Our dear friend Anna from the Polish leading board games blog, Board game Girl, has conducted a great interview with Magdalena Markowska – the illustrator of all Strawberry Studio games. We took the liberty of translating it into English, so that you could read it as well – enjoy 🙂
Some illustrators have a style that is very notable, while still making each of their project different. You probably know Magdalena Markowska’s art from What’s Up, 3 Wishes, and from Strawberry Ninja – a game recently funded on Kickstarter. Strawberry Studio, the publishing house working with Magdalena (which also employs Kuba – my “inside man”), is already at work on games illustrated by her. We’ve managed to talk to Magdalena, which resulted in the following interview, where she shares a few of her trade secrets, talks about how to start illustrating games, and about her inspirations. Enjoy!
Did you create art for board games before starting your work with Strawberry Studio?
Yes, I provided art for the box and the board for Chroń Przyrodę z Celnikami (Protect Nature with Customs Officers), a game by Regio Games. Before that I had mainly worked on animation (as a concept artist, designing characters and backgrounds). That was the industry I had been in for years, and that is where I started off as an illustrator.
Do you play board games? Do you have any favourites?
Oh, yes! I enjoy games with a vivid world the most (and of course games with great looking art). There are many games I like and come back to regularly. If I were to choose my absolute favourites, I’d say Abyss, Cadwallon: City of Thieves, and Seasons.
When rating a game, how important art and graphic design are for you?
Because of my profession they are probably the most important. It’s very hard to make me play a game I don’t like visually. When it comes to this, I’m rather picky.
Your art is very notable, and yet you make your art different for every game. How do you choose the style to be used in a given game?
That mostly depends on the theme of the game and what it focuses on. To make a comparison: for each wish in 3 Wishes I first needed to highlight the narration of each illustration (to tell a story with each card), while with What’s Up I needed to show clear shapes and colours (as this is what the game is about mechanically). This is what shapes my style the most.
Apart from all that, designing board game illustrations usually takes a while. This is why, after I have worked using a given technique or style for some time, I want to try something new – and learn something new as well. I try to make each game look original and different from my other projects.
How do you work on a small card game like What’s Up, 3 Wishes or Strawberry Ninja?
After familiarizing myself with the mechanisms, I progress to thinking about what is the most important aspect of a board game for me personally, which is its world. I think about colours and light that would build what I want to achieve with the art (which influences the final style of the game). For example, for Strawberry Ninja I wanted to create a warm, sunny garden, but to also have a bit of contrast, I came up with somewhat darker characters on cards. I want to design visuals that would allow people to enter this illustrated reality.
And which game did you have the most fun working on?
I don’t think I can choose a single game that was most fun to work on, as I try to discover something new with every project. For example, while working on Pyramid of the Sun I enjoyed getting to know a bit about Aztec pyramids, while with Scare It! I used a new technique of colouring.
Do you have any advice for artists looking to become board game illustrators?
I think it’s the same advice I’d give to any buddying artist: remember that if there’s something you can’t do well, it’s good to go back to the essentials and check your basics. Is the composition good? Did I use the correct colour palette? Did I overdo it with the details? If we’re not confident about our own assessment, we can always verify our knowledge with some good knowledge base. This way we improve our skills with each project.
I would also advise to visit gaming fairs or conventions, as the board gaming community is incredibly welcoming!
Are you working on a new game right now?
Apart from the recently completed Strawberry Studio game, I am already working on a game by Jollythinkers, and I am starting work on another project (which I cannot talk about just yet). Of course, with the rest of the All Blue Studio team we are still working on a book-app called The Thief of Wishes, which you can find at http://www.allbluestudio.com/pl/