We’re excited to continue our Inspirational Creator series with an incredibly talented artist, writer, and game designer (among a ridiculous number of others things) who doesn’t seem to ever need to sleep. Stephen Gibson.
If you’re at all into deep immersion board games with visually striking art, especially for solo adventures, Gibson’s your man. He’s published his own lines, notably a series titled Grimslingers (sometimes with help from Greenbrier Games) and is helping spearhead the great work done at Arcane Wonders. Stephen chose a few pieces of art to share here with this interview, which we’ll include along the way.
Stephen, the internet has decided you’re one of the most responsive, welcoming game designers out there. And one of the most talented artists! Thanks for making time for us. Striking a balance between immersion in a created world but also making an entertaining game is a tough line to walk. You keep nailing it. Welcome!
1. Grimslingers is a western fantasy themed card game that hits you like a ton of bricks with its striking and distinctive art. Tell us your background – how did you wind up being an artist? Were you a doodler in school?
I was a doodler! Math class was actually just doodle class for me, haha.
I’ve always enjoyed drawing but I never thought it was something I would ever do professionally. I was just never that good! I went to college for 3D Animation, Art and Design, ended up focusing on low-poly modelling and texturing for mobile games but somehow got hired as a concept artist out of college. That job went south real fast, so I started trying to make my own mobile game which eventually, and weirdly enough, turned into Grimslingers. I just kept teaching myself whatever I needed to know to produce the game and that sparked a whole new career – years later I’m now the Art Director for Arcane Wonders!
2. What is your typical workflow? What software do you use?
My workflow depends on what I’m actually doing, since I’m sort of a jack-of-all-trades in my job. I produce videos, animations, 3D renders, illustrations, graphic design, ads, etc. I’m all over the place! But those talents give me a unique position in the industry to do some special things.
In regards to doing illustrations like you see in Grimslingers, for that, I do “photobashing” as my technique. Which is generally collecting various photos to merge together and paint over so it all works together. I come up with the concept in my head, find the right photos, cut them together, fix the colors, then paint over it and then just continue to refine and add details until it feels right. The last bit I do on the image is usually adding atmosphere, additional ambient light and rim lighting to really push the image to be as bold as I can.
3. The weird western genre is due for its own Star Wars-sized blockbuster. Cast a movie for Grimslingers – who needs to star in that?
Wow, what a great idea and I hope that happens someday! I feel like anyone I would recommend would be way too old by the time I manage to pull off getting a Grimslingers movie made. Anyone who’s already been in some of the best cowboy flicks and shows out there I think would be a great fit for Grimslingers, and then just throw in Christopher Walken for good measure.
4. A good thought there with Walken. I’m hearing cowbells for some reason (an old Saturday Night Live joke, maybe just let that one pass). Without naming them specifically, who was one person that most impacted your life in a positive way and why?
Hmm, well, that’s a tough one. No single person stands out the most, I think there’s a rich cornucopia of influences in my life that helped me get to where I am and be who I am today. I bet that’s true for a lot of us.
5. So you’re into graphic design, illustration, storytelling, game design, videos, t-shirts? Do you just not sleep? No seriously, which channel of expression gives you the most satisfaction? Why’s that?
Game Design and Writing are the most satisfying to me, everything else is just a means to an end. You see a lot of artists who simply do art because they love to do art. I’m not really like that. Art can, at times, be incredibly frustrating. But I need to do that illustration, or that graphic design, etc, to allow my game, or my story, to live. Also, I need moneys so I do the arts.
6. What’s the future of tabletop gaming? Where is it headed?
Great question! It’s something we discuss often at Arcane Wonders. I think we’re going to see way more established IPs (intellectual properties) flooding the board game world, more than they already are. I think we’re going to see a lot more apps integrated into board games, and at the very least being used to teach us rules.
I think we’re going to see less of a tolerance for poor rulebooks and poorly made games. There’s just too much coming out now that you can’t survive with a lackluster game. Five years ago you probably could have on Kickstarter.
7. You’ve been up to something lately. Tell us what you’re working on.
Grimslingers 2 is the next big thing in my personal life! It’s a culmination of everything I’ve learned from the first Grimslingers and [The Northern Territories] expansion, as well as working on dozens and dozens of other games over the years now. Playtesting has gone amazingly well and I think I’m creating something truly special here; mechanically, visually and thematically.
My work at Arcane Wonders is always filled with some cool new exciting games like our recent Hello Neighbor: The Secret Neighbor Party Game – a social deduction game based on the popular video game. We’ve also got Freedom Five launching Oct 20th, which is us getting to create a new game in the Defenders of the Realm series by Richard Launius and using the popular IP established in the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game.
Freedom Five has taken a good year to make (and there’s still plenty to do), requiring me to hire and coordinate with several amazing artists from around the world to ensure the game is a visual masterpiece that belongs on any shelf!
8. Grailrunner is relentlessly about finding and sharing things that inspire people to be optimistic about possibilities and the future. What’s a piece of literature or film or work of art that really sends your mind soaring, and why?
Take a stroll through Artstation’s “trending” and try not to be gobsmacked at the amazing talent and creativity that exists today!
9. What should we click on right now to learn more about you?
My personal facebook profile? Haha, in all seriousness I haven’t tried too hard to be well found on the internet! I never felt a huge need. You can always keep up with what Arcane Wonders is up to, of which I am obviously intimately involved with, at www.facebook.com/ArcaneWonders.
To keep up with Grimslingers, www.facebook.com/Grimslingers.
And to take a gander at some of my portfolio which I rarely update, I’ve got this horrible web address for you: https://stephensgibson.wixsite.com/ssgibson
Life is hectic, it’s hard to keep everything updated online.
Thanks again, for taking time to have a chat with us. It means a lot. Best of luck with the new stuff coming out!