Jessi Cabasan is a freelance artist based in Co. Meath, Ireland. She works in a variety of industries including games, logo making and traditional pencil portraits. She designed the artwork for the game board and cards for Luzon Rails published on Kickstarter in 2020. She is skilled in graphic design and illustration with Affinity Designer on the PC, Artstudio Pro and Procreate on the iPad and photo editing with Adobe Lightroom.
“Hi Oliver. Thanks for having me on your podcast. I’m so delighted to be here.
“My name is Jessi Cabasan. I’ve been a professional artist for a few years and a board game artist since this year for Luzon Rails that was published on Kickstarter.
“I became a board game artist because I was recruited by Robin David, the game designer of Letterpress and Tag City. He hired me to create the artwork for his recently developed cube rail game.
“The art style I’m best known for… well, for Luzon Rails I was really going for a neat look. So everything was graphic design. The layout of individual hex communicates a certain function and as a whole, I needed to make sure it reads well. If I added an excessive detail, the whole map could easily look very crowded and it would lose that clean aesthetic I was going for. So I created distinct icons to help a lot with the clarity on a busy map. I also wanted this game to look attractive to new players as well as veteran cube rail gamers.
“The most fun I had was designing the personalized logos. They all had special meanings. Robin asked me to name three of them, one that included my name, another which included my daughter’s initials and one I named after Luzon’s famous volcano, Mount Mayon. This was the very first board game I designed the artwork for and I’m very proud of it because of all the skills I learned while working on it.
“I like creating artwork that is striking for new gamers. I want the design to communicate the game’s experience. For a light cube rail game, I designed the artwork to look appealing for players who might not have played any cube rail games before and I think it worked. I had comments from some friends of mine who are solely video game players and they were interested in what this game was all about. I got my inspiration from Ian O’Toole. He designed Irish Gauge and Ride the Rails. His designs are fantastic.
“I think the most important part of making artwork for board games is clarity and functionality, like designing iconography to replace some texts. This can also help with language barrier, plus icons look fun.
“I think the most challenging part of making artwork for board games is readability. The artwork for Luzon Rails went through several iterations. I had to really streamline the design on the board not just to bring the icons and layouts all together, but also to have a cohesive artwork that clearly communicates its mechanics and experience.
I think it took me roughly about 20 more hours to get it done, but before laying out the design on the computer, I did a lot of thumbs and pre-sketches. I also took some time to digest as much information about the game’s rules and to visualize how it was going to be played on the table.
“In my view, more board game artwork should try to cater to new gamers, but I think there’s already a lot of artwork like that, like Dixit which is my favourite one I bring to the table for beginners.
“The artist whose style I admire the most is Peter Dennis and Paul Kidby. I love their work on the board games Discworld: Ankh-Morpork and The Witches. I love illustrated artworks like that.
“My favourite colour is red and my second favourite colour is black, which a lot of artists would argue is not technically a colour.
“What very few people know about me is that I really enjoy being able to collaborate with other creatives out there. I’m so passionate about art and gaming and it’s so much fun to bring projects to life with what I love doing.
“If you wanted to become a board game artist yourself, I would tell you to do a lot of research and learn as much as you can from other pros out there. Ask a lot of questions and always be ready to learn.
“If you want to get in touch you can hit me up on Twitter @jezraka.
“Thank you, Oliver. I’m very honoured that you reached out to me. Thank you very much for having me here and I hope this will help other aspiring board game artists out there.”