Ben Bauchau: Art in Board Games #35
Editors Note: This week I've been joined by a brand new illustrator to the board game industry. So new in fact, the game he's working on, Until Daylight isn't even out yet!
This game will be the second release from Flyos Games, after KIWETIN which I covered on the site last year, so go check that out after reading this.
Hi Ben, thanks for joining me! For our readers who aren't aware of your work could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hey! I come from Brussels, Belgium and I work as a freelance illustrator, primarily for animation and video-games, but also anything related to illustration that I find exciting. I love comics and Japanese woodprints, and I have a dog named Akira.
Your work spans quite a number of fields, from animation to video game pre-production, has this experience changed how you approach each new project and what have you learned along the way?
It took me a lot of time before I realized I simply wanted to be an illustrator, so as a student I went for a bachelor in 2d animation and then a masters in 3d animation. I soon realized I didn't want to work on a technical level in these types of productions, but the studies helped me understand the industry and the pre-production aspect of these productions which I found exciting.
After that I started working as a 2d artist and concept artist for animation and video games. I wouldn't say these projects have changed my approach but they have taught me a lot. You'll often have to be able to produce many different things in a short amount of time, usually have to follow art direction and be able to stick to visual guidelines.
Since my last year of studies, I took my passion for drawing to another level by practicing daily and trying to develop a workflow and an identity in my work. This led me to all kinds of illustration jobs but at first lots of them were not really related to what I do as an illustrator. Now that my personal work is more defined, I realize how that has an impact on the possible opportunities that are more in line with what I love to draw. That's what happened with Flyos!
So before we go on could you tell us a bit more about the identity you have tried to develop in your style and what has influenced your work?
I always loved ink drawings, and I wanted to put some distance between my personal style and digital painting. My illustrations have slowly become an inbetween, ink linework on paper and digital colouring with Photoshop. I've recently started working on these colours with my girlfriend actually, so she is becoming an important part of the colour process, and has done a lot for Until Daylight.
In today's world there is too much inspiration. It's an amazing thing and I feel like I'm unconsciously inspired by what I see everyday, but I do have some artists I'll always go back to such as Moebius, Otomo, Miyazaki, Brüno, Schiele, Audubon, Frazetta. Also, Japanese woodprints are the thing I'm the most attracted to. There's a mystery to these pieces that instantly draws me to them, and I love the stylised characters and their movement.
You're currently working with Flyos Games on a new game called 'Until Daylight'. What can you tell us about the game and how did you get involved?
Flyos reached out at the end of 2017, telling me they liked my behance profile a lot and asking if I'd be interested in a board game project they thought would fit my profile perfectly. I was very impressed by their first game KIWETIN and the art of it (editor: you can read my interview with the artist and designer of KIWETIN over here), and I’d wanted to work on a board game for some time but hadn't had the opportunity, so this is was very exciting for me. We quickly got along and came to an agreement soon enough after they briefed me on the game.
The production of Until Daylight started in January and I am now almost done with the artwork. Basically, the game consists of a team of people gathering for the night and having to survive hordes of zombies. You'll be able to find, use or exchange objects, combine others in order to defend yourself, help or even betray your partners. The zombie hordes will be filled with zombies, brutes and a few bosses, but also raiders that will fight you with weapons, and survivors you'll have to try and save.
With Until Daylight, how much of the game's aesthetic came from your own personal style and how much was down to visual guidelines?
Flyos asked me to work on this project based on my own recent illustrations. There were some guidelines but more in a sense that I had to follow some logical aspects of the gameplay and the script. Other than that I've had the opportunity to put a lot of my vision into the game. There has been a lot of back and forth with Gary's thoughts and mine, then seeing what comes out of it, which is a really cool way to work.
An example would be when Gary gave me a brief saying one character would be the Tank, a strong and big woman, who can hold her ground and is more defensive than aggressive, I then sketched what the brief inspired in me, whilst keeping some freedom. He mentioned this character would also look nice with a shield, and since she was supposed to be super strong, I came up with the idea of her holding a car door. After this initial sketch was done we talked again seeing what should change. He did like the idea of the car door but had doubts on the haircut. So I tweaked the sketch a bit more to find something we could both agree on, had one or two more chats, and then went ahead and make the inked version.
When illustrating the characters of a Zombie game, what emotions or atmosphere are you trying to convey with the art and how?
Flyos Games wanted to have a game that's in between fun and horror. I had to come up with some "average but odd" zombies and some more badass bosses. I didn't really use a method to create the zombies. I’d simply just start drawing based on my mood and would google "Grandma" or whatever word related to the zombie I was working on to keep some real elements to them.
What aspects of this work challenged you most? Was there any part of this job that surprised you?
The most challenging part was to try and not repeat myself in the postures. I tried to keep it as organic as possible. I had sketched down a few rough ideas beforehand and compared these in order to develop a few starting designs that would be different. After that I would keep in mind the designs I had already done to avoid repeating myself too much but I would simply take a piece of paper and sketch new designs in a more random and free way. I guess some might look a bit similar but all in all it was a real personal challenge to diverse the poses and it was a great exercise actually!
What have you learned about board games and the industry since starting the project? Do you play any games yourself?
I'd say I am a casual board gamer if that's a thing! I love board games but I don't play that often. I was aware of most of the popular games out there before working on Until Daylight but since I started I've been taking much more interest in games and their art. Most of the games I knew about were in a very clean painterly style that I love but from which my style isn't quite close. In that vein, games such as Clank, 7 Wonders or Jamaica have really caught my eye. I've discovered other games that have really unique and amazing art such as Rising Sun and Sky Traders. I'll definitely get more into board games and there are some that I can't wait to try out!
Once you complete your work on Until Daylight do you have any other projects you're working on or ideas you're excited to throw yourself into?
As a freelancer, I try to manage my time between client work and personal projects I want to develop. There are a lot of projects I want to dig into but never have the time so in the next weeks I'll try and put up a presentation file to pitch a comic book project I've had for a few years and I'm trying to get funds for from an organisation here in Brussels that helps comic book artists. So fingers crossed for that!
If you could go back in time what advice would you give to yourself or anyone else looking to work professionally in art?
Do more. I haven't taken the shortest road to get to what I wanted and I'm not even there yet but I think you have to do (whatever you do) as much as you can. I wouldn't say I was lazy a few years ago but I wish I did draw more every day at an earlier stage in my life. I believe it's by doing and doing again that you can really get better AND make things happen.
Until Daylight will be released by Flyos Games later in 2018, until then you can read about KIWETIN another Flyos release covered by my site last year.