Sam “King of the Hilltop”
How do you find that board game artist that really makes your game sing? How do you talk to them for the first time? Are there certain things you should say or not say? These are all questions we have as a publisher, a designer, or as an art director.
So, let’s break down the process into smaller steps so that you can go out there and find that artist that completes the soul of your game.
Step 1: Getting prepped and finding potential art suitors
As you work on a board game, you need to keep in mind the kind of art that will go into that game. The style chosen can greatly affect the tone and experience of the game. So, the first thing you are going to do is look at art, a lot of art. I am worried that you think, “Oh yeah! I have seen some art! I know what’s out there.” Sorry, but look more. There are a TON of artists who specialize in different types of art, many of which can inspire book series or board games all their own. You need to really start exploring and see what is out there. Even if you are surrounded by art every day as an artist, you need to be looking for new artists, old artists, and different art styles because there is so much to learn and see.
So when you start doing your prep work, I recommend starting a folder or 10. Find artwork you like, but also look for art you think is interesting. Maybe it’s not your personal first choice but the art really invokes a certain feeling. Make sure you save those images and mark down the artist’s name. Once you have have those images and names saved, keep a file or folder with notes, contact information, websites, past works, etc. This will help in a number of ways: it will expose you to different artists, different art styles, and help to create a library of reference material that you will use in the future for art direction.
I will post links below for good spots to look for artists, but another potential way of finding that special someone is to use references. I have a talented and helpful friend, John Kimmel, who was able to teach me some of the basics of art direction as well as point me in the right direction to find art studios and seasoned independent artists. This also led to an increase in my personal reference library which becomes very important later on in the process.
Step 2: What kind of theme do you want for this relationship?
A board game is a product that will have people interacting with it in ways that require great attention to detail. There are game play trailers, how to play videos, game boxes, Kickstarters, playing with friends, playing with people you don’t know, talking about it on forums, top 10 lists, hotness lists, hear about them on podcasts, and many other situations both online and off. Which means it’s important that the art not only convey the quality of the game, but what kind of game it is.
People will look at a game and literally judge it by it’s cover. However, you are not only worried about first impressions, but you want to be seeing the same people playing the game over and over again, introducing it to their friends and loved ones. That means the game mechanics and the art need to be paired up in such a way that the mechanics invoke the art and the art teaches the mechanics. The board game needs to stay true to itself in order for it to have a life full of games and joy.
Great links for information and more articles below. If you use something else, post in the comments below or on social media. Would love to hear people’s experiences and wisdom with this process.
jkimmelcreative.com – My friend John Kimmel’s page and contact information.
https://www.moregamesplease.com/ – Ross does some great interviews with artists, great photography, and a lot of good information.
https://www.artstation.com/ – There are a lot of websites like Deviant Art and others, but I find Art Station to be my favorite to browse for art concepts and illustrators.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TabletopArtDesign/ – A good Facebook group to find other like minded artists and art directors for tabletop games.
I was inspired to write this series of articles thanks to this guy, Sasha Radivojevic. https://sasha_r.artstation.com/
He wrote this article that started it all: Hiring 101
It’s Good Or It’s Bad
Ed “Duke of BAzlandia”
Yeah, that is the extent of my art knowledge. I don’t know why or what would need to change but when I see a piece of art, that’s all that comes to mind. I like it or I don’t. That’s why Sam handles all the art.
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