Interview: Lloyd Ash Pyne

Continuing in the artist interview series, I got the chance to find out a little more about Lloyd Ash Pyne, one part of the maverick:muse trio who has brought oddball Aeronauts and other games to fruition. This interview is a little different because of the fact that Lloyd has only worked for maverick:muse (well that and Warrior Elite which was the precursor to maverick:muse), but since this series is designed to highlight boardgame artists, it really doesn’t matter how many companies that artist has worked for. Lloyd brings a very unique style to the games he has worked on and for that alone, I wanted to show you behind the curtain a bit and introduce you to Lloyd Ash Pyne.

Is boardgame art your full-time job, if not, what else do you do?

Some days, I work as a bookseller, taunting myself with all the books. I do get to spot very cool things as soon as they arrive in store (The Sleeper & The Spindle being such a find – beautiful art and production values, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few authors and artists through work too (including Riddell, Robin Hobb & the awesome Andy Robb who actually offered to help us playtest oddball Aeronauts!).

I do my art in my own time and I’d love to be able to dedicate more time to it and worldcrafting, but alas, those pesky bills. I’m currently setting up a Patreon in hopes of getting more time to work on the art stuff.

What is your absolute favorite thing to paint/draw?

Concept art that turns out well! I say this because it’s usually the current thing that I am enjoying: I get into creating the world, the characters, the local legends etc.

I do like to fall back on Vaechi (the nature spirits for the homegrown world of Edath) so maybe they take that honour. Their style definitely helped me realise my preferred style.

What do you do for fun?

Besides concept sketching on a new idea … I play books, read films, watch games and swap words around in sentences.

Who is your favorite non-boardgame artist?

I have many favourites, really. Each medium has certain artists whose work stands out for me, whether movies, book illustrations or video game themes.

But to name a few whose art resonates most strongly with me: Arthur Rackham influenced me as a kid with his Peter Pan illustrations and continued to do so after I got older (note that I didn’t say ‘grew up’) with his other works; Didier Cromwell caught my eye for his Anita Bomba comics (that I can’t read because my French isn’t good enough); I love Turner’s seascapes; I also love the look of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard books.

Do you play games yourself?

When I can, but not nearly often enough.

How did you get into doing art for boardgames?

My brother and I started creating our own games and worlds to set them in at quite a young age and I used my penchant for concept drawing to develop the themes, which back then took aaaaages. I suppose the first real one was for a dungeon delving solo game we made when I was about 9 or 10.

How does the process of doing art for a boardgame typically work for you?

It starts with the world building, the sketching and developing of typical characters and designs, trying to find a look or style for the theme as a whole.

When there is a working prototype I start using the game stats on components to create individual features, whether characters, creatures or maps. For instance, a card with high Sailing and low Guns tells me that my character needs to show those skills, so a monkey is an easy choice for sailing as they can get up in the rigging and low guns means I should ‘arm’ them with tools of their trade rather than ballistic weaponry.

For features, I sketch in pencil, then scan and do lines and colours digitally. I take this picture and import it into the component template and finish it off there after sizing and positioning.

Component designs, like cards or tokens, are sometimes loosely sketched to get a concept down, which gives me a place to start, but this inevitably changes a lot as I build up the design on layers and it evolves. The oddball Aeronauts cards went through nine distinct evolutions, not including tweaks at the end. Tokens take less time when they hit the PC but to get a symbol right can sometimes take pages of sketches.

I know you have only worked on games for maverick muse, but have you considered working on other people’s games?

If the art was simple enough and the theme inspiring enough and the components few enough but the reimbursement vast enough, I’d consider it 😉

I did enjoy coming up with alternative habitat designs for the Dragonvale app game, as fan art, to see if I could match their art style – and they were good enough that I got appreciation for them from fans of the game and some of my ideas even inspired some in-game content that came later.

So, given the right project where I get to be creative enough. Though, at the moment I have the oddball world to expand, the world of Dragonetti to develop and at some point I need to get back to Edath and bring it up to date. As you can imagine, given I don’t intend to skimp on the worldcrafting, that keeps me pretty busy.

What is this world of Dragonetti that you mentioned?

The Dragonetti are diminutive dragons born of leaf and wind. They’re wild but can be persuaded to team up with Valiant heroes to protect the bridges and such that lead to and from the hidden valleys of the Smallwoods, home to the Smallfolk: “None Shall Pass!” They’re part of a larger idea for a comic and a game I’ve been tinkering with involving small exploration quests and even building one’s own troupe or village up with the things one gets from the quests I need time for worldcrafting and to work on an oddball comic and the Dragonetti stepped forward to be front and centre in Patreon rewards.

What is your favorite piece you have done for a board game?

 That’s a tough one because when I create, say, a character, I’m not done unless I’m enamoured with it in some way – otherwise I feel that it doesn’t make the grade. So it tends to be the latest. (That philosophy started when we developed the world of Edath: if we wouldn’t play a character from that culture then either we made it cool somehow or we ditched it.)

Having said that, I suppose one has to be Eloise Lashtongue and Jinx from oddball Aeronauts because they were really the first Aeronauts that made the grade and they defined all who followed. And a nod to the Pendragon Scythe class airship for the same reason: it was tough nailing the look of the oddball airships and this was the one that came first. The same could also be said for the Woodspook Dragonetti and her Valiant rider as they were the first and defining characters.


Who is your favorite board game artist that is not you?

 I don’t have a favourite artist. I have seen various games where the art has been stand out brilliant I’m enamoured with the look of Tsuro of the Seas and back in the day I did appreciate the art of Chaos Marauders too – that was John Blanche I believe. But that’s just two off the top of my head.

A little while ago I came a cross a Kickstarter for a game with illustrations by ‘Cari Corene’ and was drawn to it because of her art. She has a very distinctive style.

Do you think boardgame artists are under-recognised?

 Maybe. A publisher gets their name on the box. Does the designer always get theirs? Does the artist ever? Do any of their names need to be there or should they all be there? And for artists, on what kinds of projects – just heavy themed games? (I’m just throwing this out on the fly)

Do you attend conventions and if so, what ones?

UK Games Expo is a great UK convention. It gets better year on year, though because our stand is so busy we don’t really get time to see much of the convention itself. We took pains to walk around this year before it was open! We also go to Dragonmeet.

I’d like to attend Essen and GenCon. If I can get a comic up and running I’d want to go to MCM Expo too. I’ve been once before as a punter and really enjoyed it and knew I should go as an artist one day.

How can people find out more about you?

The maverick:muse origins story gives a good insight into what led up to the release of oddball Aeronauts. I also did the website design which shows you another side of my work. You can see some more of my art on deviantArt and I intend to keep a sketchbook blog on Patreon. You can also review my facebook or tumblr posts, they reveal a lot about my tastes as I share others’ work there too. Or you could follow me on twitter and ask me questions. Just not the wrong questions!

@LloydAshPyne on twitter