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Scratchers & Critters

Updated: Sep 30, 2018

After a colleague shared some of my previous work on the Riddlewings project over social media, I was contacted by Christian Baars from the National Museum Wales, who expressed an interest in bringing me in as an illustrator for card game he was developing with his own team of volunteers.

The concept revolved around a selection of museum pests; any creature that can potentially cause damage to a museum collection. The game would pit these creatures against each other based on stats and ratings such as “Size”,Aesthetics” and an overall “Threat to Collection”. The intention was to create a fun family friendly activity that also raises awareness to the damage these creatures can do to museum collections, whilst also drawing attention to the conservation efforts that are needed in in order to keep them under control and exhibits protected.

As we began working, Christian focussed on game mechanics and tested those elements at his end while I started by initially researching and sourcing images of the Tortoise Shell butterfly to help us choose the best art style for the full set of images. After a few exchanges of ideas involving different art styles and layouts, we decided that the artwork should have a clean look with a minimal background that does not reach the border of the card. This would draw the viewer’s eye towards the creature as the focal point on each card while still being readable and clear at a glance. As a test piece I chose the Tortoiseshell butterfly to work on first.

The initial butterfly ink sketches.

Once a physical copy was complete I began the process of scanning and cleaning the image digitally. At the time I was unfamiliar with doing this while still preserving natural colours, so this meant I had to do some learning about colour correction, managing scanner settings and balancing the images to ensure they could keep the same vividness and high contrast that the original ink drawings had. I then experimented with different backgrounds and compositions on style sheets while corresponding with Christian throughout until we were both happy with the results.

Different design variations were tried during development

The final Tortoiseshell Butterfly

With the favoured Tortoiseshell design established, I could now move towards working on the rest of the 22 total creatures with a clear idea of the process I needed to repeat for each design. I would often work on up to three designs simultaneously to make sure that they continued to share the same traits that made sure the look and feel of each creature felt unified throughout the whole set.

The other illustrations were made to match

The illustrations are now fully complete while the mechanics of the game are still under development. The game is intended to become a resource that can be used by staff and volunteers during open days and other activities at The National Museum Wales.


Project Coordinator



National Museum Cardiff


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