Our April artist is none other than the artist behind such games as Pay Dirt, Fantasy Frontier, Ophir, and Kanban…Naomi Robinson. I reached out to Naomi and she was more than gracious to answer my questions. So, sit grab a coffee, sit down and learn more about a great boardgame artist from the UK, Naomi.
Is board game art your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?
I work full-time as a freelance artist and illustrator. The majority of my work is within the board game industry, although I have worked a little with video game studios as well.
What is your absolute favorite thing to draw/paint?
This is quite a difficult question to answer. In terms of subject matter I definitely prefer the fantasy genre, I also really love figure drawing and character design. I do have some very specific favourites for subject matter, often they revolve around nature, clouds, airships, trees, little life details and world creation.
What do you do for fun?
The art tends to be all-consuming, but I do love to read. I’ve recently started reading more classic science fiction, trying to expand my tastes away from fantasy/horror. I particularly love watching films at the cinema, especially 2D animations, namely Studio Ghibli films. Other than that long walks along the coast which we are lucky to have many rambling miles of.
Who is your favorite non boardgame artist?
Another difficult question! My favourite artists change so often and I’m always in the process of looking for more inspiring artists. Some of my classic favourite artists are the Pre-Raphaelite painters, specifically John Everett Millais and John William Waterhouse, outside of that era Alphons Mucha and also classic illustrators such as J. C Leyendecker. Some more modern artists include Dice Tsutsumi working at Disney, Lisa Keene also at Disney, Ruan Jia, Karla Ortiz, the very famous Loish who was probably one of the first artists to catch my eye. I think the list could be endless!
Do you play games yourself?
I do play games, both video games and board games, at least when I get the time. I most recently played Small Worlds over the new year and playing Zombicide is becoming a common past time. In terms of video games I prefer shorter indie games or strongly narrative driven RPG’s (although they really do require too much time investment now). I have a particular love for point and click adventure games, especially published or created by Daedalic Entertainment.
How did you get into doing art for boardgames?
I was initially approached by Michael Coe, founder and CEO of Gamelyn Games. He mentioned seeing my artwork on DeviantArt and it matched up with their vision for the Fantasy Frontier board game. He contacted me and I was more than thrilled to be part of his project and since then I’ve been very lucky to continue working in the industry.
How does the process of doing art for a boardgame typically work for you?
Typically it’ll start with a required list of art assets and a rough description of what the client wants with perhaps some stylistic or specific reference as guidance. Initial sketches are made, maybe a whole page of ideas or maybe just a few depending on the project and the asset. Usually from the initial sketch stage to the development stage there are a few back and forth revisions, tightening up the idea and the visual. Once an idea is decided on I’m free to really add the details and work into the illustration elements.
What is your favorite boardgame you have worked on and why?
Now this is a very tricky question! I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Fantasy Frontier since it was my first project and also seemed to coincide with so many of my favourite thematic elements. Having said that, I’ve absolutely loved each of the projects I’ve been part of, every single one of them has taught me a lot and really helped me push my work forwards.
What is your favorite piece you have done for a boardgame?
The favourite pieces for me are always the box covers. Box art tends to be more illustrative in nature since you don’t have to worry about the playable function of the piece like you would with a game board. I particularly liked the Ophir front cover, it was quite challenging to create but I was happy with the end result.
Who is your favorite board game artist that is not you?
I have a few artists that I particularly like, most of the magic the gathering artists are among the artist I follow, for example Donata Giancola, Noah Bradley, Rebecca Guay to name just a few. Along with a few more established names, John Austin and Christopher Moeller of Steam, John Howe of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit game as well as Henning Ludvigsen of Game of Thrones – Second Edition.
Do you think boardgame artists are under-recognized?
So far I’ve received nothing but kind words since I’ve become part of the board game community and people are always very quick to give artists their dues for their work. I think the focus tends to be on the games designer with board games but that makes sense since they actually make the games work!
How can people find out more about you?
I have a few online presences, probably the best couple of places to find me and get updates on my work are my art blog and facebook page. I try to keep both updated, but I tend to find that working gets in the way of more regular updates!
Do you attend conventions and if so, what ones?
I haven’t managed to attend any conventions so far, but I’m really wanting to go to Essen Spiel this year. It would be nice to have face-to-face contact with some of the people I’ve worked with over the last year, as well as see all the wonderful new board game projects/companies out there.
As always, I like to ask the artist to share their favorite piece of art that they have done. Sometimes they give me a piece from a boardgame and sometimes they don’t. Naomi shared an excellent piece that she says doesn’t have a name, but she has always referred to it as “Viking Pride!”