’s way more inter my personal art than my professional work.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
I think my advice would be to make good contacts and be honest about what you can and can’t do. When I started out I tried to do everything for fear of upsetting people, and I still catch myself falling into that mindset every now and then. But I think it’s better to be upfront with clients at the start about deadlines, or whatever the issue may be, rather than dropping nasty surprises on them later in the day.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
Well, I’m currently working on Neverland Rescue with Letiman Games that I’ve spoken about above that I’m pretty excited about. I’ve also recently done a game with FoxMind Games that will be previewing at Nuremberg Toy Fair that I think will be a lot of fun for kids and adults. It also involves pirates, the last month or so has been pretty fun with all the swashbuckling going on in the office.