1. How did you start out as a professional artist?
It’s been a very round-about process. I studied fine art initially, put together a few exhibitions and then decided to make the switch to study graphic design. However, it turns out laying out annual reports and designing letterheads wasn’t really my style, and I decided to get back into drawing and illustration. However I was living in Perth, Australia, which really didn’t offer many opportunities in that regard. So I packed up everything and drove 3,500 kilometres to the other side of the country to make the ambition of drawing things for a living a reality.
2. What was it that gave you the big break that led to what you’re doing now?
I would say it was Temple of the Spider God (written by the very talented Jonathan Green), which was quite recent. I’d worked on a couple of independent games and my work found its way to Neil of Tin Man Games who thought it would be a good fit for Gamebook Adventures. The title was very well received and has led to new opportunities.
3. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?
I still find pencil and sketchbook handy for that initial creative stage of extracting ideas from the mind. Plus it’s easy to carry around and scribble when you have a spare moment. The majority of my work is digital as you can’t beat it for versatility and speed. The ability to make changes such as changing the colour or moving elements around alone is a huge benefit. I hope to get the real brushes out in the near future for a series of personal paintings.
4. What is the appeal of the Gamebook Adventures settings?
I’ve been a big fan of the original Fighting Fantasy game books, so anything that takes me back to those times in my youth spent rolling the dice, scribbling out my character’s ever decreasing health and making it to the very end is a big plus. I’m also a fan of the way that, even with many familiar fantasy trappings, the Gamebook world of Orlandes has a unique flavour. The Spanish influence, the creatures, the characters all made it feel fresh. Plus with both Temple of the Spider God and Infinite Universe, it gives a lot of free reign to the artist, and it’s a tremendous feeling to be able to build on and add to these settings.
5. How did you find the experience of illustrating Temple of the Spider God?
It was a smooth and satisfying process. It helps that I’d worked with Ben Britten Smith and knew Neil before the project began so it made communication much easier. After reading the draft and illustration list it sparked plenty of ideas, which is always a good sign. The first step was creating a series of greyscale roughs for each illustration for the art director and writer to look over and give their thoughts. After a few redesigns, it’s the process of fleshing them out, a few rounds of minor changes, then final art ready to go into the game engine.
6. Would you ever be tempted to illustrate something from the Pax Britannia universe?
After my first encounter with the genre reading William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s ‘The Difference Engine’, steampunk is something I have quite an interest in. So I have a suspicion that temptation could be quite high... Particularly if it should happen to involve zeppelins, apes with jet packs, steam powered robots, evil goggle-wearing villains, plucky adventuresses and gentlemen with vigour sporting fetching moustaches.
7. Of which piece of work are you most proud?
I would say the Sea Serpent piece from Spider God, for several reasons. It went through 3 or 4 different versions, each time I felt it wasn’t working at all. Fortunately I persevered with it, redesigning it yet again to a point where I wasn’t over thinking the process and it seemed to fall into place. In turn, it helped set the process for the remainder of the illustrations as well. It’s a reminder that when it comes to creative obstacles, if you can keep going, you will be rewarded.
8. Is there anything you haven’t illustrated that you would still like to?
I think that’s part of the joy of being an artist, there’s always something else that would be great to work on. Off the top of my head the things that I’d like to illustrate would be an 50s/60s style ray gun sci-fi adventure, modern supernatural horror, magic-laden bronze age fantasy, plus I have a new idea bubbling away that is inspired traditional Japanese woodblock print design. Oh and dinosaurs. I could always draw more dinosaurs.
9. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m heading back to Orlandes, with another Gamebook Adventure title in the works. I’m also in the final stages of a Facebook game, Puzzle Treasure, which should be out in a few weeks. After that it looks like a new iOS game and a few personal projects that may finally get a chance to come to life.
10. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
There is no substitute for practice and putting in the hours. As every artist will say “Draw, draw draw.” Understand the eternal foundations of light, colour, composition, perspective, tone and so on. If you feel you have any areas of weakness, take the time to work on those and make them a strength. Create a physical and digital reference library. Find a mentor. Expand your field of influences. Challenge yourself. Enjoy what you do. And drink lots of tea.