Art with a vibe from Shirin Rafie

I regularly visit ‘art & graphic design for tabletop gaming‘ on facebook – mostly to learn from the different feedback on art. I cam across the works of Shirin Rafie from Singapore on the game Jumpship. The kickstarter for Jumpship has gone under my radar and was apparently cancelled. It seems on the backers that they look forward to a re-launch. The game is available as Print and Play here. But the state of the game does not change the fact that the artwork on it is really incredible and personal. Enjoy the interview.

Tell us a little about your artistic background and how you got into making art for board games like Jumpship and March of Ants?

I got most of my art background from studying Animation in University, where back then I was very interested in developing my skills under pre-production and concept development.

I got into board games through a contact who eventually became a good friend of mine where he engaged me to work on art for various educational board games for schools. Having more familiarity with job scopes like these, I took my chances in finding more work over at Board Game Geek in order to find more opportunities!

Sometimes the style you think you have is great until you fit them all together and realize that they don’t work well together with other nitty gritty things, like the font or the graphic design.

Shirin Rafie

Do you find working on board games is different than other art projects?

Definitely. Creating art for board games can be laborious especially when you have to try to keep a consistent art style as you go through various card types that you are expected to work on.

Sometimes the style you think you have is great until you fit them all together and realize that they don’t work well together with other nitty gritty things, like the font or the graphic design.

When you are briefed on elements for a game  – what do you think is important to include in the brief?

I would get the client to send me as much references as possible – both images and in descriptive words. The more information you have, the clearer idea of what the client is trying to communicate to you regarding the style and the concept. Also, never be afraid to ask questions if you are feeling unsure about something in the brief or the words used. Clarification and communications is your best friend when working with clients.  

Can you tell us about your creative steps when making a piece of art for the game from idea to the final artwork?

I would start by finding more references images based off what my client gives me. This opens up the options in finding styles and possible color schemes to play around with.

After which I would spend a good amount of time building a narrative about the art. I ask myself questions such as: where would the character come from? What is their personality like? What are the quirks? This usually involves a good amount of doodling where I add and subtract things about the art and meddle around until I find something that I can confidently show the client.

Initial sketches

Client brief and box art process – I love how the client took the initiative to sketch out what he was looking for and it helps quicken the creative process.

I love your style on Jumpship. Do you work on several illustrations simultaneous or one at the time – and what are your considerations when choosing colors?

I worked on the illustrations simultaneously, especially in the sketching phase. This lets me show the client where the art is headed towards and at the same time reveal any details that make the art inconsistent. I would usually have them in an artboard where I can view all of them at the same time.

Coloring process of a character for an educational game – Cysec

As you can see in the video, I work with a color wheel for a swatch that helps me pick my color quicker. The colors are slowly worked in and tested to see how they fare against each other as a whole.

When it comes to choosing colors, I usually play around with various combinations based on the client requests. Sometimes the color phase takes a long time and I choose to leave the artwork alone to refresh my ‘palette’ and work on other things to make sure the project is kept going. Looking at the same thing all day can create errors in the judgement due to fatigue.

Initial inconsistencies with the color choices that is eventually sorted out with the client. It was decided that each character should have it’s own individual ‘main’ color.
Each character with a ‘main’ color

I enjoy colors that are contrasting to each other and overall brings out the vibrancy of an artwork. It’s also important to not get too carried away and allow the colors to be too loud that it takes away the importance of other elements, especially when readability is important for a board game.

Where or how do you find your creative inspiration?

I usually get my inspiration from various sources. I love watching movies and shows whilst doing work, and I would screenshot things occasionally when I think it looks great. Social media is also a reliable way to get inspiration to see what other artists are up to. When I try to get away from the computer, I spend time outdoors sketching with my notebook.

What are your preferred tools (software/hardware/traditional) – tell us about your workplace?

I’m currently working on a 13” Cintiq with an additional monitor to display my references. I generally use Photoshop for all my digital work, unless vectors are called for where I switch over to Illustrator. I have a cat that tells me to stop working every now and then to pet her. (which is probably a good thing!)

When it comes down to a traditional medium, I’m a pretty hardcore pen and paper person. I like how unforgiving ink can be and it forces me to take more decisive strokes when sketching.

When it comes down to a traditional medium, I’m a pretty hardcore pen and paper person. I like how unforgiving ink can be and it forces me to take more decisive strokes when sketching.

Have you learned anything from working on Jumpship?

I had lots of fun creating art for Jumpship, where I had a lot of creative freedom in the style. I’m still learning and i’d like to be able to improve more on color and pick up better nuances related to it – based on feedback I’ve received on the artwork. There’s always room for improvement and hopefully I’d be able to bust out better artwork in the future!

What’s the best piece of advice on making art,  you yourself have been given or learned?

I feel this can be a little controversial for some, but never stop experimenting with your artwork. A lot of artists can feel pressured to put out a single ‘style’ especially when it comes to promoting yourself on social media.

I suppose this helps create a more consistent Instagram content which I agree works to some extent. Perhaps people do like visiting pages for one specific thing as it keeps everything organized and nice to see. It’s ok to have a page with consistent content, but have a page where you can have the creative freedom to play around with whatever you want and not have the pressure of putting out ‘pretty’ artworks in your page.

This lets you archive your art and see how much you have grown over time. Remember that at some point it’s always good to push on to something new once you’ve mastered the style. It opens up your repertoire and ability to be flexible to different project requirements especially if you are going a freelance route.

I think that was a great advice! Can you name 1-3 artists you admire?

These are my most favourite artists from instagram:




They are a huge source of inspiration for my coloring and artworks!

What is draw monster draw? and where can people find more about you?

Drawmonsterdraw is actually my artist name! I decided on that name because I spent so much time drawing weird monsters in my sketchbook.

You can find most of my artwork on most social media sites under the handle @drawmonsterdraw.

I use Instagram the most, where I generally play around with random art styles and projects. This is my art blog where I hope to archive my art.

I am also holding projects on Patreon creating Jikko Hellcat and Metalhead Adventures – two characters I developed and have been working on for some time. I also post up my urban sketching from time to time when I decide to get away from the computer.

For my more formal client projects, you can find it on my portfolio:

Thank you Drawmonsterdraw – for sharing with us! Look forward to seeing more from you.  If anyone is interested in Jumpship I think this video was great.

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