Artist Spotlight: Artgame
Royce McClure sees art as a license for creativity and fun
In a world of competition and talk of economic woe, it’s often good to remember that life should not be taken too seriously. When Royce McClure started Artgame almost 20 years ago, he so named the company for that very reason – to remind people that art is just a game and, subsequently, art should be fun.
With a focus inspired by animals and marine subjects, McClure creates art with the bright colors and patterns of tropical fish and birds used in different ways. They are not just painted in their natural environment, but used as a pattern to explore color and texture.
From 3-D bookmarks and posters to the world’s largest puzzle, McClure has gone on to prove that art can be both fun and functional, and accessible to all.
McClure grew up with parents that were divers, as he is today, and he collected tropical fish from age 12. This started his lifelong fascination with the natural and marine world, and he briefly considered a career in marine biology and dabbled with marketing and advertising before becoming a professional artist at the age of 19.
He started his artistic career working in oils before moving to airbrushing in 1974. After moving to Los Angeles, where he lived for 13 years, he became a commercial illustrator focusing mainly on technical illustrating. But continued to paint marine subjects.
“Marine subjects were not a usual subject material for the time and it would be many years before this genre took off,” MClure said. “My time as a commercial illustrator taught me discipline of creating art for a job, along with developing the ability to have versatility in technique and style as an artist.”
It was during his time as a commercial illustrator that he started a poster company doing fine art posters, which became the beginning of Artgame Ltd.
Along with the posters, he started licensing his artwork, which was the main focus of the business for 18 years. McClure’s art has appeared on a wide variety of products, ranging from T-shirts to jigsaw puzzles to towels. There are an estimated 350 jigsaw puzzles that have been produced, all featuring McClure’s artwork, including the World’s Largest Puzzle, which has been featured in the Guinness book of world records.
“I had been licensing my art to Educa Borras and they approached my licensing manager Janet (who is also my wife) to do some 18,000 piece puzzles,” McClure said. “Janet told them that I wouldn’t be too interested in doing puzzles that size, but if they made the world’s largest puzzle, then I might be interested.”
So they went and designed the die-cut for a 24,000-piece puzzle and came back to him. Doing a puzzle that size is very challenging, as you can’t just blow up a picture without losing the quality of the piece. So the puzzle – LIFE: The Great Challenge -was recomposed out of many pieces of art that had been created over the years and positioned into the overall picture.
The puzzle comes in four packets, breaking the art up into four vertical sections that join together, and McClure said he tried to make each section different enough from the other sections so that you won’t feel that you are doing the same puzzle over and over.
“Nearly all the art that makes up ‘LIFE’ came from other paintings that I had already completed,” McClure said. “Over the years the original airbrushed acrylic works that I painted have been scanned and the various elements in them have been made into layers. These items can then be recomposed on a computer to create new compositions.
“Normally this is just so that artwork isn’t cropped in a clumsy way to fit a client’s needs,” he continued, “but recomposed to best fit a different sized product. In this case, however, the whole design was done this way. To do otherwise would have been impossible, as the final product here represents years of work.”
A New Dimension
After shifting back to New Zealand with his family, McClure continued to heavily attend licensing shows internationally, which he believes is a great way to keep in touch with your customer base and make new contacts.
The move into 3-D art came approximately eight years ago with an opportunity to do some 3-D cards with National Graphics Inc., a well regarded 3-D production company, followed by a series of 3-D jigsaw puzzles in conjunction with Hobbico. He immediately recognized the potential of this medium and its ability to give people a little bit of “magical” art.
“Because I’ve always created my art to match the product it’s being displayed on, this method has been continued into the 3-D products,” McClure said. “The art for 3-D is actually created within the 3-D space, so it is truly 3-D and has the depth that gives it its unique feel. So for a bookmark, for example, the size and space is taken into account in the design stage. However, the details are a trade secret.”
Artgame 3-D products are currently sold in gift stores, bookshops, stationers, aquariums, museums, zoos, etc., as the theme of the artwork naturally lends itself to being a gift item, especially in stores that are related to all things nature, like zoos.
“For me, the creative process has become a part of everyday life, it just happens naturally and consistently,” McClure said. “As we manufacture our own products, this gives the freedom to create art that we want and like. The main limiting factor is the inability to be able to produce all of the art conceived during the continuous creative process.”
For McClure, art is ultimately about communication, and he feels that his art is his contribution to the world, how he reaches out to people. The company is run from an artist’s viewpoint, and he feels the product has the ability to touch millions of people and impart a little piece of magic.
“I’ve followed the creative path that I chose and it has worked out very well for me,” McClure said. “My only pang of regret is over a few pieces of art that never quite made it into the mainstream art world and onto products. It’s a lot of hard work and effort where the potential of the artwork was never realized.”
McClure feels that although there are more people within it, there are more opportunities now for artists in the art world. There are far greater niches than before and the acceptability of genres is higher than it was. People’s expectation of art has changed over the years, and the evolution of technology, graphics and animation in places like the movies etc. has brought people to expect great things from art.
“Artists need not violate their integrity and copy other people to be successfully,” he said. “They must find their own voice and have faith that their art will appeal to people.”
And, of course, remember to have fun.
By Abby Heugel