Interview: Jacqui Davis

A while back I noticed that I tend to comment on the artwork of a lot of games, but often times I didn’t even know who the artist was. If you are like me, you appreciate the art and if so then you might be interested in this new monthly series where I will be interviewing a different artist (some are my favorites and the rest will be suggested by other people), asking them questions (also some chosen by readers and my Twitter followers) and generally getting to know them and their work a little more. This week Stephanie Straw (@InsertStrawHere) helped me with some questions.

First up in this series is my favorite board game artist. I seem to be drawn to her artwork like an insect to a bug zapper, but in a good way…ok bad analogy. Maybe I’m attracted to her work like a bear to honey… yeah that’s better.

Without further ado, I present, Jacqui Davis.

Moony by Jacqui Davis
Moony by Jacqui Davis

Can you give me a little Jacqui Davis history, please?

Well, I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and lived in Port Elizabeth until I was ten with my Mom, Dad and sister. I remember a lot of sun, swimming and braais (BBQ but better.) with friends. My family on my Dad’s side are Welsh and in 2000 my parents decided to move back to England. Since then we’ve lived in the North West and I’ve recently moved to a lovely little town on the Rover Ribble.

As an American, I will let the BBQ comment slide and pretend like you didn’t say what you said and nonchalantly segue into the next question, so…who is your favorite non board game artist?

A tough one! I have so many artists I like to look at for different reasons. I think if I had to pick just one I’d go for Milt Kahl, one of the original Nine Old Men from Disney. His characters were what got me drawing and I still love looking at his work now.

What is your absolute favorite thing to draw/paint?

I love painting portraits of characters, which can be quite a bad habit since in my downtime I fall into doodling my own characters faces and don’t get any full illustrations done!

Is board game art your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

I’d say board game art is 50% of my work, the rest is filled up with book illustration and copy artist work.

Where does your inspiration come from?

This one is easy: documentaries! I love anything to do with animals, history or science and often something in them will spark an idea for a story or a picture.

What do you do if you get creative block?

I turn off the Mac, make a mug of coffee and go outside for a walk. I find getting out of the office and taking my mind elsewhere helps to sort of re-energise the creative juices.

What do you do for fun?

Well despite it begin my work I do also like doing my own personal paintings for fun, but when I’m not doing that I’m usually reading. I also hang out with friends, obviously, and have recently joined a Viking reenactment group up in Lancashire here. It’s very much  fun change of pace to go out on a Sunday and try to beat people up with spears! (I say try because I’m not very good and spend a great deal of time running away with my shield.)

The Viking reenactment group sounds like it would be awesome to be a part of or at minimum watch.

You have a nickname of logic fairy, umm…where did that come from?

That came from university living in a house with some friends. I have a habit of piping up when I see an error in a TV show – so I became the logic fairy.

Your art seems to have some sort of light to it, even if the picture uses darker colors, is that something you purposefully did as a signature or was it just a natural progression of your skill?

I’m not really sure with this one. All I can say is that I paint the lighting so that I like it, and I’m really happy that other people like it too.

And now for the board game related questions:

Do you plan on attending any game conventions?

No I’m not going to any big conventions this year. (Besides London comic-con I’m actually not aware of any big ones in the UK, so if people want to let me know about them if there are any that’d be great!) I will be popping along to the Blackpool con in September though.

Do you play games yourself?

There was a stint of a few months where a housemate and I owned the Game of Thrones board game which we tried to play, (I don’t think we ever really got the rules right), when we graduated we played for it and she got it. I played a few games with a local group in Liverpool but stopped that when I moved. I’ve tried my hand at Agricola, Zombies!!, Puerto Rico & Dominion amongst others. I’m proud to say I think I lost every game.

It’s not all about winning, so I salute you being proud of that. Which one is your favorite?

I think Zombies!! would have to be my favourite, I’ve played it with friends on quite a few occasions and don’t think I’ve ever seen a game make people quite so cut throat before. Was tonnes of fun.

How did you get into doing art for board games?

Well, a lot of the current artists I followed as a teenager worked in board game art, and a friend and fellow artist, Katy Grierson, was already in game art when I decided to get into. When I started I think I spammed hundreds of people looking for game art and luckily a few great people got back to me.

Formula E by Game Salute - Courtesy of BGG
Formula E by Game Salute – Courtesy of BGG

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

Hmm, I think I’d have to say the cover for Formula E since that was the first ‘proper’ board game piece I did, so it’ll always be a bit special.

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

I think I’d have to say Kelly McClellan, her characters and lighting are just fantastic.

How does doing art for a board game typically work for you? Do you have to play the game before you do the art? Do they give you the theme and then give you freedom to create your own world?

Often the best projects are the ones where the designers have  a pretty good idea about the game and their world, they send me briefs with the themes written up, and sometimes references to take a look at too, and then we go from there.

Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solid and published by Dice Hate Me Games - Courtesy of BGG
Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solis and published by Dice Hate Me Games – Courtesy of BGG

Let’s start some controversy, what was your favorite board game you have worked on and why?

I’d have to say Belle of the Ball for this one! For someone who loves drawing people Daniel Solis’ Belle characters were a joy to work on. And who doesn’t like names like Lord Capable Canklerack?

What current projects are you working on?

I’m working on a few games at the moment, and some personal pieces for my portfolio. I’d love to say more but I might have to kill you 😉 For all the art I can post check out my Facebook page.

With the acknowledged risk of possible death via Jacqui, I already knew one of the games and reached out to the publisher. Happy Mitten Games said it was more than ok to share the cover of their first game, so if you don’t see a new entry next month, you know it’s because Jacqui hunted me down and took me out. 😉

Aether Magic by Matt Worden, with a 2015 Kickstarter launch date by Happy Mitten Games.
Aether Magic by Matt Worden, with a 2015 Kickstarter launch date by Happy Mitten Games.

That concludes the first installment of this series on artists. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and please leave comments for me and for Jacqui below. Jacqui asked for UK game convention recommendations and I’m asking for more artist suggestions for future interviews.