Art, Ego, Identity

Pile of wooden 5 coins for the Puerto Rico board game
Against my introverted nature, I have been meeting a lot of new people over the past couple months. During introductions, often I will be asked “so what do you do?”, a question which, in buried parts of my brain becomes “what are you?

It is a question I don’t answer consistently. Even before such introductions, alone, I find myself holding mock interviews of this type, during which I practice replying “I’m an artist“. That’s what I want to say. That’s the vision of my life I hope to be leading. That’s what I’ve wanted to be since childhood. (ok, ok, one of the things I’ve wanted to be). Despite this silent practice, I struggle to tell people what I am.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. Spurred on by another, non-Boardcrafting art project, I have been mulling this question: can one represent the essential “I” to others? If so, how? What succeeds? What fails? Which truths are the strange, surprising truths worth making art about? Is it all just too terribly pretentious? Is it all just dancing about architecture?

That project wasn’t supposed to affect Boardcrafting, but art is life, and life is art, and effects ripple through.

I’ve also been thinking about ego and where it fits in. Art is creation and creation is born of ego. Art transitions from the zygote of mere notion, through to embryonic idea, to newborn art by a pathway of ego. Viability is judged by automatic, internal chemistry and the idea is either terminated while still in the mind or carried forward into the world. Ego is that chemistry, that judge.

Ego is a necessary player, but can hinder as well.


I’ve been working on a project for Puerto Rico. With this project, I intend to do the same thing I did with Catan – to re-imagine the components and the appearance. The problem is, it took me over a year to do the art and design for the Catan project (even with help). The prospect of that strains my patience and threatens my business (I had the safety of a full-time job while I was working on Catan).

So here I am, wanting to create the appearance of the Puerto Rico components, wanting to be someone who can credibly claim to be an artist, but facing the fact that stubbornly holding on to those wants will hurt me.

From my analysis, I’ve been led to a new perspective. I need to see my art not in terms of visual arrangements of lines and pixels, for, under an astringent, honest light, I don’t feel that is really my important contribution. My contribution is engineering a means to an experience. By detaching from some ego, I see that I don’t care about my signature on some austere museum piece. I want my creations to be used.

For the art I make with Boardcrafting to really live, it needs a participating audience. The art of Boardcrafting doesn’t happen until people get together around the artifacts. This is a collaboration where the players too are creators of art. Our contributions sum to an experience. This is play. This is togetherness.

Acknowledging the true art of Boardcrafting has helped me accept seeking help from others.

I have been seeing Ben Didier’s work for a while and never known it. I’m a big fan of CBC Radio 3. Its songs and personalities have been a connection to my previous home country. I have frequented the CBC website, which is often adorned with Ben’s typography and illustration. But it wasn’t until Ryan North tweeted about Ben’s Canadian Beer Band designs that I connected the images to the artist originating them.

Ben has been working with me on some designs for Puerto Rico. Above you can see tests for what will be a replacement for the “5” doubloon. It has me excited. For me, looking at these beautiful pieces is a reward that reinforces some ego-detachment and the expression of my identity in the truer art of Boardcrafting.

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