Interview with Penciljack

INTRO

TibiaFanart.com has had the pleasure of interviewing Jan Pedrojetta (also known as Penciljack) – a Senior Artist from the CipSoft GmbH. We had the opportunity to talk about his job duties, hobbies, drawing, and, of course, fanart! If you are curious about the beginning of his career, what his profession is like, what he thinks of tibia fanart, and what he likes best about his own and other people’s artworks, then we invite you to read on!


Makadamia: First of all, we would like to thank you so much for taking your time to talk to us! An idea for such interview came along with the creation of this website, so it makes us very excited for this special opportunity. Our visitors and ourselves will surely be very interested in reading!

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Who is Jan Pedrojetta?

Jan: What a question to start, who is this dude… I feel like I’m on the couch πŸ™‚ Okay, let’s see. I was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland. I love drawing, games, comics, basketball and I LOVE dogs! My favourite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski, so asking who this “dude” is, is actually quite fitting πŸ™‚ My musical taste gravitated more to Rock and Metal in the last 15 years or so, but I still also love funk, some 90ies hip hop. I guess the only thing that does not work for me is techno. πŸ™‚

And how did your career as a graphic artist begin? When did you start drawing? How did you end up at CipSoft and what is your role in the company?

Jan: This will be “a little” cliche, but it’s true: I always loved to draw and the affinity for comics, games or movies that I mentioned earlier always inspired me to draw. But when I was in school (I finished “Gymnasium” – that’s what an academic Highschool is called in German – in the mid to late 90ies!, yup THAT long ago :)), there was no clear cut blueprint on how to get into this field, especially at that time in Switzerland. So it took a while for me to actually consider drawing or the creative fields as a career and take it all seriously. The common advice of “study and do something REAL first!” sounded reasonable. This lead to some uninspired and unhappy forays into studying English to become a teacher. During that time I met the owner of a small graphic design studio in Basel who offered me an unpaid internship. I went for it and at the same time, I also prepared for the entry exam of the School of Design in Basel where I eventually managed to get accepted. After a year at that school, I then went to England to study Visual Communication with an emphasis on Illustration. After that, in the early 2000s, there was still no clear pathway into games or on how to make a living with art, but sites like conceptart.org and other forums started popping up, artists showed their work and shared their process, which was an exciting time. The actual learning started there really. For a fragment of the money compared to art school you could learn so much indepenently from real pros, it was crazy. Compared to now, with the amount of information and accessability to tutorials or online education, it was still a lot less. But there was a lot going on and it was relevant to what I wanted, so I gladly soaked it all in and that’s when I really started to improve. In 2004 I saw a job offer online by a company called… CipSoft? They looked for a 2D artist for a game that looked very old school back then already! But it reminded me of one of my favourite games from my youth: Ultima. Ultima 4 is actually the first physical game I ever owned. My big brother gifted it to me. It came in a box with a beautiful manual, a spellbook, a stone, an ankh AND a cloth map! I played 4, 6 and 7. The job offer was of course for Tibia. Through Ultima I felt a connection, so I applied, got the job, and here we are in 2022, still making updates for Tibia. That’s quite insane! πŸ™‚

What does your daily routine look like when working for CipSoft. Does a Graphic Artist face a routine at all? Or does each day look different?

Jan: I am working from home most of the time nowadays (even since before Covid), but I visit the office in regular intervals. The most “routine” aspect of a typical workday is that we have daily meetings via video call, in which we talk about and screen-share what we are working on. We give each other feedback this way or through our channels and chat tools.

What inspires you to create for Tibia?

Jan: Fantasy, along with Sci-Fi, SteamPunk or PostApocalyptic are my favourite settings. In Tibia we have a fantasy world in which almost everything is possible, so creating for it offers such a huge range of things to explore. Even if there are tropes that are repeated in all of these settings, it is fun for me to come up with the familiar but with a twist. Inspiration for it comes from history, other cultures, nature and of course other games, comics and movies too.

Tibia is a game with 2D graphics, which is distinguished by many colorful lands with very diverse character. On one hand we have deserts, on the other jungles, there are underwater hunting grounds, there are other dimensions, lands partly associated with different ancient cultures (seeing Zao it is impossible not to notice the influence of ancient Asia), or pop culture (steampunk Rathleton). How does the cooperation between the graphics department and the game content designers look like? Who is responsible for the character and appearance of the places in Tibia?

Jan: It is a back and forth between the content team and our graphics team. The initial ideas for an area, what biome it should have and what creatures therefore populate it, usually come from the content team. It is our job to develop the look and come up with the designs for the environment graphics, the creatures and all the rest. We have a lot of room for input though, which makes the process very fun and rewarding.

Is there a city or land in Tibia that you particularly like because of its character, or interesting graphics?

Jan: I do not really have a clear favourite. I love some of the landmark spots we have. The Planestrider that my colleague Lyxoph made, for example, is one of my faves. Concerning my own work, I am quite happy with the big naga statue from the last update.

Among other things, players know you from colorful graphics used as client background or website header. What is the process of creating such a drawing? How long does it take you to create such illustrations? What software do you use?

Jan: The content of the illustrations is update related, so we usually come up with a few thumbnail sketches that we share with the Content Team and Product Management for feedback. We choose one and take that from sketch to full illustration. Nowadays, we have about 2-3 working weeks for the big illustrations. This is also a good time to shout out my colleague Johannes, who did the last client artwork with the nagas. I think he knocked it out of the park! πŸ™‚ – I took on more of an art directing role here. My preferred software for drawing and illustration is Clipstudio Paint. The painting tools and brushes are fantastic, I have switched from photoshop a long time ago and haven’t looked back. But in the end, it’s a thing of preference. You can do amazing full illustrations in Procreate, Krita or Photoshop, or any other painting program.

Client Background – Summer Update 2022 made by Johannes Meyer

You have been working for CipSoft for many years. Over that time you have created a lot of illustrations of those larger, more complex ones, as well as single characters, creatures, mounts. Which one do you like the most and why?

Jan: From the larger illustrations, the Tentugly Bossfight is one I still like a lot. The 25 years anniversary illustration was special, because it marked such a milestone and I liked the idea of having some classic outfits holding up the “client boy” outfit, which was meant as a nod to the beginnings of Tibia. Speaking of outfits, I like the classic female druid with the wolf cap the most. I made a lot of monsters over the years, I’ll say the yeti is still one of my faves, because it was also part of my art test when I applied in 2004. From the more recent ones, I’ll go with Thanatursus, simply because it is a bit crazy. My fave mount is the Boreal Owl.

“Tentugly Bossfight” – one of Jan’s favourite works among those of his authorship.

You also do pixel art! What does it look like to design such item? Is an ordinary MS Paint enough, or is special software necessary? How long does it take to make a single sprite? Is there anything you would recommend to beginners from a professional’s perspective?

Jan: I mostly use Photoshop with an Intuos Tablet and sometimes simply the mouse for pixeling. The time to create a sprite can vary heavily. A really simple item without an animation can be done in half an hour. If it gets more complex, it can take several hours and including animations it could be a day or even more. If you’re starting out, spend some time looking at tutorials. There are so many absolutely great pixel artists out there that have youtube channels with free stuff. I think one of the best tutorials I’ve seen is by Michael Azzi, called “Pixel Logic – A guide to pixel art”. It covers the basics and much more. He’s got a site called pixellogicbook.com and a gumroad where you can get a pdf. I have no affiliation at all, it’s just really good and I recommend it. πŸ™‚

Are there sprites designed by you that you have a special fondness for, that you like the most? If so, which ones and why?

Jan: I covered some of them before. Two more that come to mind are house decoration sprites with animation: First is the Bonelord that does calculus and summons a skeleton and second, the little basketball playing Demon. It was fun to sneak my love for basketball into Tibia. πŸ™‚

Players participating in fansite item contests have a chance to bring their own designs to the game. What do you think about such competitions? Among the items that have been designed by players and implemented into the game, do you have any that you particularly like?

Jan: I like these competitions. It’s always hard to choose, because there are many great and deserving entries. If I had to single out a few from your list, I’d say the Draptor Doll, the Bonelord Tome and the Citizen Doll are fun. I also appreciate some that are not animated like the Heavily Bound Book.

Creating TibiaFanart.com, we were surprised at how many talented and creative players are among us. We gathered a lot of fanarts, made for fun, or such prepared as entries for a contest organized by one of the fansites. What do you think of these artworks? Do you have your favorite creators among Tibia players? Is there any fanart created by a player that you particularly liked?

Jan: The quality of work, both in pixel art or illustration is often excellent, even professional in some cases. Having a game you love and it being the driving source to create is exactly what inspired and still inspires me to draw also. So if you’re just beginning and Tibia gets you to draw or pixel, I love that! I can’t really single out someone, but regardless of the level, seeing people inspired to make art based on Tibia is so awesome.

Probably every artist is more or less satisfied with his own projects. There are also those that he would most like to forget, or that if he could – he would correct as soon as possible. Are there drawings or sprites that you are not satisfied with?

Jan: Oh, too many to mention! πŸ™‚ My early pixel work and also the paintings were definitely not great. It was just that my “craftsmanship” was not where it is now, therefore I also see the mistakes much more clearly than when I started. But I see it all as part of the journey. The beautiful thing about this job is, whether it’s with drawing, painting or pixeling: with practice and dedication you can get better no matter what stage you are personally at. The leaps you will take are certainly bigger in your early years, but I think even later on, if you hone your craft, you will get better. A fun thing that I also saw several artists do on social media, is redraw old work a few years later. I can see myself doing that also at some point.

You are active in social media. On your profile on Instagram you sometimes invite the Tibian community to join in the fun and create beautiful illustrations based on their ideas. Are there any plans on CipSoft’s part for similar involvement of players, in creating ideas for graphics, sprites, etc., to make players feel that their ideas have been implemented into their favorite game?

The illustration, which is the result of one of the Instagram games organized by Jan: players were to submit their ideas for actions, equipment, mounts, and Jan created a drawing from these ideas.

Jan: We already receive ideas sometimes that have been collected from the community by the community management. We sometimes even get tasks then that are really specific. Most ideas are created between the content and the graphics department, however. There are really no plans to change that process. About the black sheep illustration, I’m glad you liked that! It was a something I initiated for fun in my own time. While it could be a fun task, for Tibia there are no plans create illustrations based on player briefings, for example.

Timelapse drawing.

Over the past few years, you could observe a new trend in Tibia. House decorations! Players decorate their houses with furniture, create jungles, themed decorations, and complicated stacks of various items. This has not escaped the attention of CipSoft, they began to introduce more and more new decorations available in the Tibia Store. What do you think about it?

Jan: I don’t play Tibia much myself because I am actually not an MMORPG player. I prefer single-player games. But when I do log in, I enjoy walking by houses and checking out people’s decorations. So I think it’s great. The creativity in which players combine stuff is fun to see.

Are you currently working on something interesting, related to Tibia, and could you reveal a bit of a secret?

Jan: At work, we are busy with the next update! I’m afraid, I can’t reveal anything about that. For my private Instagram, I have nothing Tibia related in mind right now. I am super spontaneous with that, and my activity also REALLY fluctuates.

During the 15th and 20th anniversaries of Tibia in the game, players had the opportunity to face “Penciljack” in person just outside the castle on Vengoth. His muses were vampires! Where did this idea come from? Was the appearance of these monsters, the place where they spawn, imposed on you in advance, or was it your initiative?

Jan: If I remember correctly, we could choose where and what we wanted to be. You already know I love dogs… I also love wolves and werewolves. So I went with that. There’s also a special tension and relationship between vampires and werewolves, so it made sense to me that as an artist-werewolf, my muses had to be vampire ladies. I communicated these broad ideas to the content team and they implemented it. One specific thing that I’m not sure right now whether this even made it into the game, is me wanting one of the monster barks of the muses to be “I hope he gets the eyes right” (or sth similar). Especially early on I struggled with drawing eyes, so I imagined doing a life drawing of a muse, it’s going well but then you mess up the eyes – damn… πŸ™‚

Our friends at TibiaSecrets.com have also joined the questions and are curious if you have sneaked any hidden messages, easter eggs or allusions into any of your artworks?

Jan: Yes. I enjoy doing that. I will give one example for which I’ll go back to the 25 years artwork again: there is an old “bug” chasing a new “bug” in there in the background. This is a nod to the old times. There is actually more, but a bit of mystery is always a good thing. πŸ˜‰

“25 Years of Tibia” – one of Jan’s favourite works among those of his authorship.
Also, TibiaGoals.com has joined the questions! The team of this site is curious to know if you had any goals in your career that you achieved and if you have such goals now?

Jan: My goal was simply to be able to make a living as an illustrator or game artist. No one from my immediate surroundings thought this was possible or knew how to go about that back then. That path is still not conventional now, but it was even less clear then. I am so glad, happy, and grateful I was able to achieve that. My career goals now remain the same. I want to be able to make art for a living. The context may always shift slightly, but I love what I do. One big thing to keep in mind, though, is having time for personal work. No matter what job you have, making room for doing personal work, art you simply want to create, is so important.

Client Background – Summer Update 2020

TibiaFanart.com is no stranger to you and you are quite up to date with the content we publish. Finally, let’s have some fun with a role reversal: Do you have any questions for me? Maybe you have some suggestions for the fansite?

Jan: I do follow your content, yes πŸ™‚ I enjoy fanart a lot and I like that you display entry-level artists as well as professionals. I’m just curious what further art there will be published on TibiaFanart. Maybe you could share an article at one point concerning the struggles you have as an admin deciding what art you will publish and how you then actually do decide. I’ll definitely keep on following you.

Makadamia: Yes, from the beginning I wanted to present the work of both professionals and hobbyists or beginners. Partly because I am an amateur myself. It’s hard for me to set any boundaries for others. That’s not my job. On the other hand, all these colorful colorful artworks bring a smile to my face regardless of their level of professionalism, and that’s what it’s all about!
The topic suggestion for the article is very interesting! Although TibiaFanart.com has internal rules and regulations for publishing artwork, there is no way to avoid some selections when updating the main gallery. One of my guidelines is to select works so that, from the point of view of the whole update, they are quite diverse: I never insert 20 digital drawings – I try to mix them with contests works, crafting, pixel art, hand-drawing, add something more professional, less professional. It’s all about variety! But this is only a small fraction of this broad topic.

Do you have any other hobbies besides drawing in the broadest sense? Any other form of art? Sculpture? Or maybe something completely unrelated to art?

Jan: I sculpt in Zbrush sometimes as well. But 3D and sculpting is all part of the art side of life to me, so other than that: I love basketball. I played at a competitive level when I was younger and I still play regularly today. Also, there’s my dog and of course, I’m very much a gamer!

Thank you again for granting us this interview, we wish you all the best and endless inspiration to create beautiful things!

Jan: Thanks for your interest, great job with the site! To all the Tibia Fanart creators: Keep drawing and creating!


Thank you, for reading our interview! I hope you found it interesting and who knows, maybe it inspired you in some way.

Fancy more Tibia Fanart?

If you like the illustrations here, be sure to visit Penciljack on his social media and website!

Instagram:
@janpedrojetta

DeviantArt:
jpedro

ArtStation:
jaydoodles


prepared by:
Makadamia

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