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Francesca Baerald Interview
Freelance Artist and Cartographer Francesca Baerald has a professional background working on published Games, Book Covers, CD Covers, Videogames, Maps, RPGs , Trading Card Games and Children’s Illustrations.
I first heard of Francesca when I came across a glorious map she created for Game of Thrones. I wanted to learn more about her talent so I got in touch and, happily, she agreed to answer a few questions.
Jonathan Hicks: Hello, Francesca, and welcome to the site. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us something of your history with gaming?
Francesca Baerald: Hello Jonathan and thank you very much for this interview. I’m a freelance artist that has recently discovered to be also a cartographer. My love for gaming started when I was 16 and Diablo had just been published. I still remember filling Tristram with piles of gold and trying to kill the Butcher by shooting arrows from behind a window with bars. From that moment on I have discovered the existence of RPGs, boardgames and other videogames and never stopped playing.
JH: What was it that got you into illustration?
FB: Games for sure. I loved to draw dungeon maps during lessons at school. But also looking at some beautiful CD covers inspired me to start drawing. I have always loved music and learnt to play quite a few instruments along the years. Black and death metal bands have always had the most interesting covers and I enjoyed trying to draw my own covers in my spare time.
JH: Who’s work inspires you the most?
FB: This is a hard question. I’m not influenced and inspired by only one artist. I have an ever growing big library full of artbooks and comics of every kind that I love to browse searching for inspiration. If I have to list a couple of names I would say Brom and Beksinski.
JH: I first became aware of your work via your maps; they’re wonderful illustrations that belong in frames on walls. What’s the attraction to creating these, and what kind of work goes into them?
FB: Thank you for your kind words. I have a passion for details and maps are so full of them! I like to think that when I’m creating a map I’m also giving life to an actual world and each one is very different from the other. So every map has its own personality.
I don’t like to call it ‘work’ but I must admit that there’s a lot of effort behind every map. From the hours spent inking them to the time required to create a good balanced composition. It takes me from two to four weeks to complete a map and I treasure every moment of this process. I know the passion and dedication that my clients put into creating their fictional worlds and I want to dedicate them the best work that I can.
JH: Your RPG work includes art for the big names; Fantasy Flight Games, Paizo and Modiphius, to name just three. How do you approach projects for such huge publishers?
FB: Each project for me is important but I must admit that working for such great companies always makes me a bit nervous and shaky. However fear is the engine that drives me to do better and improve myself, also… I like challenges!
JH: Your other work encompasses covers for most things; books, CDs and Videogames. What’s your favourite media to work on?
FB: A part from inks and watercolours, my favourite media is oil on wooden board. It’s a time-consuming technique so it’s not often my first work choice for economical and time reasons. That’s why I usually choose acrylics for my covers. Anyway I always exult when a good oil painting commission comes in.
JH: Do you have a preferred genre? What do you like illustrating the most?
FB: I’m a female artist so people often assume that I’m good at painting romantic stuff. The truth is that I love intense scenes, dark settings, heroic situations and warriors/knights/barbarians. When some freedom is given to me I usually tend to paint strong characters with interesting background images.
JH: What was the longest, most intricate project you’ve ever worked on? How do you plan your projects?
FB: Actually I’m still working on the most intricate project, for Square Enix. It’s the in-game map for Project Octopath Traveller videogame. I don’t like to give space to chance so first of all I plan every step of my work process very thoroughly. Deadlines must be respected and I always make sure that my client is kept updated on the work in progress.
JH: What’s your favourite piece of personal work?
FB: You probably know that every time an artist completes an illustration he’s never happy with it, right? There’s always space for improvement so I really can’t say which one is my favourite piece of personal work. From an emotional point of view I’m attached to every single piece of work I have done. From a critique point of view there’s still so much work to do!
JH: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
FB: Certainly more maps! But also Character Sheets, Covers, Boards,…whenever a project represents a good challenge, I’m ready.