With The Doctor Who Card Game being a great seller in stores over the festive season, we thought it was about time we caught up with some more about the game. C7 art director Jon Hodgson writes:
What a challenge! Behind the cut you can read some of the behind the scenes art department gossip, as well as see a selection of card art images from each of the artists who worked on the game.
As art director and artist at Cubicle 7 I wear a lot of hats. My role falls closest to Lead Artist in that I don't only direct others, I get my hands dirty making art too. The Doctor Who Card Game needed a lot of card images created in a fairly constrained period of time, and with a strong idea of where we should head in terms of style, I wound up making the majority of the card art for the game, ably assisted by a hand picked team. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
So the C7 team met with the BBC and Martin Wallace back in late November 2011, where we finalised some of the details of the card game going at last into production. The idea had been around for some time, but now at last the green light was on!
Projects like this one are almost always a case of "hurry up and wait" for all involved. With numerous levels of approval, both formal and less formal, and changes at all the companies involved over the course of the project, I knew the art department had to be on top of our game. We had to do our bit to make our contribution run as smoothly as humanly possible.
Dealing with such a highly prized and well thought of property as Doctor Who can be a daunting thing. We had a lot of get right, and a lot of opportunities to get it wrong. My thoughts on how the game should look were to endeavour to bring something new, a fresh visual style, whilst keeping it most firmly in line with the overall look of The Doctor Who "brand".
To my mind this meant a crispness, a classiness, something contemporary but with a classic feel. I was immediately thinking of the cool, crisp blue tinted palette of a lot of Doctor Who visuals, and taking a look at some of the very stylish publicity shots from the BBC things started to fall into place.
All of these aspects are very hard to put into words, and therein lies the main role of the art director: arguably to use massive hubris about one's own taste and bring everyone else along for the ride!
Looking at the images above, especially Rory, shows the genesis of the intended style, and hopefully illustrates the strength of generating new painted images whilst making extremely tight reference of show stills: Knowing that character X would be played on Location Y, perhaps with Item Z, we all felt using stills from the show wouldn't be right. It's also been done before many times, and we were gifted with the opportunity to break some new visual ground. Whilst clearly there are some wonderful shots of action and adventure within the shows themselves we needed to be able to lift those well known characters, places and items out of context so they could be recombined in a smooth way. I believe taking the characters, enemies and items out of their filmed locations allows for the abstract nature of gameplay to flourish, but by carefully using photographs and stills we keep true to the Doctor Who feel which we all love so much. It was very much a case of trying to allow us sufficient visual freedom to make the game "work" visually in play, as well as looking attractive and exciting, whilst keeping what was important about the visuals of the show. Hopefully we came somewhere close to achieving that.
There's so much more I could waffle on about, but I think that is probably more than enough. I can't deny my own huge enjoyment at getting to produce the four images you see above. These were made right at the beginning of the process to show "proof of concept", and allow everyone involved to grasp the visual direction we were suggesting. It's always dangerous when you truly believe in what you're doing - it's so much further to fall if you get knocked off your perch. But to my great happiness our approach was looked upon kindly, and so what you see above is representative of the visual style of the whole game. The small team of illustrators I worked with on The Doctor Who card game gave extremely good account of themselves:
Andy Hepworth is a regular contributor to Cubicle 7 products. He's an extremely reliable pair of hands when we need detailed, accurate art in a hurry. When it came time to produce the art for Doctor Who The Card Game this is exactly what was called for, and Andy delivered as I knew he would.
Andy handled a bunch of the location cards for the game. These can be tricky since the artist has to both grasp what elements of the setting we're looking for, and convey those in a single image. Likewise on this particular project we needed the ability to work extremely closely with supplied shots from the show, altering them stylistically to sit well with the rest of the art and within the context of card art. Flawless victory.
"Jammy Dodger" and "Stormcage Containment Facility" are some of my favourite pieces in this set, showing both the intimate and the sweeping, and you can see them previewed above. The Moldavarium was a tough one, since the screenshots from the show were technically somewhat difficult to work with: What serves a panning, establishing shot in the show can make for a tough static image. Hepworth to the rescue, providing us with a crystal clear, vivid glimpse of this evocative location. Click the image above to see it larger.
Let's be honest. We have no business having Ben Wootten working for us. As a veteran of art department on The Lord of the Rings movies (you can catch him speaking on the Appendices DVDs) and a regular on the brightest and biggest of roleplaying games I thought approaching Ben with this one was a long shot. But Ben is a gamer, Ben likes cool stuff. And so Ben made us card art!
Working with Ben directly (rather than just on the same products) was a pleasure as anticipated. He is one of those artists who can make very slick, original work which maintains fidelity to an intellectual property. In simple terms he can make paintings which look like Ben Wootten paintings AND Doctor Who paintings at the same time. And that isn't as easy as it sounds.
Sam was undoubtedly the least experienced member of the small team that worked on the game, and I'll be very plain upfront: using him was a risk. My initial thought had been to use a larger team, each doing less cards. But this proved to be unworkable for a variety of reasons. So it was I had the onerous task of sitting down with my prepared list of artists and crossing names off until I got down to the agreed number. I waivered on Sam. He has produced marvellous work for us on our roleplaying game lines. I can't stress this enough: I always hugely look forward to working with Sam whenever the opportunity arises. But on this project the decision was a tough one - I haven't seen a huge amount of colour work from Sam, nor a lot of card art work - some of both, but not the reams of published material the other artists on the project can call up. Ability with both colour and card art disciplines were clearly needed for this to work out.
In the end I stuck to a principle I profoundly believe in: that if our artists are good enough to work for us, then they are good enough to deserve our loyalty, wherever possible. There's a clear opportunity for art directors to skim along the top of the wave, as it were, constantly replacing artists and having an ever changing line up. The flip side to this is that you don't thereby generate an awful lot of loyalty or commitment from that team. Everyone is passing through, everyone is making arrangements for when they get booted for the next hot young illustrator. I believe in Sam and Sam's work and so I took that risk in including him in a much more experienced team.
And I'm very glad I did. Sam's work brings a sharpness and fineness of mark that rounds things out. His interpretations of the Whoverse locations are marvellous, and his research and commitment were flawless. Behind the scenes Sam's attitude makes for a great working relationship. He's open to discussion, offers options, and remains relentlessly professional in the face of the wide variety of vexing challenges this work can inevitably throw up.
Sam's Leadworth card is one of my personal favourite cards in the game. Watch out for it.
Scott Purdy has worked with us on Victoriana, The Laundry and Cthulhu Britannica and I've worked alongside him on a great many other products for a wide range of companies. As another "go-to" artist when it comes to reliability and "getting it", Scott was a dead cert for inclusion on the art team. His breadth of experience, and flexible style makes Scott's contribution to the game on of the most solid in my humble opinion. Receiving the art for both The Silence and The Judoon were those prized moments where as an art director you open an email attachment and know everything is going to work out just fine. Scott's work really walks the fine line between photograph and painting that I was looking for.