Capturing the Fantastic: Chat with Petri Hiltunen on illustrating Agemonia
Petri Hiltunen is a name known to most Finns who dabble with the fantastic. In Finland he has a cult following, and his strong artistic penmanship is very recognizable. His works in Finland include Praedor, a fantasy world he has created, which is now seeing a new edition 2.0. which comes out in December, to much rejoicing of Finnish fantasy buffs. His more known works include cartoons, especially that of the Finnish metal band Lordi and a longer series concerning the return of Finnish folk hero Väinämöinen, who makes a comeback to modern Finland. Fans of RPG’s might know the 80’s Chaosium classic “Stormbringer”, which also features his illustrations. He is also responsible for the Finnish Song of Ice and Fire book covers and the fantastic illustrations of the hardback editions. He’s also done work for all the classics; Conan, Elrick, Peter Pan, Tarzan… the list goes on. “I consider myself very lucky for all of them,” he says.
I’ve always been a big fan of Petri’s art, especially Praedor, so I was of course thrilled to find out he was working for Agemonia when I started. He has created a lot of stuff for Agemonia’s media and world building, including our golem mascot and the Agemonia Star Chart.
Sitting down for a remote meeting with Petri, we of course started by talking about his background in illustration. “Well I’m kind of a self-made man,” Petri started. “Yeah, back in the 80’s there was a single upper secondary school focused on art in Finland, up north in Savonlinna. I graduated and just well, started freelancing.” Working other jobs and finally moving to illustrating full-time in 1994, he has not looked back since.
“How did you end up in Agemonia, then?” I continued. “Well, I’ve actually known Max for ages,” Petri said. “We got to know each other back in 1999, in Mozambique of all places, where I was working on a project by Maailman Sarjakuvat Ry (Cartoons of the World association). We got to know each other with Max during the project of assisting local artists in creating cartoons revolving around themes such as women’s education and development.”
Agemonia has been around a long time, and Petri remembers it very well. “Yeah, I’ve seen most of it, how it has evolved, grown and finally come to this point where it is becoming a reality. I think it’s awesome, and you can truly see how big of a passion project this world truly is. I was afraid at one point several years ago that it would become an infinity project, but now things truly are rolling!”
A procession of priests from the Temple of the Fifth Eye.
When asked about his favorite aspect of the game project, Petri had an answer ready. “The Dark Bargain, definitely. I love how I can use my own style and ideas to work it.” The Dark Bargain is the ongoing community story, created by Agemonia’s narrative designer Mike Pohjola, following the exploits of titular hero Shantor Three-Birds. You can check it out on BoardGameGeek right here. Each week the readers can vote on a choice which directly affects the outcome of the story. The illustrations are all Petri’s handiwork.
“My only ‘fear’ is that people think that the choice really doesn’t matter, since the illustrations are so detailed, and they will think it’s a hoax! It most definitely isn’t, though, but rather an insane crunch. I think I got the result of last week’s choice on Tuesday, with a deadline to finish the illustration for Wednesday, 25 hours from the point where Mike contacted me. It was insane, but in a creative-awesome-way!”
When asked more on Agemonia and the board game scene Petri said that he isn’t a total boardgame nut himself, just a plain old geek, but he does play games. “Less than I’d want to, but that is probably due to the fact that we have less friends visiting the house now due to COVID than before.”
What makes Agemonia stand out amongst the genre, then? “Well it is a wonderful, passionate and unique project! I’ve never encountered the like, where there is so much history, so much material, so much worldbuilding already undertaken and such a complex world.” Petri thought for a moment before continuing.
“What I think is really fascinating, as an old fantasy buff, is that Agemonia lacks all the ‘cliches’ of fantasy. You cannot step into it and just lock all the old choices in, going ‘oh yeah these are dwarves, they are like X, these are elves who are Y’… all the peoples and species are totally unique, complex and wonderful!”
For him, this especially is what makes his work so enjoyable. Everything is so unique, new, and fresh. “Of course Max has very good ideas on concepts and there are other illustrators like Tomasz Jedruszek and his amazing work, but I’ve always found it especially titillating when I can design monsters, creatures or an environment according to broad strokes. It is both fun and challenging.”
When discussing games, Petri says he enjoys computer games. “I’m a bit of a late bloomer in that I started playing them in my 40’s, and I’ve most enjoyed open-world exploration games like Skyrim and Fallout games. As a history buff, I’ve also enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed -series.”
My next question was on what Petri is working on right now in Agemonia, of course expecting a follow-up on Dark Bargain. “Actually, not that,” Petri answered. “I got the last illustration done, and now I’m working on the story card illustrations for Tutorial Three, which is up and coming. This I’ve found especially awesome in that instead of Company A with Big Bucks buying an illustration, we actually had Max sit me and Mike down and play the tutorial as a starting point. I had very little experience of playing board games past the regular Finnish “classic ones”, and I was stressing beforehand on the rules and the complexity. But I was pleasantly surprised at how the mechanics were easy to absorb, the pieces were very clear and how the game simply swept you away, even when I’d not even played tutorial one. From there, it was easy to start visualizing and thinking on what the illustrations were going to be. It was very important to Max that we got to know hands-on what we were working on. I agree, it truly makes it a great project.”
When discussing favorites, Petri said he has a clear choice on that one. “Dark Bargain, definitely. Watching one hero on their journey, and being able to visualize it with illustrations, it truly is wonderful. I’ve done all kinds of stuff for the project like mentioned above, from colored coats of arms to story cards, but watching Shantor’s story unfold is interesting as hell.”
Petri continues to create the artwork for the upcoming tutorials and the game, and is anticipating the outcomes, twists and turns of Dark Bargain, and the choices Shantor will make.
Personally, discussing Agemonia and talking with one of my personal big illustrator superheroes, I too await things to come with anxious exhilaration anticipation. 😉
In the meanwhile, check out Dark Bargain, which is still ongoing!
-Ville-Eemeli, Agemonia Marketing Goblin and Content Creator
Shantor confronting Bule’sai battling against Aox demons in the underwater city of Sinkerton.