Artist Interview - Mayday Mayday


Staff member
Greetings fellow Travellers!

As we celebrate Mayday! Mayday!, we thought we would spotlight a crucial part of what makes the Traveller books so beloved, the amazing artwork that showcases and inspires the worlds, characters and systems we all love. we "virtually" sat down with two of our amazing artists, Mark Graham and Mykyta Vasilchuk to find out more about their influences, history and memories working on the Traveller series.

Q1 – A brief introduction on yourself, and your artistic background?

“Since I was a young lad, I can always remember having a passion for all things Sci-Fi, fascinated by the imagery that these genres conjure up along with the escapism they provided (Sifting through old “Magic the Gathering” cards and heavy metal album artwork springs to mind). This passion has never left me even in my adult life, my love for Sci-Fi movies, cinematic movie soundtracks, comics, games, and other artists in the industry continues to motivate me and my love for producing the ideas in my mind onto the canvas, making these fantasies a reality! It really is the best job in the world! I have been working in the illustration industry now for the last 4 years as a freelancer. Working on Traveller, I have developed my skills in Sci-Fi illustration significantly by learning to incorporate 3d techniques into my 2d workflow, which seems to work nicely when it comes to spaceship illustrations for example!"

Mykyta: "My relationship with art was a bit complex from my childhood. My parents noticed that I'm in love with painting and sent me to art school. It was evening school and there was no solid program, so we learned perspective today, and anatomy of the ear tomorrow, the next day was painting landscapes in colour with oil paints. It was just too much, and I thought that art was not for me. For a while I was sure I'm going to be an engineer and went to university to be an optical engineer. Rather soon I realised my passion for art did not go away and I bought my first graphical tablet. But still I was too afraid to go to art school, so I taught myself everything I know till today. Deep inside I still feel that I lack a lot of fundamentals, but I feel like my love for art drives me a lot more than academic knowledge ever would."

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[Left: M.Graham/Right: Mykyta]

Q2 – What is the best part of illustrating for Traveller?

"For starters working with such an amazing team at Mongoose Publishing on such a historical and influential sci-fi RPG like Traveller, with its rich lore, history and dedicated fanbase is truly an honour, but I also love the fact that I'm given the trust and freedom to interpret, in my own style, these classic traveller spaceship designs, reimagining them to a more modern audience while putting my own artistic spin on them. I love how all the different races in Traveller have their own tech, and illustrating each race poses its own challenges. Trying to stay true to each races culture and style (Droyne tech being a new favourite of mine to illustrate) while also getting to paint beautiful space scenes, with supernova and nebula, alongside epic space battles is like a dream come true for me!

Mykyta: Illustrating for Traveller for me is an opportunity to experiment and find new ways to convey non-existent worlds. It's an opportunity to create something new. I grew up as a huge fan of Star Wars and other iconic sci-fi universes. I found out about Traveller for myself rather late, so every time I get a new spec, I try to clear my head and approach every illustration and any visual creation as something that is nothing like I've seen anywhere. I think illustrating Traveller for me is a creativity gym!

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[Left: M.Graham/Right: Mykyta]

Q3 – Who are some of your artistic influences when creating Sci-Fi worlds?

"I would say first and foremost my very first influence was the dark sci-fi scenes of H.R. Giger, he created the world of Ridley Scott's Alien series, and it sparked off my interest in dark Sci-Fi and surreal art. But when I began making these scenes myself I found new artist to influence me like Feng Zhu, PaperBlue, Daarken, Karl Kopinski, and a big influence for me is the Sci-Fi scapes of John Harris, I find his use of scale in his spaceship scenes incredible and how he has areas of loose brush strokes and highly detailed areas to create focal points in his work is masterful. I would recommend him to anyone who loves epic sci-fi art!

Mykyta: As I've said I'm a big fan of a lot of retro sci-fi universes, but I think the best pieces I did for Traveller were inspired by other sources. Some epic battles illustrations could be inspired by historical events, old paintings, Sci Fi ships, tech and other devices could be inspired by nature, some light hearted pieces could even be inspired by screen grabs from comedy films!

mark1.jpg Traveller Small Craft Catalogue: cover art

Q4 – What was your first experience illustrating Traveller?

"My first experience was working on the Solomani Front, it was one of my first professional jobs and would have been almost 4 years ago now (how time fly's!) I remember being super excited to dig deep into this new lore and universe, prior to working for Mongoose Publishing, I knew very little about Traveller, but now since have become a big fan of the lore and history of the game! It’s such a privilege to still be producing these illustrations 4 years later, I feel like I have a lot to thank Mongoose Publishing and Traveller for in kickstarting my art career, the complex scenes and culture included in Traveller really pushed my skills as an artist! It was the perfect boot camp I needed to step my art game up, but first and foremost to Cassie at Mongoose for trusting in an unknown artist all that time ago to produce work for such a classic game, and well, here we are!"

Mykyta: When I was assigned my first illustrations, I was at such a crossroads regarding my style. I was at the "I don't know what I want my pictures to look like'' place in my life, so in the first month of my work at Mongoose, I think if you look at those pictures, I'm not sure you can easily say that it was made by one artist. It was an abomination from 3d slapped on to photo bashing, sprinkled with some oil painting style on top. Next illustration was the complete opposite, but this time finished with comic book style inking. So yeah, I want to say huge thanks to everyone that kept up with me and trusted me enough so I can grow into the artist I am now.


Q5 – Which piece of Traveller artwork are you most proud of and why?

"I would say my recent front cover for Small Crafts Catalogue that I illustrated for Abby is a very proud moment for me. Firstly, I really liked the way it turned out as I feel I got the colours and the composition nailed down nicely, but mainly the fact it was my first front cover for Traveller! Absolutely a dream come true for me and I regularly take a look at it on my bookshelf, especially during times of imposter syndrome ha-ha, it’s great to see that I've achieved a goal of having a Traveller book cover which I set when I first started my art journey! so again thanks for believing in me and allowing me the opportunity to be forever part of traveller and the amazing team behind it!"

Mykyta: This one is hard. I thought I should say something like a Core Book cover, or something like a Kickstarter campaign illustration that was animated. Don't get me wrong, I love them all, and your question made me look through the archives and appreciate all the work I did these years. But I think there's something about the illustration I did for Mysteries of the Ancients that makes me feel like I achieved something personally. I think the thing I lack a lot in my paintings is something that evokes emotions from the viewer. And I think in this one I nailed it.

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[Left: M.Graham/Right: Mykyta]

Artwork plays such an important role in TTRPG's, guiding players through sprawling worlds and colourful characters, we take so much pride in our artists and plan to share more content like this with the Traveller fanbase in the future.

What are some of your favourite pieces of Traveller artwork from across its 47 year history? show us in the thread below!

A massive thank you to Mark Graham and Mykyta Vasilchuk, please follow them on their socials [linked below] and if you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow us across our social media to see even more amazing artwork from not just Traveller, but other Mongoose Publishing titles such as Paranoia, Shield maidens and more...

Mongoose Publishing: Facebook / Instagram / X
Mark Graham: Instagram / Website
Mykyta Vasilchuk: Instagram / Website

Happy Traveller Day

very nice! Thanks for posting as bonified and proud card carrying Neanderthal class of knuckle-draggers that is far better at destroying things than creating anything of any artistic merit I have always envied and admired those with real talent. Mongoose art really is great and been something I didn't expect to get into when I got into the game but have come to enjoy it as much as the game and setting itself.

would be nice to see the artists mark their works with some old school D&D initials to know who did what. I had wondered who did that fabulously evocative 2024 Ref Screen cover.. and the less said about the scorching interpretation nature of Empress (leave the Emperor.. grab the Empress) Iolantha the better. A far cry from the very serious looks of the rest of the family... she looks ready to drink you under the table and laugh at every dirty joke you could throw at her and probably dance on pool tables to Aretha songs. Our kind of Empress. Really neat and unexpected departure of a artistic choice by whoever did her rendering the Third Imperium book.
would be nice to see the artists mark their works with some old school D&D initials to know who did what

Ditto. I like to see the sigs. I learned about Boris Vallejo, Caldwell, Elmore, Easley, Darlene, Erol Otus and all the other greats from their signatures. If Michelangelo signed the Pieta then surely all artists should be allowed to do the same.
Ditto. I like to see the sigs. I learned about Boris Vallejo, Caldwell, Elmore, Easley, Darlene, Erol Otus and all the other greats from their signatures. If Michelangelo signed the Pieta then surely all artists should be allowed to do the same.

I would think and hope that Mongoose doesn't have a policy that disallows it. If not then perhaps any large and in charge Mongooser's reading this thread might not just pass on the compliments of their fans and those that enjoy what they are doing, but also encourage them to do add to add even their initials or something.

It would be a nice nod back to the classic old school artists and their art which Mongoose seems to have tapped into. It isn't just the great game that gets you but the art that goes with the game.
It isn't just the great game that gets you but the art that goes with the game.
Exactly. Looks at Warhammer for example. Instantly recognizable thanks to great artists like John Blanche and sculptors like the Perry brothers.
Agreeing with the signature love. I've been following artists since the late 1900s, and the first book I special ordered actually was H.R.Giger's Necronomicon... Thank you for contributing to the style and soul of Traveller!
The art is so improved in the last few years that I would definitely be in favor of allowing a little signature or sigil in the corner. Some people's work I've learned to recognize but it would be nice to see the correspondence to the Illustrations credit on the contents page, especially when the cover illustrator is not singled out and for when illustrations are used in promos and other postings.
Artists signatures are absolutely essential IMHO

The lesson learnt from TSR is how valuable original art work is, and how much the artists profile is elevated by signing their work

Here’s a thought - a limited edition print run of selected art work. Please!
I'm like to see full-art covers, and the Traveller logo and book name overlaid rather than in their own section. I know Cass and Bella would like this, so let's ask them to do it!