Q&A with Artist Mike Terrell


1 ‐ What is your philosophy for creating game art?

If I do have a philosophy, it’s not a very robust or expansive one. I wouldn’t even call it a philosophy, more like a set of guidelines that may or may not change from project to project. I will say game art should support the game. The art shouldn’t upstage the game, or feel like it’s in opposition to the gameplay experience. It should all work together.

2 - What was your inspiration for the style you used on Eyeball Boxing?

In the case of Eyeball Boxing, I knew the game was comical and surreal from test playing, so I felt the art should reflect this. Boxing can be fairly violent and we wanted this to be accessible to kids and adults alike, so I designed the eyeball cards as 5 separate characters with cartoonish personalities. The gameplay is pretty fast and there’s not a lot of measured strategizing, so readability of the cards was a top priority. I kept the artwork simple with backgrounds as flat colors that correspond to the card types, while still keeping them playful. Originally I started sketching eyeballs with eyelids, but it looked weird. Simpler was better.


Early eyeball sketches. Didn’t like the look of eyelashes or bodies. Eventually settled for a little stubble on top.


Rough sketch for "Swarm" card on left, cleaned up sketch on right. Bugs were drawn on a separate layer to make final positioning easier.

3 - How did this impact your approach to Eyeball Boxing?

Sorry, I kinda covered this on the last question. But there was a moment that came after all the artwork was completed that will impact my approach on future projects. In playing Eyeball Boxing with kids, we noticed they would all want to be the same character, Spork. Spork is a goofy-looking eyeball who seems to be a little out of touch with reality. After inquiring as to why they preferred that character, they said it was because Spork was “cute”. More specifically because of the small mouth. All the other characters showed a lot of teeth. I certainly designed Spork to be a little cuter than the others, but I had no idea just how much players would relate to that particular character. So I’ll be storing this nugget away for future designs, especially for younger audiences.


4 - How closely do you work with the Game Designer when creating the art?

I work with the game designer as closely as possible. It’s a no-brainer when we’re in the same room working on a project. This is important when developing a look and feel for a specific target audience as you don’t want art that is at odds with the game. Throughout the illustration process, I will bring sketches and design options to the game designer to see if they fit with the overall direction. In the case of Eyeball Boxing, this was vital because the cards weren’t going to have much text, so the art alone needed to define some of the game mechanics. This involved a bit of back and forth with the game designer, Larry, to lock down the direction before finalizing the artwork.

5 - What are some other games that you have created the art for?

I’m just getting started in game illustration, so I only have one other title under my belt so far. I illustrated the cards, box, and rulebook for our first game, Shoot Your Friends, now rebranded as Panic Fire. I had to make significant changes to the logo and minor tweaks to the box art, so in a way I’ve illustrated one and a half games.

6 - Have you thought about designing your own game at some point?

Yes! I’m currently juggling 3 game designs that are about ready to be alpha tested to see if they’re even playable.

7 - What is the most difficult part of creating art for a new game?

Figuring out the style that fits the target audience for the game. I often have to come up with a few possible directions so we can find the right fit. On a related note, staying on track once the style is locked is always a challenge. I have to resist the urge to experiment and "improve" the look lest the art mutates out of control. Ideally, all the art for the game should be of a similar feel.

8 - What are some other games that you really like the art on?

Although not a board game company, I love everything Blizzard produces. Amazing art.

9 - Who are some other artists that you admire?

I’ve been a long time fan of Salvador Dali, H.R. Giger, and Gustave Dorè. I like the work of John Jude Palencar and comic book artists Jim Lee, Adam Hughes, and Cary Nord. I also admire a number of concept artists, sculptors, and animators - too many to mention. The list keeps growing.

10 - What are some of your favorite games?

Everything from Quirky Engine of course, although this may change once I throw my designs into the mix. I am my worst critic.

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