Today I had the pleasure to sit down with White Wizard Games’s artist, and cover artist for Star Realms: Rescue Run, Antonis Papantonio. He did a great job on the book cover, and also designed the cards Chancellor Hartman, Commodore Zhang and Screecher for the Star Realms Deckbuilding Game. He’s done numerous other cards for WWG’s Epic and Hero Realms and also some art for the game Among The Stars.
Hello, Antonis. Thanks for joining me. How did you first get hooked up with White Wizard Games?
I first introduced myself to White Wizard Games as a game artist, at their booth at the Essen Spiel 2014. I showed my portfolio to WWG’s game designer and art director Darwin Castle, aiming to work for them as a Star Realms artist. This was at a time when they already had plenty of artwork and artists working for Star Realms, ans since my portfolio featured a large number of epic fantasy art, they were more interested in me creating artwork for their high fantasy game, called Epic.
What was your first card for them? What direction did they give you?
The first card I created for WWG was Golden Dragon. Darwin gave me a very specific brief for that one, featuring a descriptive text and several examples of art to use as an inspiration. It was also clear that this would be a test artwork that would determine my compatibility with the look and feel they needed for this game. So, Golden Dragon fashioned the basis upon which my relationship with WWG begun.
What is your artistic process? Do you start with pencil drawings or are you all digital?
My art training was 100% traditional, so I have a background in drawing, oil painting and sculpting with clay. However, my work has become almost exclusively digital since 2010.
I always start with rough, digital thumbnail sketches. These are often done using an iPad, because I prefer not being pinned at a desk when I am exploring compositional options. Sometimes I might sketch some of the thumbnails on scrap paper and then take a photo of them with an iPad and work on them digitally.
The next step would be to send these sketches to the art director to get some feedback. Once I get the feedback I move on to a final sketch which is done at Photoshop using a Wacom Intuos tablet.
Once the sketch is approved by WWG, I proceed in sculpting assets of the whole scene with digital 3D clay, using Zbrush. I then compose these assets into the final image and paint over the sculpture in Photoshop.
(Chancellor Hartman, Legends player)
I would love to hear any thoughts you had on creating the Rescue Run cover and any influences you might have drawn from.
When creating sci-fi artwork like Rescue Run, I admit to being heavily influenced by Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. After all, these are the sci-fi worlds I grew up with and they have played a big role on my decision to become an illustrator and concept artist. In Rescue Run, I wanted to evoke a cinematic look and feel, and render the illustration in the fashion of a still image from a sci-fi movie. So, everything in that image, including the two-planed, reverse ”L” composition, the lighting and the whole visual narrative are heavily influenced by sci-fi movie cinematography.
How much do you consider creating a feel in your artwork? Are there certain ways lines/colors can be used to evoke more of an emotional response? Is it conscious when you do different things? Any examples?
When I create an image, there is a list of three items that I consciously and constantly check. Each item on the checklist represents an archetypal element of visual communication.
These are: Form/Shape, Composition/Space and Value/Color.
Each of these elements corresponds and affects an aspect of the human nature that the artwork should satisfy:
Form/Shape affects the viewers Instinctual center. Visual forms can be described in primal terms based on their thickness, sharpness, curvature and angularity as threatening, sensual, virile etc. So, as I draw my shapes and forms, I keep that in mind and try to conform them into the primitive molds that satisfy the viewer at an instinctual level.
For example in Rescue Run, the main character combines curves and angles that hopefully give her a mix of strength and sensuality, while the enemy guards borrow many wasp-like shapes that instinctively communicate threat.
(Commodore Zhang, Rescue Run Character)
Composition/Space corresponds to the viewers Intellectual center. Mind gets satisfied by well composed space, so I always try to keep my artwork divided into foreground, midground and background visual planes to control my composition.
Space can also be used in a narrative manner communicating complex ideas, like order, chaos, loneliness, freedom, stress etc.
In Rescue Run I tried to combine some depth with the sense of limited space to hide. I also placed the protagonist at a close distance, hiding but also picking at the guards through the door frame. In this way, the viewer identifies more with the protagonist, as the compositional space forces the viewer to look at the scene from the point of view of the one who hides.
Value/Color affects the viewer’s Emotional center. Lighting and colors are closely related to emotions and there is even a psychological therapy called chromatotherapy that effectively uses color to evoke or suppress human emotions. I consciously use value and color in my artwork to set the mood of the scene.
Lighting is also extremely effective in leading the viewer’s eye to what is important. In Rescue Run, I used a color palette that is associated with a space opera type of sci-fi, softly touching the vintage spectrum. I also used controlled lighting to lead the viewer’s eye to the protagonist’s face, her gun, and the guards.
But apart from all of the conscious decisions described above, I am always on the lookout for happy accidents and spontaneously utilize them in my work when they come up.
Do you get to play Star Realms much?
I have played a lots of Star Realms when it first came out, but since I started working for White Wizard Games I play much less. Instead I am mostly involved in creating artwork for Star Realms, Epic and Hero Realms, and in a way, with every image, I feel that I have experienced a part of these game universes in a more vivid way than I do when I am playing the games.
(Screecher, Star Realms: United)
Are you going to be at White Wizards Game Fair on the November 18th weekend? Will you be signing cards?
I will be at the Fair and I will be signing cards and art prints. I will also have a mini studio set-up and I will be doing speed paintings and creature concept artwork, live, on the spot. That should be fun for everyone interested to find out how I work, combining digital painting with 3D digital sculpting. Hope to see you there.
As mentioned, Antonis will be at the game fair signing along with me in Boston, MA tomorrow. Details at http://www.whitewizardgames.com/fair2016 . Currently my planned signing schedule is 3:00 – 4:00 on Saturday, but I will make myself available for those who can’t make that block. Do come say hello and thank Antonis for all of his hard work that brings this game to life in a stunning visual manner.
You can check out his cover by picking up Rescue Run at: http;//bit.ly/starrealmsnovel