I’ve been a big fan of artist Craig Bruyn ever since he collaborated with Ryan K. Lindsay on the comic book one-shot Ink Island. To my knowledge, he hasn’t made any comics since drawing Ink Island and completing his webcomic Bark n Bone, which we discussed in our previous interview.
However, Bruyn has kept busy by illustrating his video game adventures and sharing them on Twitter and Instagram. He even created a dedicated Instagram account to document his Fallout adventure and artwork. The drawings are a lot of fun and I looked forward to talking to Craig about what they add to his experience playing through big RPGs.
This interview was edited for clarity.
What made you start chronicling your playthroughs with fan art?
I tend to play games with deep narratives. They’re kind of modern-day renditions of ‘choose your own adventure’ novels.
The story and world draw me to games. They also draw me to making art. Whether I’m creating a one-panel gag sketch or full-on comic, my art is inspired by a desire to tell some kind of story or capture a special moment.
How does drawing add to your enjoyment of playing through video games?
That’s a really interesting question… I can’t be one hundred percent sure what the reason is, but I think it comes back to showing my love for the source material. A great game asks you to invest something of yourself into it and help add to its story. I know if I’m drawing a cartoony or parody piece of a game then I must really be invested it. I guess drawing fan art extends my connection to the game world and its narrative.
What grabs you about Fallout, in particular?
The world and the pace of Fallout are big for me. You could argue there is something depressing about the setting, but I find there to be something relaxing about the slow pacing of the narrative and the ability to explore at your own leisure.
It’s weird to say about a game set after an apocalypse, but the quiet moments really heighten the experience for me.
I love games that have a very strong sense of world like Fallout, Bioshock, Elder Scrolls, Dishonored, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption, etc.
Most of your fan art is comedic. What draws you towards humor when you’re playing through largely serious games?
I don’t know why, but I always tend to gravitate toward humour. Its a mechanism I tend to employ outside of games as well. I like that, by putting on a humorous spin, you’re adding something new to the mix.
What has been the response been like to your fan art on social media?
That is always a mixed bag, I think. Social media can be a bit like that. Lots of people enjoy it, some hate it. Some don’t like the games I do fan art of, some don’t like my sense of humour. I know that some of my fan art has really resonated. For some reason, Witcher fans really enjoyed my bizarre sense of humour.
I’ve received mixed reactions to my fan art for other franchises, but hey that’s social media in a nutshell. I think if you’re doing it because you enjoy something it’s not as important as the reaction to it.
If the developers see my fan art, I hope they enjoy it and see it as my way of saying thanks for making such an amazing game.
Do you have plans to compile the drawings and sell them, or are you pretty limited with what you can do with them due to copyright laws?
I try to make a point of not selling prints of licensed IPs. I know its a bit of a gray area in that regard, and I certainly don’t have any issue with people who do.
Generally, I might sell the original inked artwork piece but I tend to keep it at that. The fan art is more about having fun with drawing and sharing my warped sense of humor with any who might enjoy it, free of charge on social media.
Are there any upcoming video games you’re looking forward to playing (and drawing?)
I’m literally drooling in anticipation for Cyberpunk 2077. I love CD Projekt Red and have been a fan of anything cyberpunk for many years.
I think in the interim, Elder Scrolls Online seems destined to hold my addiction for a long time, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Wastelanders update brings to Fallout 76. Apart from that, there’s rumour of a new Bioshock game in development so I’ll happily wait till that one drops in a few years!
Does drawing fan art give you ideas for original stories?
Totally. And not necessarily in the most direct means either. Constantly drawing and immersing yourself in these narratives seems to stimulate creativity. You might make a character in an online game that makes you think up a back story, which in turn triggers some idea. Playing a certain genre might also inspire you to do something in that category. Or it might just be as simple as drawing these pieces all the time keeps you inspired and the desire to create comes from that.
Has making fan art showed you how comparatively difficult it is to draw attention towards creator-owned projects?
Yes and no. Fan art might receive more ‘likes’ on social media, but those figures rarely mean what people think they do. Someone might like one of my Witcher drawings because of the show, the video game or anything Witcher related… it doesn’t always mean they love my art. Sure, more people will find your work because of fan art but placing too much equity in that can be a mistake.
Creator-owned projects though… yep, they will always be an incredibly hard slog. They meet with failure much more often than with success. If any of us are doing creator-owned projects for financial gain then most of us will end up disappointed. I’ve toyed around with different mediums over the years to see how this works, and I’m pretty sure I could live to 200 and still not know the best method for gaining an audience.
I will say this, though. If it’s your own project then I’d say the target should be engagement rather than hard numbers. I think social media has fooled us a little into believing that ‘likes’ mean something, but genuine engagement… that is something sincere.
What have you learned from the months you’ve spent making fan art alongside your video game adventures?
Simply put… games are fun… drawing is fun. Between the two they’re an awesome mix. I feel very privileged to be able to play so many of the amazing games developers make for fans and I look forward to playing (and making fan art) of many more to come.
Follow Craig Bruyn on Twitter @CraigBruyn and Instagram craig_bruyn to view a steady stream of drawings from the artist, video game-related and otherwise. You can also support his work by buying one of his sketchbooks or original art on Big Cartel.
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with creators or players in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at [email protected].