Carmen Cornet is one of a new wave of artists responsible for bringing Vampire: the Eternal Struggle to life in its most recent sets. Her work has been featured in the game since 2014’s The Unaligned, and her style both pays homage to the game’s 25 years of history whilst bringing something new and deeply compelling.
B: Tell me a little about how you began your career as an artist. Did you formally study anywhere or are you self-taught?
C: I have always been self-taught, and I’m a big defender of that way to learn. I think that nowadays the best way to learn about digital art and illustration is to dig into the internet. You can find a lot of courses, resources and tutorials covering everything, from the very basics to the more complex techniques. In my case I always try to learn from the pros by studying their workflow and applying their tricks they show on their tutorials to my own work. I do not think that the current formal education is a good approach, since in my experience it is usually constrained to a single teacher and its personal technique. The world of concept art and illustration is now so dynamic and changing so fast, that one cannot afford to be outdated.
B: Any particular inspirations that you draw on?
C: It varies from time to time, but I usually find inspiration in other concept artists. At the moment, the ones that most inspire me belong to the wave of artists from East Europe, such as Piotr Jablonski or Sergey Kolesov, to mention a couple of them. I really like the dark mood of their illustrations, with defined shapes, desaturated colors and precise lightning work. They really know how to transmit that intriguing mood that makes you think that something weird is happening there. Their style is quite similar to Beksinski, whose illustrations have a dark tone very inspiring for the World of Darkness too, and so the artists I mentioned before.
B: From the moment you get the design brief, how do you approach composition? Do you find art to be something intuitive where the first idea is often the one that is delivered, or do you do multiple studies and iterate?
C: It depends on the nature of the work. My approach to freelance work, like the illustrations for V:TES, is very different from the kind of work that one can do in a concept art study. In a study you are constantly asked to make several iterations for anything, usually without enough time to polish any design. I love it, but that lack of control over your own work may end burning one out, and I cannot avoid that need of working on illustration again from time to time. So I find freelance work very refreshing.
Aaaand answering your question about V:TES, what matters most here: after the briefing, I spend some time thinking about the composition and the frame that I am looking for. Once I get a clear idea, I start with the first sketch, drawing the main composition and adding the elements I think that best suit the main idea of the character or the scene. Although some people tend to make several sketches and make the client choose the one he likes more, when it comes to a scene, I prefer to draw it directly. And once I am convinced by the result, I send it to Ginés.
B: Did you have any exposure to the World of Darkness or Vampire: the Eternal Struggle before taking on the art assignments?
C: Yes, I have been a huge fan of the tabletop RPG since the early 2000’s, long before I decided to make a living as an illustrator. I knew V:TES a few years after that, when it was still in torpor. The future was still fuzzy for both the RPG and card game, since the IP was held “captive” in the hands of CCP. A couple of years after I knew about V:TES, the V:EKN released their first pdf expansion set (Danse Macabre), and it was great to know that the game was still alive thanks to their community. So, given that drawing and the Vampire RPG were (and still are) two of my very favorite hobbies, I decided to send them my portfolio to collaborate. Unfortunately, I got rejected that first time, I was terrible back then xD
B: A number of artists who’ve done work for V:TES seem to specialise in either the crypt portraits or the library cards that tell more of a story and display the world of Vampire. Do you have a preference for one or the other, and are there particular challenges for one or the other? I ask this as you’ve done both – and they’re all so great!
C: I like both of them. IMO, crypt cards are way easier and faster to make (but always depends on how complex the artist wants to go). Library cards (frequently scenes) are more complex. They take more time since you need to have a much clearer idea of where each of the characters and elements should be placed. I find library cards way more challenging. I think that quitting sometimes the comfort zone (this usually means portraits) always helps to improve, and that’s why I always pick one of them besides portraits. I personally find both types of works very interesting, each on its own way, although for time issues I usually take (among the ones Ginés offer me) a ratio of two crypt cards per every library card.
B: You’re fast becoming one of my favourite artists for V:TES, and I’m sure for thousands of other players. Do you have any personal favourites of the pieces you’ve done for the game to date?
C: Thanks! If I had to choose one, my favorite is the new version of Enchant Kindred. I spent a lot of time with that one, especially because the main character is based in one of my favorite NPCs from a campaign I am currently playing (the briefing description was a perfect match for that character). And finding that I could draw one of “my” characters, instead some random woman with presence, is always a motivational push 😛
Regarding crypt cards, I really enjoyed making Kurshid and Castiel, especially the former. I think the sun mask on a warrior-corpse archetype makes the character unique and cool. But I found them both very refreshing.
B: Having been a fan of Vampire: the Masquerade and Vampire: the Eternal Struggle for so many years, do you have any favourite artists (from either game) who’ve inspired you along the way?
C: From the classic tabletop RPG, I would point out the 90’s works of Tim Bradstreet’s for being the most iconic illustrator of V:TM, and main inspiration for many WoD artists since then. I also really like the linework of Guy Davis, whose art is very expressive and capture the monstrosity of the kindred with mastery. From V:TES, my favorites are Marcus Vitel from E. M. Gist, and Constanza Vinti from Lawerence Snelly.
B: How do you find V:TES’ representation of Vampire and the World of Darkness more broadly? Do you like how the setting translates across to a card game, and is there anything about the Vampire RPG in particular that you would love to see (and illustrate!) in the card game?
C: I think that the game is in general well adapted to V:TES. Although I am not a huge fan of competitive card games, the dark mood of the illustrations and the complexity of the politics (like the deals, and how the relationships between players can change from round to round) was what hooked me in at the beginning. And I really enjoy that political aspect of the game, that part of V:TM is one of the best adapted to V:TES, in my opinion.
I like the game as it is, and I don’t have the impression that anything is missing for a card game. My favorite matches are those that in which everybody is trying to implement a more approach, storytelling what their vampires are doing and why, ignoring that the ones behind the scenes are the evil Methuselahs influencing their actions.