Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fantasy Art - Maciej Kuciara

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Maciej Kuciara is a Polish artist born in 1984. His talent was rewarded with several awards on the digital art websites and forums. Some of his works have been featured on publications such as “Epilogue Masters of Fantasy”, “Exposé” and “D’Artiste”. Between 2005 and 2008 he worked as a concept artist at Crytek Studios and from this year he became an art director at the same Crytek Studios.

Interview - Maciej Kuciara

Dark Wolf: Maciej, thank you for your time and amiability.
What did attract you to art? Do you remember your first encounter with the art?
Maciej Kuciara: I have been interested in all kind of drawings and paintings ever since. Not literally in art, but rather in something that most people understand as ‘awesome pictures’. As a kid, I tried to mimic that ‘awesomeness’ within my drawings. That itself made me practice, although a real thing started for me not more than 6 years ago.

Dark Wolf: By which artists are you inspired? Who do you consider to have mostly influenced your work so far?
Maciej Kuciara: I think most Craig Mullins, Dusso and Iain McCaig if we consider living ones. I think the level of professionalism and artistic eye of those guys if a pure inspiration for many artists among the industry. I also always like Rembrandt portrait paintings a lot, especially that in my opinion he was true master of light in painting. Also Zdzislaw Beksinski, I always admired his work.

Dark Wolf: What are your main sources of inspiration?
Maciej Kuciara: I take inspiration from everywhere, pictures, TV, newspaper stories, things seen on street, or just whatever comes up to my mind. I think finding an inspiration and good idea to complete your work is essential, without it, even perfectly rendered pictures are just boring. I believe that pictures that aren’t telling any story are perceived less interesting, than those which might look a bit worse, but give you interesting idea and story behind them. Good ideas combined with good rendering and techniques are what make the pictures we see ‘super awesome’.

DW: Many of your works have a major Fantasy or Sci-Fi theme. What does attract you to Fantasy and Sci-Fi? Does your interest go beyond art?
MK: I think fantasy and sci-fi theme is always a good area to come up with wicked ideas that might not be seen in real world. At some point, fantastic themes make your imaginations easy to understand as well.

DW: I’ve seen that your portfolio has many landscapes and environments. Do you prefer working on landscapes? How does a landscape put your skills to test and how much different is than working on a portrait for instance?
MK: I love landscapes and I feel much more comfortable with creating them, than working on character designs. It might be that because I can’t really paint correct anatomy, which is a fundamental thing to know and understand in my book, if you go with character designs. Landscapes themselves give me a lot of mind freedom, because whether I make them technical and organic, they will look and feel much more natural, than unrealistically looking characters. With characters, you can do crazy things, I think Iain McCaig is a perfect example of amazing character designs and storytelling. Good ideas with very good anatomy knowledge make character based artworks mind-blowing. I think I just miss that mind-blowing thing in my character designs, and thus I just feel more comfortable with working on environmental pieces.

DW: Also some of your landscapes have an Asian culture influence. Is the Asian culture a major influence in your work and how much different is the working technique on these landscapes?
MK: Not really. I think thou Chinese and Japanese culture produced amazing architectural and visual style over centuries, which for us Europeans is even more fantastic and uncommon. It has gone into couple of my paintings, but it’s rather coincident that I used Asian culture as inspiration for so many pieces.

DW: Do you still work in the traditional way or you use exclusively the digital tools?
MK: I prefer working on digital media, maybe just because it’s more sufficient way of getting things done and corrected within short amount of time. I personally don’t have any art education, however knowing at least a bit of traditional art techniques as well as basic art rules is something that will definitely help you to produce much more valuable artwork.

DW: I enjoyed on your portfolio a number of works focused on different machines and vehicles. What did inspire these works and is this a different experience from your other works?
MK: As for any concept or illustration, I gather inspiration from very different sources. I love spending time on creating interesting environments, however every once in a while it’s always good and refreshing to work on something else, like vehicle designs for example. Working on vehicle designs is something totally different from environmental work, not just because of different subject you are focusing on. Vehicle work requires much more thinking about functionality. In most cases, it just has to look believable. If your concept is meant to be used by 3d artist later on in production, it is crucial that you focus on making things not only looking interesting and unique. Most likely it has to have a solid function and meet many other requirements that can come up from designers.

DW: I read also a few explanations on your works in which you state that the respective work was an experiment with the colors. Do you tend to experiment a lot and is there a particular color spectrum which would you like to improve on your works?
MK: I strongly believe that large understanding about colors is something absolutely necessary, if you consider working on environments and production concept art overall. Speaking from game concept artist experience, I have been going through hundreds of mood color paintings and sketches, level concept artworks and matte paintings. Having large understanding how color behave in different environments is something that will make your, and your art director’s life easier, since you will be able to come up with quick solutions and create solid vision just with simple color brush strokes. It happens many times, that you need to create something that you cannot possibly refer to real-life photos and that’s where knowledge about colors comes in handy.

DW: I really like “Journey in Finding the Lost Mushroom” and I also know that this painting has a story behind it. Would you like to tell us more about
it, please?
MK: I can’t even remember when I did that painting lol! But yea, I guess it relates much into things children dream about, something like a fairy tale story that you try to imagine yourself. I tried to picture something, that I thought might be interesting and funny, which is a little dwarf, that want to find some sort of mythical mushroom that brings imaginations into life. He’s being followed by sneaky pipe-smoking cats that figure out opportunity to get benefits from that mushroom first, but are too lazy to find it themselves. Old idea thought it was fun to work with it back in days.

DW: Seeing this painting I wonder if you ever thought of illustrating children books or if you want to write and illustrate your own story?
MK: I like to vary my work time to time as I mentioned before. Working on children books or doing fairy tale pictures is something absolutely different, than concepting or direction concept artwork for computer games for example. About writing own stories? Not really, I’m just not great person to come up with stories that appeal to large audience.

DW: How is the work in the gaming industry? How much different is from the freelance work and what new opportunities of work and development such is work bringing?
MK: The major difference you get from working full time on games, than as a freelancer, is that in most cases, your projects will take much more than just a couple of weeks. Working as a concept artist for games means for you months of creativity in pre-production period, where you get an opportunity to come up with amazing designs and ideas. After pre-production is over, you might run into less interesting things to work with, supporting production assets work and illustrating/concepting anything that will make your game look even better.
Being freelancer usually means you’re not attached to a project as much as you would be while working full time on games. Your project deadlines are much shorter and amount of things to produce much smaller. Your projects will vary in genre and subject a lot as well, where in gaming it will mean usually spending at least couple of months on one thing.

DW: I’ve seen that you are now working as an Art Director. How much different is this position from that of Concept Artist and what new responsibilities brings this position?
MK: Art Direction means having a vision, bringing that vision to life and making sure everyone on your team buys it, follows it and dies for it! As an Art Director you won’t spend much time on conceptualizing and painting. There are various things you need to care about and ensure that everyone trusts you in what you are trying to create. Every decision you make will have a large impact on production values, which means also that every mistake made will cost your team time and stress, and your manager’s money. As an Art Director you will be looking at many aspects, such as game color palette, artistic vision, references and so on. You need to be actively feeding your vision to every artist that work for you, be sure that every asset that is being build is meeting quality requirements, is consistent with what you are trying to produce as well as meets technical requirements.
As a concept artist you don’t really care about any of things listed above. You get your task and you do your best to conceptualize in a way, your supervisor envisions it. You don’t have to look at the big picture, but rather focus on smaller chunks of work.

DW: In the future besides the work you make in the concept art would you like to try new and different projects? I mean comic books, cover art and such other projects.
MK: I’m not sure. In free time, as personal thing, probably. Being Art Director for big company as Crytek means a lot of responsibilities that need to be taken care of and often extend after your work time. It is a big and responsible task, but also something that in result give you game that you can be proud of. Seeing your vision and directions getting there, amazing work artists are producing and how all that looks in motion is a great professional but also personal experience I would like to go with for some time.

Maciej, thank you very much for your answers.

For more information and a larger portfolio please visit Maciej Kuciara website.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.


Anonymous said...

wow..the most of these are f*cking great pictures:) sorry my bad language...the ones with the worlds within are astounding...

i don`t get it, when do you have the time do all these interviews?!..this is hard work!thanks for all !

Simon said...

Since Crytek won a German award this year for "Best In-Game Graphics" (, I guess he's pretty good as an art director.

Barbara Martin said...

The artwork is outstanding. Thank you, Dark Wolf, for doing these interesting interviews.

Mihai A. said...

Kyo, thank you too :) I like doing these interviews so I don't find them very hard ;)

Simon, it must be :) And he looks very dedicated to his work.

Barbara, thank you very much :) You are very nice as always :D