Game Artist Interview: Pierô

Pierô is a French artist who began illustrating board games not too long ago, with Mr. Jack. Since then, he’s worked on several games, including the award-winning Dixit series. Thanks to Pierô for talking to us!


How did you first become interested in art? And more to the point, how did you become involved in art for board games?
I think I’ve been drawing since I was able to hold a pen. I always wanted to draw and become a comics artist… I think “will become a comics artist” became a goal when I was 13. I’m a boardgame player… A big one. I have 300 games at home. 6 years ago, I contacted Bruno Cathala about an illustration I made for my own pleasure around his game Shadow over Camelot. I sent him the image, He liked it. After a few mails, he asked me to call him because he had a project of a game for which he can’t find a regular publisher, so he said that he would like to do a collector’s edition with a very small publisher who’s doing some luxury homemade games. It was fun, challenging, not paid… Perfect ! 🙂 The publisher released 250 box signed by the two designers (Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc) and by myself. The 250 games were sold in 3 days and finally, a real production of the game was made 1 year later… That’s how Mr. Jack came out and it was my first job.

Are there any particular artists that inspire you?
A lot! Too much actually… In facts, I don’t know if they inspire me or just gave me the will to become an illustrator… because my graphic touch is a mix of so many that I couldn’t say: “I’m inspired by…”

Actually, some French illustrators who became friends of mine are so talented that they give me an objective to reach: “Being as good as they are”. Vincent Dutrait, Matthieu “Anii” Leyssene, Xavier “Naiade” Guennifey Durin, Stephane Poinsot…. We are good friends and, even if we’re working in the same domain, we aren’t “competitors”… We are just doing the same job, not in the same way of doing it and we just want to do as good as we can 🙂

I’ve heard that you play a lot of games with the French game designers (Bruno Faidutti, Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc, etc). How does this factor into your work? Do they request you, or do you just find yourself saying “Hey, I’d really like to do this one” while playing a prototype? If you’re playing a game for which you know you’re going to do the art, what goes through your mind while playing the prototype?
All these guys became friends. Bruno Faidutti, Bruno Cathala, Serge Laget and Ludovic Maublanc are sort of… Arg, I couldn’t say in English.. The word “sponsor” came out from Google translator, but I think “father-in-law” or something like that could fit… because for my first Essen fair, when Mr. Jack was released, these guys helped so much to introduce me to everyone (publishers, designers..) and they gave me a lot of opportunities.

Anyway, I’m tying their games as a friend and sometimes, I say “this one is for me !” (Dice Town or Ghost Stories for example). The advantage for them to work with me is that because I’m a player and I’m a friend, they can say more easily what they want or don’t want. They know that I’m used to working on games so I know when I can do something nice or if I have to do something more functional.

When I’m playing a prototype that I have to illustrate, I’m always trying to think how I will dress up the mechanism of the game to give them a visual aspect. Doing a beautiful game is a challenge because it’s not necessary to do a good game and because, sometimes, because the game is beautiful, it’s less “playable”, “readable”… A boardgame illustrator has to always keep in mind “mechanisms come first, beauty after”.

Your artwork has a kind of Saturday Morning Cartoon (is that a thing in France?) style to it, but you’ve got to apply it to all these different themes – eastern cultures (Ghost Stories, River Dragons, Lost Temple), American West (Dice Town), Nordic mythology (Yggdrasil)… how do you adjust your trademark style to make sure it fits with these different themes?
In fact, I became an artist pretty late… I was 30. I don’t have a specific style I think… I love to try news things and put myself in danger. I think I’m a cartoon artist as for Mr. Jack, Dice Town, River Dragon… But I love to do some more realistic illustrations as for Ghost Stories or Yggdrasil. I don’t know if I’m good for that… But changes are good sometimes.

How does the process usually work for you? What kind of directions are you given for a specific game?
No rules; it depends of the publishers. I’m always sending a rough draft of intention for an illustration… Once it has been accepted, I’m doing the final drawing; I send it in black and white and after the validation of the final drawing, I’m doing the colors. Some publishers want to say “do this and that” while others are saying: “it’s your job, I trust you; do what you think is best”… Sometimes, I don’t want to do something because I don’t think it’s a good idea and we are discussing about that. Sometimes, I have no idea of what I have to do to do something good so I ask the designers, publishers, friends….

For Dixit Odyssey in particular, you had a unique situation where you were expanding on Marie Cardouat’s previous work in Dixit, and then she was still coloring your sketches. How did you do this? How does an art commission for Dixit even work? Did you have to come up with your own ideas for what to draw in the cards? In what ways did you use the ideas from the art that Marie had already drawn in Dixit and Dixit 2?
Cards of Dixit are given by the game designer and the publisher. Except one card, Marie and myself have just follow some very specific description. The challenge was to draw in a way to fit to Marie’s colors and as she’s working with real paper and real paints, I had to completely change my way of working (I’m a 100 % computer illustrator…). And for Odyssey, the objective was to keep the “touch” Marie Cardouat gave to the game with the first two releases and to do something different in the same time. Finally, we wanted to do the same but not the same….

What was the most difficult piece of art you’ve had to do for a board game?
Yggdrasil‘s board game, a pure nightmare… A real one. One month on it and finally, it’s too dark. Hurry’Cup! with Antoine Bauza was hard too because I hate to draw cars. Actually, the boardgame I’m currently working on is horrible because I know I can’t do something “nice” but I have to.

Which game left you most satisfied with your work?
River Dragons… Not because it’s the latest one but because I’m proud of every single part of it. The publisher and the designer are friends and they trusted me to do what I think could be the best. I took my time, I listened to all doubts and advice of my friends in the workshop I’m working in, and my girlfriend helped me a lot, kicking my ass, and she has been very supportive when I was literally crying about the rocks (there are so many rocks!).

What’s your personal favorite board game to play?
Not an easy question… I think cooperative games are my favorites. Lord of the Rings, Shadows over Camelot and Ghost Stories. On the iPad, I’m playing Ghost Stories every day (solo and with my friends). I think I’ve played Ghost Stories something like 400 times on my iPad.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Don’t do this job ! (I hate competition :)) Seriously… I couldn’t say. I have a very strange professional “journey”. I didn’t really learn to draw in a school. I learned by myself how to work on a computer and there is not a perfect way to do this job. The only advice I could say is to be strong, tenacious and to really not want to be rich 🙂

What kind of projects do you have appearing in the near future?
I’m working on a game with Repos Prod. It’s a game from Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc. I have two or three others games in the pipe… But for the moment, it’s all secret… If I tell you… I have to kill you after… 🙂

Anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t think I could… I talk too much… So, don’t give me a chance to talk more… I don’t even think it’s possible 🙂

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