Interview: Mr. Cuddington, Game Artists

We’ve done a lot of interviews with game designers and publishers in our time here at One Board Family.  But this is the first time we get to chat with game artists!

Despite the name, Mr. Cuddington is not actually one person – it’s David Forest and Lina Cossette, a husband-and-wife creative team from Quebec.  In the past few years, their artwork has been featured on some big hits in the board gaming community. We asked them a few questions to see what life is like in the board game art world.

First off, could you please tell us a little bit about yourselves and maybe some of the games where we may have seen your work.

Sure! My name is Lina Cossette and with my husband David Forest we work under the name Mr.Cuddington

We specialize in creating illustrations for board games from our little home studio in Québec Canada. We worked on about a dozen of games so far, among which Santorini, Unfair, The Grimm Forest, Brass and Charterstone.

What sort of things led you to becoming an artist, and how did you end up doing art for games?

David and I both graduated in animation from the same college. Then I started working in video games and David in the film industry. But one of the things we enjoyed most was illustrating side by side in our spare time. We had no idea if we could really make a living out of it, but the thought of being free to choose our own projects and live anywhere we wanted was exciting enough to give freelance illustration a try.

Since we loved playing board games together, we posted our work on the BGG forums (the largest board game database) hoping we would get to do visuals for a game. That’s where we met Gavan from Roxley and started working on Steampunk Rally, and from there we hopped from one project to the other meeting a lot of passionate people along the way.

So Mr. Cuddington is a pretty cool name, but is a bit misleading. Is there an origin story there?

Well, David and I do about everything together, he is my best friend and the artistic approach we developed together is very fusional. So much so that it felt natural to act as a single artistic entity. We both work on pretty much all pieces of art together So I guess we can say Mr.Cuddington is the resulting persona of our combined skill sets.

What is the process that takes place that results in you making art for a game? How do people get in touch with you about that?

Most of the time, we get approached directly from publishers by email, who enquire about our availability to work on one of their upcoming game. They explain what they envision for the theme and components, and then usually ask about our pricing. From their description, we try to estimate the scope of the game and see if we can find a time frame to fit the project to the publisher’s needs.

What elements of a game do you look at to help you determine what sort of style will be involved in the art that you create?

It’s a discussion we have with the publisher at the very beginning of our collaboration. Publishers often have an idea of what the target audience is for a specific game so we try to adjust the chosen art style accordingly. The theme and length of the game are also used to orient us in our decision for a specific style.

What are some things about creating art for games that we may not realize?

Art in board games is very much tied to gameplay. So we are always paying attention to clarity and legibility. We try to focus on making art that is cohesive and immersive, but that also feels intuitive while playing. Art, especially graphic design, needs to convey clearly the information needed to play the game.

Knowing how the game plays and how the components are used is very useful to do the graphic design phase, that’s why we like to play test the games we work on as much as possible.

Unfair Art Panoramas

Do you have any projects that you are working on?

At the moment, we have an expansion for Unfair in the works and we are working on Arydia with Cody Miller (designer of Xia: Legends of a Drift System). We also have a couple of unannounced projects that we are working on and which we are very excited about. It looks like it’s going to be another busy year for us!

What advice would you give to a budding artist that is interested in getting into board game art?

For artists, in general, I would suggest cultivating the habit of drawing every day. Practice and observation really help to grow as an artist. But to break into board games, in particular, I would say play games to know what’s out there and make a portfolio that focuses on your strengths. Also don’t get too attached to your art, game design can be a very delicate balance and some stuff is likely to be thrown away during the process.