Time to Meet Jaw-Dropping Artist Eli Maffei!

Gotta’ love our STA artists. This month I got to interview fellow SF Bay Area resident Eli Maffei! He has a lot of amazing work under his belt. But, of course, I’ll be focusing on his work for STA!

How did you get involved with doing the artwork for the Star Trek Adventures game?

Hi, first let me thank you for reaching out to do an interview with me, this is fun! I got involved with the Star Trek Adventures game back in 2017 when I was living in the UK. I had a friend who is a writer for Modiphius and he asked me if I was available to do work with them and it seemed like a great fit. At first I came on semi-fulltime, but I eventually moved back to the United States for family troubles (it’s all better now), and moved into freelancing with Modiphius. I think one of the first assignments that they had me tackle was a Star Trek piece, among other things.

Sorry to hear about the family troubles. Hope all is well now. Thank goodness you have some creative projects to dive into, right? How much creative freedom were you given when you were commissioned to work on the project? Was there an already established storyline involved?

Modiphius is a great company to work for. They usually have the story fleshed out before they reach out to the artists and we get a nice brief with references and notes from the art director.

As far as creative freedom is concerned, I feel like I get a fair amount of freedom to come up with the composition and color palette, but it’s really nice to have that guidance up front because it makes it easier to illustrate and not have to focus on concept design.

Maybe I’m getting a tad too nerdy here, but art is series of simple tasks which become difficult to manage in concert with each other. Therefore it’s really handy to break it into phases. If I were designing something for a client and had the ultimate creative freedom, or “blue-sky” freedom, I’d likely start with a concept design phase and see if I can nail down the elements first before I ever tried to put everything together in an illustration.

I’m pointing that out because it may help readers understand that too much creative freedom in a project can be overwhelming and I find that Modiphius provides the perfect amount of guidance without micro-managing the project.

What was your favorite part of doing the concept art for Star Trek Adventures?

My favorite part of doing illustrations for Star Trek Adventures is working on a story/ universe that I’m completely in love with. I’m a big Star Trek fan and have been since I was very little. I remember being in middle school when Star Trek TNG game out and I don’t think I’ve ever been more pumped up about a show. Thinking about it just now brings up a lot of nostalgia. 

Eli did this historic cover!!!

When did your passion for art first develop?

I started drawing as early as I can remember. My father is pretty awesome and when I was little he’d always surprise me on Saturdays with some donuts and comic books or he’d make pancakes and give me some comics. He collected comics when he was younger and he really loved Mad Magazine and so I picked all of it up from him.

From a very early age I was reading X-Men, Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes, etc. I remember always trying to draw my favorite characters: Colossus, Rogue, Wolverine, Yusagi Yojimbo, the Ninja turtles, etc. When I was a kid I emptied my closet and put a desk and lamp in there and would close the door and draw for hours. I took it very seriously for many years.

Tell us more about your exposure to Star Trek.

As I mentioned, my dad is a big inspiration to me, and he’s literally the most intelligent/ curious person I’ve ever known. When I was very little, we used to roll the TV to the table during dinner-time so my dad could watch the original Star Trek. As you know there weren’t many episodes in total so it became sort of a joke when an episode would come on and we’d all wait to see if my dad would say “oh I’ve seen this one” or “I’ve never seen this one”. The joke was that any time he said “I’ve never seen this one”, within minutes he’d say “oh, nope, I’ve seen it”, but we’d watch it anyway. 

I guess you could say I was watching Star Trek since I was in diapers. Of course, there was Star Trek the Motion picture which still blows my mind to this day. And who could forget Wrath of Khan (My personal favorite Star Trek movie of all).

As I mentioned above, I was an early teenager when Star trek TNG was announced and I don’t think anything excited me more. Since those days, I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek available and my personal favorite series is Star Trek Voyager.

Me too! Always nice to meet another die-hard Voyager fan! What advice do you have for any artists looking to get into publishing work with role-playing games?

Oh man, I guess I’d say that you gotta love it. You need to spend a lot of hours honing your craft and accepting a lot of feedback/ making changes. If you don’t love what you do, creating art for others could be difficult. I couldn’t do it if I didn’t truly love what I do.

I’d also say that it’s important to practice a lot and get as good as you can before working for clients. The reason is that a lot of role-playing client work is not hourly and therefore your “time is money”. Imagine you do something for 800 bucks, but you spend 80 hours on it. Well, now you’ve effectively made 10 dollars an hour, or less than minimum wage. The better you are, the less you’ll struggle with designs and the less feedback you’ll have to address and therefore the more money you’ll make. 

Another important thing to consider is that this is a very small industry with a long memory. If you commit to something: do a good job, have integrity, and you’ll start to have people calling you for jobs when word gets out that you’re a reliable professional.

The final bit of advice would be to negotiate a livable wage with each client. Estimate as accurately as you can how long it’s going to take you and take that into consideration when bidding for a job. Learn to say “no” when it’s just not going to pay the bills. Remember, this is a business and it’s not all just eating crayons and getting paid.

Art from The Klingon Empire Core Rulebook

Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?

Oh dang, that’s a tough one. There are SO many cool characters…. uh, I’m gonna have to give it up to m’man James Tiberius Kirk. Close second would be Spock, then Janeway. But I always loved seeing things through Data’s eyes because he was learning what it was like to exist. For a similar reason I’ve always dug characters like Odo, 7 of 9, and more recently Saru.

What are we most likely going to find you doing if you aren’t working on  Star Trek Adventures?

Lately my main hobby has been making music and playing instruments. For me, there is nothing more cathartic after a long day than playing guitar or piano. I love to play drums and synthesizers as well. I feel like art and music go hand in hand and I can often apply what I’ve learned from one craft into the other. I’m also exercising a lot these days and have fallen in love with Jump rope. haha. You gotta keep the body going when you have a sit down job like I do.

Thanks again for the lovely chance to talk about myself and revisit some nostalgia. If anyone wants to ask me more questions, please feel free to email me at Screamingzen at gmail or check out my website EliMaffei.com.

Bye for now.

Ready to play Star Trek Adventures? Continuing Mission has done so much to support STA that Modiphius wants to give some love back, and so I’m very pleased to offer this discount code, CMISSION01, which is a 10% off coupon for the STA Starter Set, and usable on both the Modiphius UK site and the Modiphius US site.

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