Medusa Dollmaker: Art in Board Games #38
Editors note: For full transparency, I was sent an advanced copy of High Society by Osprey Games prior to this interview, due to my Instagram account. However, I had already contacted and arranged an interview with Medusa Dollmaker by this point as her art was something special. The Osprey Games edition of High Society will be available from 31st May.
Hi Medusa Dollmaker, 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?
Hello readers! I'm Medusa Dollmaker (Asuncion Macian Ruiz) an artist and countryside woman from Spain. I'm specialized in vintage and retro styles like art nouveau and work in both traditional and digital media. I'm working hard to, hopefully, buy with my husband our own country house this year. We love to live in the countryside with our cat daughters.
You describe yourself as self-taught, so when did you get started and how did you get to the distinct style we see today?
I was heavily influenced by animation movies, museum artbooks, "Fallas" from Valencia (artistic buildings that we burn out every year) and Spanish art (porcelain painting, filigrees, baroque and gothic styles, architecture, renaissance, art nouveau). Also, religious images were an inspiration in my art, since Spain has a long religious tradition. As I grew up, I learned other international styles which influenced me in my work. My style is a mixture of influences.
You have recently worked on the Osprey Games release High Society. Can you tell us more about that project?
It was one of the most pleasant clients I ever had, in one of the most amazing projects I've worked on. They contacted me for quotes and such, and we started to work together. I thought this project was perfect for me, because I'm specialized in art nouveau, so I was really excited! Osprey were so easy to work with. They gave lots of inspiration maps, detailed briefings and such. Like dream clients.
It's wonderful to hear when a client makes is easy to work with. What are some of the most common mistakes you think clients make when working with an artist and how can these be avoided?
It's pretty common for us artists and clients to make mistakes. Some of them are ok, but some mistakes that should be avoided by clients are: being disrespectful, giving very little time to complete the commision, or telling the artist that it's way too expensive for their work.
Also, especially when you're a woman, if a client tries to hit on you or patronizes you. Or when they try to contact you by phone every day while you're also living or working on other's clients commision. That is kinda horrible.
What do you think it is about the art nouveau style that has inspired you so much?
I think art nouveau appeals to me so much (and has so many followers) because it connects allegories, nature and botanical motifs and elegance. The result is a very interesting composition with strong, expressive lines and washed off colors that shout VINTAGE with every stroke. Art Nouveau is the definition of elegance, and being able to translate the art nouveau style across so many topics is very interesting.
Increasing representation and diversity in board game art is an area many are passionate about. This game does a good job of achieving this, so when it came to illustrating the characters what choices were made when it came to diversity and how did you decide on the look and feel of those depicted?
Yeah, Osprey did a good job planning this. They definitely wrote all the details in the brief for me to work on them. I was so pleased to be able to work with such a diverse brief because diversity REPRESENTS. The idea was to include several characters with some cultural-anatomical features. Latin people, Asian people, Arab people, white people, gender fluid or/and androgynous people/trans people, curvy people, gay people. I think this is the right direction to work in. Visibility matters.
Generally speaking how much time goes into each card illustration in the game and could you talk us through your process for creating a piece? Do you start with sketches or dive straight in?
They definitely allowed my creativity to flow, working with them was a pleasure. There were not many big changes, but reasonable suggestions and stuff that definitely improved the quality of the cards.
I always start with some sketches and then the talking starts working from those sketches so adjustments can be made. Sketching, fleshing out the details, studying references and the briefing, and that definitely is so time-consuming but it's part of the work. After that initial big step comes the inking phase. I send regular ink previews so any new changes and adjustments can be made over the ink. Once that's approved, I start coloring the artwork.
I usually spend between 1- 2 weeks to a month with every illustration, depending on things like; how busy my commission schedule is, how detailed the illustrations are or how many changes the client asks for.
For this project I started very slow but as I got closer to the deadline, I managed to work almost 1 card a day. I must say that this required a lot of focus and little sleep time but it was done and Osprey were so kind once they received the results. This commission redefined a lot my timings, and I learned a lot so I'm now a bit faster.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work as an artist?
Be patient, be humble, work hard and be respectful but take no shit from anybody. There's no compensation without hard work. Don't procrastinate, that definitely will not pay your bills. Before judging others work, improve yours, focus on what you may achieve if you focus that energy into building a career. Bear in mind that almost 90% of the time the customer will ask for adjustments on the commision you're working on. If that pisses you, don't answer the phone, emails, whatever (better to chat through email) immediately and take your time to calm and think about it.
Also: if you want to succeed, you need to work not only in your art skills. Sadly, you may need to work on your taxes, to advertise your work, to build a following, some networking, and take care of your social media. It's very romantic the concept of gallery discovers an artist and sells their paintings, but you may die waiting for this to happen. So drag your ass to work, know your tools, know your goals and the media, know the platforms and sell your art.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I'm always reading an art book in order to improve my work along with my regular readings. Mucha and Klimt are always in my bedside table. The music that really fuels my work is indie, folk, indie folk, some metal and rock and ambient and/or OSTs. I get a lot of inspiration from art documentaries, about painters, ceramics, ornaments, etc. Vintage botanical art is an inspiration, as well as my much-treasured engraving books. I'm a sucker for amazing photography so I watch a lot of Bollywood movies and period movies, like Pride and Prejudice.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
Well, there's some movie leggins coming on, more witch stuff, long commisioned projects and new licensed work and a lot of pending personal work which I'm so eager to put my hands on.