I never hear about Donners Reed Party before. Apparently the Donner party was some pioneers that set out for California but ended up captured by the weather in Sierra Nevada apparently ending up each other. I like party games -and I loved the look of Donners Dinner party by Forrest-Pruzan Creative when I saw it on my tablet reading Tabletop magazine. Naturally – as I do – I had to learn more about the artist that made the wonderful character and item illustrations. I was surprised to find a very traditional artist with a talent for Caricatures. His name is James Bennett from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Welcome James!
I can see from your portfolio that you have some very traditional art skills in your luggage, tell us a little about your artistic background and what the deal is with all the Baseball caricatures.
I’ve been a freelance illustrator for over 30 years, doing oil paintings of all kinds of characters for most major magazines and ad agencies. My most recent work is doing ballplayers for a rising baseball institution called The National Pastime Museum.
How did you get into making art for a board game and have you worked on other games before?
The creatives at Chronicle Books found my work online. Previously I’ve done a number of games, mostly covers, for a number of game manufacturers. Always a blast.
What do you think is most important in a creative brief on a new assignment?
I think that being able to understand the “mood” of the game is most important. Is it trying to be “crazy” to appeal to kids? Or does it want to be “smart” for a more mature audience? The overall feel is crucial.
Can you tell us about your creative process when you made art for Donners Dinner Party?
I start by thinking of the attitudes of the characters. What makes someone look frightened? What are their hands doing? Where are the eyes looking or the angle of the head? After establishing those broad looks, I can start to focus on the exact features of each person.
The characters in the games is lovely. What is important when making good character design?
I like to have fun with the details in a person’s face, like a slight double chin, or curiosly raised eyebrow. Those little details can make someone look more unique, and not just “Some guy”.
What do you think is important when making art for a game?
Just tell myself that if it’s fun for me, it’ll be fun for someone else.
What was your biggest challenge on Donner Dinner Party?
The biggest challenge was making the people look like they were from 1846, yet apply the attitudes and humor that everyone could relate to.
What are your preferred tools?
I love to sketch in ballpoint pen. Once approved, I transfer the sketch to board and paint everything in oils. I then scan the art and occassionally adjust in Photoshop.
How do you prefer to be paid?
Early and often.
What’s the best piece of advice on making art you yourself have been given?
Just take pride in what you do and you’ll truly enjoy your work.
Name up to 3 artists/designers you admire?
What are your future projects?
Besides baseball, I’m currently working on another game called “Drinkin’ With Lincoln” a hilarious card game featuring Abraham Lincoln and others.
Finally – is there any place for inspiration, creative tutorials, personal shop links or other resources you want to advocate?
Thank you James for sharing.