I’ve recently been hooked on the amazing progress of the Tokaido Collecter’s Edition Kickstarter campaign. With only a couple of days to go (at the time of this writing), the game has already pass $400,000 in support. I already own a copy of Tokaido, but I’m still backing the collector’s edition. One of the reasons I enjoy Tokiado so much is because of the fantastic artwork. Playing the game has an almost zen like feel as the artwork and components just tie together perfectly to fit the theme. Thinking more on this, I was prompted to hunt down Tokaido’s amazing artist, Xavier Durin. He was kind enough to spare a few minutes to talk with us and answer some questions. Xavier Durin, known in the board gaming world as Naïade, has illustrated some eye catching games like the aforementioned Tokaido, Seasons, and Isla Dorada. Naïade doesn’t actually speak English, so we did our best to clear up any translations errors. I hope you enjoy his insight into being a board game artist.
Board Game Quest: Let’s start with the easy question, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started in illustration?
Naïade: My name is Xavier, I’m 32 and I live in Nantes, France. I’ve always drawn, since my childhood and I started working as an illustrator in 2007, because it is the only thing I could do.
BGQ: Board and card game illustration is a pretty specific niche, how did you get started in it?
Naïade: In 2009 I was contacted by Funforge to illustrate my first game (Isla Dorada), and since I been doing it ever since.
BGQ: Sometimes a little luck is all you need to get your foot in the door. You’ve done quite a few board games illustrations now, Seasons, Isla Dorada, Tokaido, do you have a favorite that you really enjoyed working on?
Naïade: Isla Dorada, Seasons, Tokaido, Yokai No Mori and Plots are games that I really enjoyed working, but my favorite is Tokaido…
BGQ: Is working on board game illustration different than other types of illustration?
Naïade: Yes, that is a little different because you have to take into account ergonomics of the game illustrations must be legible and must often incorporate symbols, frames, or specific colors. It’s different but not more complicated, other types of illustrations have other constraints.
BGQ: That’s interesting, I hadn’t really thought about the other constraints the artist would be under. Recently you’ve come to the spotlight for the work you’ve done on Tokaido and their Collector’s Edition Kickstarter. That campaign has already pass $400,000 as it nears the end of its run. Are you surprised by this outpouring of support?
Naïade: Yes, I am surprised because we did not propose a novelty but an improved version. Ultimately, there will be novelty because the kickstarter is a success. Even if we all did a good job on this project, I think the success of this collector’s edition comes in large part to the popularity of Antoine Bauza.
BGQ: That’s true, Antoine Bauza is a very popular and talented game designer. Staying with Tokaido, are you excited to see illustrations you’ve made turned into 3d miniatures?
Naïade: Of course, it is always nice.
BGQ: You are also drawing a new cover for the collector’s edition. How did you come up with this new image?
Naïade: As I answer your questions, I’m working on the color of the cover illustration. In this new version, I tried to better represent the journey on this mythical road. I always inspired by paintings of hiroshige and photographs of Kusakabe Kimbei, but also the book of Dale Furutani, the Matsuyama Kaze trilogy.
BGQ: Along the same lines, can you go into your process when you get approached by a game publisher to do some illustration work? How do you start, what steps do you take?
Naïade: The process is often the same, I do a lot of research online and in books. Then I try to provide illustrations adapted to the request of the publisher.
BGQ: Are you an avid board gamer? Do you have a favorite game you like to play?
Naïade: I’m not passionate about board games, but I play. I love Jamaica, Crôa, Quantum, Rumble in the house…but my favorite game is Bang!.
BGQ: Bang! is a lot of fun, you should check out Samurai Sword, the new “version” of Bang!. Is there a certain game or theme you’d love to do the illustration on? Something that you would just really enjoy working on?
Naïade: I love to work on pirates, Amerindians peoples, Vikings, Dogon, Mayan…I am fascinated by ancient peoples and lost civilizations or legendary.
BGQ: I’d love to see your take on a pirate theme! Along the same lines, is there a game already published that you’d love to try your hand at illustration if they reprinted it? This is not meant to be a slight on the current artist, just something you’d enjoy putting your own spin on.
Naïade: I would have liked to illustrate a game like “River Dragons“, the theme is very nice.
BGQ: Finally, you’ve been illustrating games for quite a while, do you have any tips for someone who might want to break into board and card game illustration?
Naïade: Anyone must be serious in his work, be attentive to the editor, trying to make good illustrations…must also have the chance!
Some more samples of Naïade’s Work (click for a large image)
That’s all the time we had to chat with Naïade. I hoped you enjoyed this little bit of insight into being a game artist. I want to thank Xavier “Naïade” Durin for taking the time to answer our questions. He does some amazing work, so be sure to check out his artwork on Seasons, Isla Dorada and of course, you still have a few days to back the Tokaido Collector’s Edition Kickstater campaign.