Today we have a guest post by the fine folks at Happy Mitten Games in conjunction with their new Kickstarter campaign for their game called Aether Magic. The game is designed by a friend of mine, Matt Worden. But I won’t make you listen to me ramble. Here are some important links:
Kickstarter Link: happymittengames.com/kickstarter
Happy Mitten Website: http://www.happymittengames.com/
And now the guest post from Kyle at Happy Mitten about working with an illustrator…
Aether Magic and its Beautiful Artwork
We are in an exciting time for the board game industry. An industry often incorrectly perceived as old-fashioned, has embraced new business models, social networking, and a positive community to see new growth and ambitious products. Crowd funding sites have made it easier for game creators to get the funding they need to publish unique games, and the internet has made it easy to introduce yourself to talent from all over the world.
Before our game, Aether Magic was able to launch on Kickstarter today in its current form, Jeff, Lee, and I explored social media, Kickstarter, and art blogs for an illustrator that could accomplish our vision for the game, while complementing Matt Worden’s terrific foundational mechanics. We were fortunate to have a few options after reaching out to many artists via email, but easily selected UK artist Jacqui Davis for her use of bright colors and style we were looking to achieve for Aether Magic’s fantasy environments.
Working with Jacqui has been a treat, and to prevent myself from doing her life story injustice, I encourage you to learn more about her and her previous board game work on Stonemaier Games’ “Euphoria,” and Dice Hate Me’s “Belle of the Ball,” on the forty sixth episode of the Happy Mitten Games Podcast. There is no reason you can’t find a great artist for your own game, but I feel it’s important to do your part before ever reaching out to illustrators.
In courting an illustrator it is crucial to lay out exactly what you need by creating an organized and unintimidating art asset list. Google spreadsheets are great for this task by ensuring your format is clean, and being flexible in their ability to be shared and edited by multiple parties in real time. For Aether Magic‘s art asset list, I detailed each art deliverable, dimension, deadline, and overall description using four columns. Our description included specifics on color tone, emotion, and appearance, with complimenting examples of illustration that embodied what we were looking for next to each description. Here’s an example of an Aether Magic art asset line item coming to life. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19f5htLXg99R5HbyiE_1HkGKuIx-OgHDNBpHBt0mRiOc/edit?usp=sharing
Reflecting back on my initial thoughts for illustration, I originally felt that illustrators would enjoy less structure on their projects. I love to listen to interviews and I often hear from entertainers that company executives get in the way of their original ideas, which often result in uninspiring versions of their initial intentions and a hostile environment for free expression. Being sensitive to that, I wanted to apply that point of view to how we were initially approaching our art asset list, but was met with resistance from Jeff, who believed in having more structure. So who was right? In our experience of going through the process and interviewing multiple illustrators, it has become clear to me that Jeff’s point of view is widely preferred among board game artists and has likely saved us a lot of time. Though I am still curious to explore ways in which we could mold the two points of view together, I would now recommend having as specific instruction as possible in your own art asset list.
While the artist is working on the illustration, be sure to communicate that you would like to see the progress of the illustration through each stage of the illustration’s development. The three of us reviewed what Jacqui was doing about four times during this process and Jacqui was able to make the small tweaks we needed without having to completely redo what she already invested her time in. While it’s true you should get what you want when you hire an artist, you should be sensitive to the fact that any contractors time is valuable and you should be doing your part to make sure you are not wasting it!
Be sure to check out Jacqui Davis’ final illustration for Aether Magic, on Kickstarter February 10th.
– Kyle Hogendyk