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.
Hello, Francesca, and welcome to the site. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us something of your history with gaming?
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.
What was it that got you into illustration?
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.
Who’s work inspires you the most?
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.
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?
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.
Image used with permission
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?
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!
Your other work encompasses covers for most things; books, CDs and Videogames. What’s your favourite media to work on?
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.
Do you have a preferred genre? What do you like illustrating the most?
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.
What was the longest, most intricate project you’ve ever worked on? How do you plan your projects?
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.
What’s your favourite piece of personal work?
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!
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Certainly more maps! But also Character Sheets, Covers, Boards,...whenever a project represents a good challenge, I'm ready.
Image used with permission