Atommix: The Art in Kickstarter #6
Editors note: It should probably come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of street art. I’ve seen the restorative effects it had on Christchurch after the earthquakes. How it’s transformed parts of Berlin into a living breathing canvas. I’ve walked around countless cities marveling not only at the talent of the art but also the location and scale of some pieces. When Rafi and Tutti got in touch about their card game based around street art I had to admit I was intrigued. Enjoy the interview and you can find atommix on Kickstarter until 10th July. For those of you interested in seeing more from the artists involved there is a list of their Instagram accounts at the end of the interview.
Today I'm being joined by Rafi and Tutti creators of the card game 'atommix'. Thanks for joining me! Before we find out about the game itself could you tell our readers a bit about yourselves and what you do?"
We are a duo of street artists from Tel Aviv otherwise known as Extra Crunchy. We’re creating murals and traveling together around the world for 3 years, nomadic lifestyle. Recently we’ve settled down in Costa Rica. We painted at street art festivals and music festivals. While traveling, we got to meet some of the guest artists (on the game) and thought it would be rad to form a project with them. Rafi also has a background of 3d modeling and animation and we both love creating art and finding new sources of inspiration.
Let's talk about your art collaboration, Extra Crunchy. When did it start and what have been some of your personal highlights along the way?
We’ve been doing Extra Crunchy since we started traveling three years ago. We both come from different artistic backgrounds. Rafi’s artistic style is more 3d because of his background and I’m more illustrative and flows. It seemed like going on an adventure together and combining our styles was the most obvious thing to do. We started in Panama and continued to about 10 other countries on this planet. Basically following opportunity, wherever we could paint and had good friends and vibes. We got influenced by each other’s style throughout this journey, and shared different kinds of inspiration to create Extra Crunchy. It’s always fun to check art together and zoom in on techniques.
You’ve now collaborated to create a card game 'atommix'. What inspired you to create a game and what do you think makes it interesting?
It started with an illustration we decided to call ‘Helium’ and slowly continued to grow. We thought it would be fun to learn science by illustrating the elements. Later on we realized a game would be the perfect way to engage with the cards, so we started creating the gameplay. Most of us have long ago discarded the periodic table from memory. But in order for it to genuinely stick we have combined the Elemental properties with visual language, which is immediately interpreted by the brain. Our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than just plain text, so by placing powerful and beautiful images next to words our brains create an immediate connection between the two - just like in advertising - the same manipulation can be used for a better purpose.
You're working with artists from a variety of backgrounds on this game. How did you decide who to include and when it came to directing the artists what kind of brief did you give them?
While traveling we had the opportunity to meet many great artists from different fields, street art, visionary art, character design and whatever in between. We feel art is a high form of communication and big ideas should be shared through them. It felt more accessible to refer to them first. We were looking for artists who also resonated with the project and could express that. Some of the artists had a clear vision for the element they wanted, and some wanted us to pick for them. We sent them the characteristics of the element and let them tell a story from their point of view.
What kind of characteristics would you give for the elements?
We did a lot of research about the properties of elements and what makes them magical, and decided to focus on the most interesting chemistry information we found. For instance, if it’s magnetic or diamagnet, metal or nonmetal, high or low reactivity, electric conductivity, energy levels and families. We wondered what we would like to learn about the elements and what would be fun to translate into a symbol. The symbols ('or special effects') are serving different purposes throughout the game. They are inspired by actual Alchemic symbols.
So how did you get started as street artists?
We're both inspired by street art. We love the idea of large scale art on the street. Art shouldn't be in a museum where you need to go especially and pay money if you want to explore aesthetics, it should surround us. We started with our first piece three years ago in Tel Aviv central bus station and we've both been hooked ever since. It took us some time to learn to work together, how to give and receive critique and create for the being that is Extra Crunchy that allows us to deliver our message better.
What do you think are some of the differences between street art and that of other mediums?
Street art in our opinion has raised the bar in the last few years. Pieces being made these days are such high quality, we believe it's made by some of the greatest artists ever lived AND they are not dead yet :) People are doing 12 story building murals with super high skill and often it's a one man band. You can see how different styles are merging together on buildings in international cities; hyper realistic with calligraphy, graphic design with portraits and so on. It's a strong effort of one to communicate a message.
Looking back on our first piece, it was actually two separate pieces one next to the other also designed separately. We would definitely do it differently today, nowadays we just move the sketchbook/sketch pad back and forth fixing, correcting, and creating the story as we go. Large scale mural open and shut different options in terms of size. It's best to have a rough sketch, see the wall and shape it accordingly. We never really know how a final piece is going to look like exactly.
When it comes to the game itself, how has it changed as you've been developing it?
Creating the gameplay wasn’t easy for us, we’re more visual artists than gamers. But we love learning new trades so it saw it as a challenge. When researching other card games we saw mostly what we DON’T want it to be like. It started as a Uno/Taki type game, a well known casual game that would be easy to catch up with. Naturally we kept finding ways to make it stand for itself. After we perfected the rules we found out that writing it down as a rule book was yet another challenge. We’re getting as much feedback as possible from reviewers and gamer friends, and using their high standards to make extra special.
What lessons have you learned about game design in this project so far? Have there been any surprises?
Everything is a learning process and because it's our first time running a Kickstarter we have to learn who our audience is and what they’re looking for. We wish to use this platform to allow an open communication with the backers, so we can use our collective intelligence to perfect the game.
As creators we are really enjoying the process of developing the gameplay. We had the idea of creating multiple levels and unlocking them during the campaign. Looking back it might have been better to reveal all of the levels at launch, because we figured that many potential backers that wanted to see the whole game might not return later on.
How has your perception of tabletop gaming changed?
Since we're more gamer creators, or let's say 'experience creators', we want to communicate with the gamer audience and elevate the game experience. We have some gamer friends who have reached out to design a higher level of game. It's important for us that it will be engaging in many aspects. This way the chemistry and the art will be memorable and THIS is what we want.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to become an artist?
Be consistent. Make yourself spend around half an hour a day and draw shapes for fun, no expectations. Collect three favorite artists and study them, take note of the details you like and try to apply that in your work. Make your tools accessible for you to keep them in sight. But most of all - practice.
What are some non game related creations (books, music, movies, etc) that you’re currently enjoying?
Tekkonkinkreet, Paprika and Ghibli films are favorites. recently watched Kung Fury for the third time and also loved Hereditary and Jordans Peele's work, Get Out and Us. (Ross, if you haven't seen these yet, we recommend you to). In the video (on the Kickstarter page), the music is by Symbolico. These days we mostly like electronic music we can paint or work with, like Symbolico, Ott, Man of No Ego, Clozee, Hypnagog. Also we both look forward to the next Tool album.
Instagram accounts for the artists featured in atommix:
I AM EELCO: https://instagram.com/iameelco
Lubomir Arsov: https://instagram.com/lubomirarsov
Emily Ding: https://instagram.com/_emilyding
Hobbes Escrew: https://instagram.com/hobbesescrew
Otis Chambelain: https://instagram.com/otis_chamberlain
If you’re new to the site, why not stick around a while? There are interviews with some of the best artists in the industry and if you’d like to read more you can them by heading over to the Interview Archive!