First off, tell us some of the games you’ve created artwork for?
My first real job was working on the Imperial Armour books at Games Workshop/Forge World for three years.
After I left to become a freelancer I've worked with Fantasy Flight Games quite a bit on their Warhammer, android Netrunner and Star Wars RPG products. I’ve spent a lot of time working with Mierce Miniatures designing miniatures for their Darklands universe and of course our first board game Epic Death!
I recently did the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition covers and I’ve also worked on several computer games including Warballoon’s Star Command which was really fun.
That's quite a diverse range, how do the different games and products change your approach?
It all depends on the product the company are after really. For Chaosium or FFG for instance it’s a big illustration, so that doesn't change my approach much, but working with computer game companies for example I’ve often been required to prepare my illustrations for animation which means making sure everything is on its own layer. That really changes things as you can't just go ahead and paint on something like that!
Is designing a miniature different to doing the artwork for a game?
Definitely. Illustrations are all about the composition, mood, storytelling and style, generally requiring quite a bit of back and forth between me and the Art Director before being done. Concepts, both for computer games and tabletop are all about the idea, with a massive focus on pose, materials and personality.
What's its like doing work for your own game as opposed to working for someone else?
It’s certainly liberating, but also terrifying. I've always believed you should create your own worlds and dreams instead of aiming to work on someone else’s. I don’t want to be remembered as a *insert company name here* artist, I want to be remembered as one of the people who created something that inspires other people to do the same.
What got you into art and which came first, games or drawing?
I can never remember a time when I didn't draw or play games so for me I think they came hand in hand. My love for art comes from my parents without a doubt. My mum is an artist herself and my dad sold comics for a living when I was a kid and he always had copies of Dungeons and Dragons or Heroquest laying around. I remember reading things like Heavy Metal and 2000 AD and being blown away by the art and ideas.
What’s your favourite game you’ve made artwork for?
This is a bit of a cop-out answer but it’s actually one of our unreleased games, working title: ‘JND’ which you can see some of the art for on the moonskinned website. For me working on your own stuff just can’t be beaten, you have to be your own harshest critic but you get to set your own briefs which is great.
Can you tell us anything about JND or is it too early?
Well we can’t divulge too much as we aren't sure on the final destination of the game yet. But basically it’s a game involving raising undead minions and beating up grizzled townsfolk! Hopefully we will be able to announce something this year.
If you had to choose to give up either making art or making games which would it be and why?
That's a really tough question. I love both for different reasons. The feeling of having someone play your game and tell you they enjoyed it or getting carried away in the mechanics is totally unique, but having someone connect with your art can be equally rewarding. The way I go about working on them is also completely different. With games I have these awesome feeling Eureka moments when I solve a design problem and there's allot of sitting around with a pen and paper just thinking, whereas illustrating for me is allot more stressful because there's a pressure to perform every day and its pretty much just painting, painting, painting the whole time with a bit of thinking at the beginning. Game design is currently more of a hobby in that regard and so it’s actually pretty relaxing. But I think I would have to chose to give up making games in the end, I'm an illustrator at heart, I love designing and telling stories through pictures and I think if I had to give it up I would miss it more.
And what’s the game you really wish you’d been able to create artwork for?
Plaid Hat's Mice and Mystics. I loved Redwall when I was younger and I’ve always wanted to work on a game like that. A darker version of Mice and Mystics for adults would be a dream project for me!
Which piece of work are you most proud of, gaming or otherwise?
That’s a tricky one. As an artist I’m cursed to hate everything I do after a day or two, but at the moment it’s probably the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition cover. It was fun to work on and it’s always exciting to paint from the Lovecraft Mythos.
Wow that is truly epic, the Call of Cthulhu rpg is one of my corners tones of gaming and that image really creates the epic feel that Cthulhu deserves. Take us through how you made the image?
Thank you! This image started with a brief from Chaosium which was very loose. In my first version he was actually raising out of the ground in a street, but it wasn't working well and we ended up going with something similar to one of their old covers (which I absolutely love). So from this new brief I begin with a very loose colour sketch, blocking in the main forms and composition. After this has been approved with notes from the Art Director I create a neater version paying attention to any feedback I had. After this next step has been approved it’s down to hours of rendering! Then finally another wave of feedback or two for the finishing touches and it’s done.
What kinds of medium did you use to make this image, is it digital, oil painting or a combination of the two?
This piece is purely digital; in fact all the art in my portfolio is 100% digital. I used to pretty much work exclusively with pencil and paper, spending hours doing little details and shading, but I find nowadays I only do quick scribbles in my sketchbooks to help me make my digital work better or to quickly sell an idea to a client. I never really made the foray into traditional media (I was always too scared to paint on top of my line-work in case I ruined it) and so I jumped straight into digital as you can always use ctrl+z if you screw up. One of the things most digital painters go through is this horrible intense learning period when you first begin to learn Photoshop and your trying to make sense of everything and use all the tools, it’s easy to get lost in the software and allot of people become obsessed with using special brushes and shortcuts. Pretty much all of my paintings are done with one of the standard Photoshop brushes and as few layers as possible, but it’s taken me a long time to nail down my process and it still changes painting to painting!
So is Photoshop the go-to software for digital artists? It’s hardly a cheap piece of software are there other places an aspiring artist could look?
I'd say Photoshop is definitely the industry standard at this point but your right, it’s not cheap. They've recently moved to a monthly subscription service which makes it a bit easier to afford, but it’s still quite pricey. There are a few alternatives but I don't have too much experience with them. ArtRage (http://www.artrage.com/) is a really nice powerful, affordable piece of software that also manages to keep its interface really simple and to the point so I'd probably recommend that to anyone who wants to give painting a go without forking out for a Photoshop licence. For hardware I would really only recommend Wacom (I use an Intuos Pro Large). There are plenty of cheap alternatives out there but I've found none of them offer the control, sensitivity and longevity a Wacom tablet does. In the end though, it’s not what you use but the outcome that matters. A client only cares about the finished product and whether it does the job they paid you for, so make the best art you can with what you have to hand!
Last of all, where can people find more of your work and, if you available for commissions, where can people contact you?
You can view my portfolio on the Moonskinned website and a blog that I update with quicker/unfinished paintings are on the Moonskinned Tumblr.If you like my artwork and find yourself with spare change you can also buy prints of some my work at inprnt
All my contact info is on my website!
I’d like to offer a big thank you to Sam for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’re a game artist and want to be featured in a future artist interview, please contact us at email@example.com