Babyjosus: First of all, thank you for taking the time to have this interview with me. I remember that you said to me that you were swamped up with work. Could you give some insight of what you have been working on?
Anna Podedworna: I always have a few projects going at the same time. Unfortunately, most of the stuff I work on has not been announced yet so I cannot talk about it. All I can say is that at the moment a solid chunk of my time is allocated to working on Magic the Gathering.
BJ: Has the situation regarding COVID-19 affected your work in any way?
AP: If anything, the COVID situation had a positive effect on my work. I have no complaints when it comes to working from home plus I’m a nocturnal creature by nature. My productivity has been through the roof in recent months.
BJ: Working from home has its advantages. I read that you studied architecture and engineering and while attending your university you did a ton of work as a freelancer. Mostly book covers, fashion designs, comic books, tattoos, and I believe an assortment of private commissions. Now you are involved in the video game industry through your work for Flying Wild Hog. And have been before, because of the work you did for CDPR for Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. How do you look back on your journey?
AP: Well if you put it like that, it almost sounds like my professional career was a continuous vortex of chaos. No solid plan, just dumb luck and me randomly smashing into opportunities with surprisingly great timing. Which is very true and makes for a fun journey. So, I would rate it a 10/10.
BJ: Your art in Gwent has gotten a lot of praise by the Gwent community and you even won the Into the Pixel award in 2018 for your art piece on Ida Emean. Do you have a personal favorite when it comes to card arts that you made for Gwent?
AP: My favorite card is the recently released “Squirrel”. It was the very last card I’ve illustrated for Gwent. It is also a card with a little bit of a back story. The first game director of Gwent had a very strong and mysterious dislike towards squirrels. Upon the discovery of that fact I made it my life goal to put as many squirrels into Gwent as possible. The first attempt of smuggling one into the game was the “Iorveth: Meditation” card. But of course, such a small squirrel would not suffice. Unfortunately, many more of my Gwent squirrelification attempts were tragically thwarted. Five game directors later, when I already knew I was leaving the company – it was now or never. I’ve illustrated the darn squirrel and left it for the game designers to figure out what to do with it. They did not disappoint. Now the Squirrel is in the game and it brings me a lot of joy.
BJ: Alongside your personal favorite. Is there a Gwent card you worked on that stands out to you, for a good or bad reason?
AP: I suppose “Damned Sorceress” was a bit of a pain in the ass to paint. That contorted arm gave me a lot of trouble.
BJ: She truly was a damned sorceress to draw then. What is the process when working on an art piece – where do you get your inspiration from for example?
AP: The process of creating illustrations for card games is pretty streamlined. I start with three different composition sketches. One gets picked by the art director. Then I paint it in a grayscale to ensure correct values. Later, I add color, sprinkle some more details and Photoshop magic and ta-dah: you get a finished illustration. As for the inspiration – I find it everywhere. Everything from day-to-day life, through people, movies, books, or games can be a source.
BJ: Was there a moment when it was very difficult for you to finish an art piece?
AP: Definitely. Sometimes, I don’t plan out the illustration well enough and end up paying for it close to the finish line.
BJ: So, what is the average duration you spend on an art piece such as a card art for Gwent?
AP: It used to take me around 40 hours to finish Gwent illustrations. Now I’ve managed to streamline the process better and cut the time down to closer to 25 hours.
BJ: That’s an insane amount of hours when you think about it. But, I suppose that’s why the quality of the card arts are so high. Aside of having worked on card art for Gwent, I was wondering if you have ever played the game yourself?
AP: I’ve tried to get into Gwent many times. Unfortunately, I’m absolutely HORRIBLE at it. In the early days of Gwent, we had a placeholder AI that randomly picked out and played cards. I was losing games against THAT. I’m literally worse than a random card generator. Much time has passed and I’m still garbage and resigned to remaining garbage at Gwent.
BJ: Going back to you, what would you like to work on some day – any project you have been dreaming of?
AP: I don’t really operate with any particular end goal or dream project in mind. I’m happy with my current projects and I’m sure at some point I’ll smash into something else that will make me happy too.
BJ: Fair enough. I saw that you have done a lot of artwork on your ArtStation – ever thought of publishing some of them in the format of an artbook?
AP: I was thinking about it for some time now. I would like to create more original, non-client work first though.
BJ: I would love to get a copy; in the meantime, I will keep an eye out for when you publish anything new. What is your advice to someone who does traditional art but would like to get into painting digitally?
AP: If you have a decent base knowledge of traditional media you’ll have no problem picking up digital art. It’s way easier, just grab the cheapest tablet and you’re good to go. Most software is pretty intuitive, plus all of the basics will be covered by free online tutorials.
BJ: We are nearing the end of the interview. Do you have any favorite artists that you would recommend to the reader to check out?
AP: It feels that I have a new favourite artist every day. Here are few artists definitely worth checking out: Andrey Surnov, Piotr Jabłoński, Johannes Voss, Simon Stålenhag, Kazuo Oga.
BJ: To finish the interview, just one more question. What is your last wish Anna?
AP: I wish for more squirrels in Gwent. Lorenzo, it’s up to you now.
BJ: I will make sure to send this article to him!
IF YOU WANT TO SEE MORE OF ANNA PODEDWORNA THEN YOU CAN FIND HER ON TWITTER, TUMBLR AND ARTSTATION.