If you’ve been following news of our forthcoming RPG for creative kids and their families—No Thank You, Evil!—you’ve probably noticed some of the incredible artwork our talented lead illustrators have been producing. (If you haven’t been following the news, you can read more about it in this blog post and at the NTYE web site! You might also follow NTYE on Facebook.)
When we started looking at lead artists for No Thank You, Evil! our preference was to offer the opportunity to someone we were already working with. We have such fantastic artists and it seemed like a great chance to work with them in a whole new capacity. Plus, we wanted a new aesthetic, something that was different from existing kids’ products, and we thought that asking our artists to stretch in new directions had the possibility to give us something unique and amazing.
We thought of Cathy Wilkins right away. Her art normally leans dark—she has a wonderful ability to portray the creepy, shadowy sides of things—but she’s also incredibly versatile. Everything we’ve ever asked of her she’s said yes and come through with beautiful pieces. She seemed like the perfect choice to create a world full of whimsy and delight that still had a bit of edge to it.
Michael Startzman’s first work for us was the size comparison chart he made for Numenera’s Ninth World Bestiary. Despite that, his work is full of childlike delight and wonder that kids really respond to, and he has a style that makes game elements like icons, maps, and character sheets shine. His light, whimsical work seemed like a perfect match for Cathy’s slightly darker style.
Together, the two of them are building this incredible world that really speaks to both kids and adults—and shows off the full range of No Thank You, Evil!
We Asked Them a Few Questions!
What’s been the best part about working on No Thank You, Evil!?
CW: One part has definitely been the subject matter—crazy critters, kids doing incredible things, fantastic and a little bizarre alien landscapes. I got to work boogers into a piece of art—the gross little girl in me loves that. The best job in the world is one where you can ask yourself “How can I make this boulder look like a giant boogie without being too obvious?” or “How do you hurl a frog from a sling shot without injuring the frog? Helmets!”
The best day ever was the morning I saw the play test pics come in…you could see how much fun those kids were having, playing something I was working on! That feels incredible and inspiring.
MS: It’s been a bit surreal and kind of like being back in college. We’re a small group of creatives from all over talking about monsters, playing games, sharing ideas and drinking lots of coffee to put in late nights and meet deadlines. Watching the MCG team take my illustrations and weave a whimsical narrative through each one has been especially rewarding. But the best part of working on NTYE has been hearing and seeing the kids get so excited as they create characters and play adventures. No Thank You, Evil! ignites imaginations while encouraging creativity and I love being a part of that.
What’s been the hardest or most surprising part of working on NTYE?
CW: The hardest and most surprising part for me is applying the brakes when I need to—I want to render everything to another degree of finish that’s too dark and scary for kids in these age groups. I’ve had to be reigned in a few times. I thought that would be a lot easier than it’s been and it hasn’t! Simpler isn’t always easier. This has also been the best part..I love a challenge!
MS: I draw and sketch a lot. When it comes to finished pieces I tend to agonize over every little detail: are these the right colors, is the drawing too bright too dark, are there better color combinations, is this line too thin and on and on it goes. Getting illustration after illustration to a point where I felt comfortable letting them go has been the most difficult part of the process for me.
What is one of your favorite pieces so far, and why?
CW: My favorite finished piece so far is the piece with the Prince with the Multi-loading Frog Sling. The itty bitty helmets (safety first, kids!) and the frog waiting patiently with his hand on his belly make me laugh. I also loved working on Dragon Snot Falls. Because boogies.
MS: My favorite illustration is of a fancy fly NPC who is contemplating the incalculable height of Look Out! Point. I enjoy drawing scenes that tell their own story, even if the viewer knows nothing about the character(s) involved. I love creating strange characters in wild landscapes and I was able to do both with this one piece.
How has it been working with the other artist?
CW: Working with Michael has been incredibly inspirational! I think he hits exactly the unique note the designers had in mind for this game—the perfect amount of fun, creepy & interesting without being terrifying to the younger audience. He takes the ordinary and makes ‘em extraordinary.
MS: Cathy Wilkins is so smart and clever and it shows in all of her art. I Internet stalked her work the minute I heard we were working together! Cathy’s NTYE pieces are vibrant and full of life, excitement, humor and attitude. She is immeasurably talented and her painting style is impeccable. Cathy’s work inspires me with each new piece and I look forward to seeing our work together in No Thank You, Evil!
Anything else you’d like to add?
CW: When I first considered illustration I’d thought it would be for kids but almost out of the gate it was vampires, demons and very dark subjects for a long time. Not that I minded—I love all things creepy—but it made for a dark portfolio so I was really surprised when Monte Cook Games and Shanna approached me to be a part of No Thank You, Evil!. I was going to ask why but I didn’t think I should look a gift horse in the mouth or jinx it! I’d been lucky enough to work on The Strange, introduced to it by my husband, Matt, who was the lead concept artist for it. I used to drool over his shoulder watching him work on these crazy pieces of art…everything he was doing was unlike anything I’d seen him work on before…even his enthusiasm was different. I had to be a part of that team!
MS: Since I began illustrating in earnest, my goal has been to tell compelling and inventive stories that encourage kids of all ages to use their imagination, draw without boundaries, play games and keep reading. Monte Cook Games has a history steeped in creativity and adventure, and it’s been a dream working with this inspiring team.
About the Artists
Cathy Wilkins has been working professionally for fifteen-plus years. Her work includes book covers, interior illustration as well as gaming art, concept design, and sculpture. In addition to her published art, her work can also be found in several of the Spectrum: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art annuals. You can see more of her work at www.cathywilkins.com.
Michael Startzman’s colorful drawings depict the odd and wonderful world of smoke sprites, space dragons and myriad other fantastical characters. His work celebrates and explores the unknown, featuring quests and stories mined from his rich childhood imagination. Michael’s fine art degree from Berea College and his background in printmaking informs his illustration style. He “carves” the shapes and characters from heavy black lines via a subtractive process and creates forms from solid shapes. Translucent colors fill the carved spaces adding depth and complexity to seemingly simple line art. Michael is inspired by classic children’s picture books and the graphic novels he reads aloud to his sons. You see more of his work at www.michaelstartzman.com.