Sunday, 28 August 2011

Interview with Dawid Michalczyk

Dawid Michalczyk was born in Poland in the early 1970s and has been working as an artist since 1996. He mainly works in the computer games industry but also does illustration for book and CD covers. The popular PC games he worked on include "The Longest Journey" (Funcom), "Unreal 2" (Legend Entertainment) and "Dungeons & Dragons Online: StormReach" (Turbine Entertainment). Lately, he has also been involved in casual online games, like the world's most played online pool game "Quick Fire Pool" (Miniclip). He now lives in Denmark creating freelance and personal artwork.

  1. What aspects of your childhood inspired your artistic creativity?
My dad was an artist and art collector, so I grew up surrounded by paintings and antiques. We had a large library and a lot of books about art and architecture. Back then, I was not interested in art at all, it was just part of my life. Nevertheless, I always liked looking at pictures, whether drawings, paintings or photographs. I used to go through encyclopaedias just to look at the pictures, hardly ever reading anything.

  1. You have lived and worked in several countries, including Norway, USA and Denmark. What have you gained from various cultural experiences, and attitudes to work and art?
Living and working in different countries broadens the perspective on life - perhaps too much. It is both interesting and very educational to experience different cultures because it is so revealing about human nature, and challenges your own beliefs. Overall I have gained many insights about the various aspects of the cultures I lived in. There are good and bad things about every country, and in the end a lot of the likes/dislikes are based on personal preference. As far as attitudes toward work and art, it seems that talented or successful individuals are rewarded and treated much better in the USA. Americans are also much more work oriented. They work more; and they seem more attached to, and responsible for, their work.

  1. Tell us about your learning process, and particularly how your work evolved as a result of it. 
I'm self-taught and I primarily learn through studying other artists’ work. I say studying, but in reality it's a very enjoyable process. I just sit and look at the pictures in a book or computer screen. My artwork has changed somewhat over the years. In the past, I often did images that had a lot of detail in them. I'm not all that interested in detail anymore; I like simpler images now. Simpler images are easier to process visually and often don't require as much creative energy to produce; yet they can be just as effective or more so. I also noticed that I tend to use a more colourful palette now, I'm not sure exactly why. I think the changes in my work are the result of me changing as I go through life. The accumulated experiences, increased awareness and understanding of the environment, influence my creative output.

  1. What attracted you to the world of computer games?
During the late 1980s and early 1990s I played a lot of computer games - especially on Commodore 64 and Amiga 500. I was fascinated by the pretty graphics of Amiga 500 and collected a lot of games and demos. So it was mainly the wonderful visuals, music and good game play that got me interested in computer games. Later when I started working in the computer games industry it felt quite natural to be part of it. In fact, I don't think I would be doing what I do today if it wasn't for all those Amiga games and demos.

  1. Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?
Sometimes there is a message in some of my artwork. For example, in "Endless opposites" I illustrate the perplexity of duality - that there is always a choice to be made. Every choice made is a step in one of two directions; and every step taken leads to a new choice to be made.

  1. Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular work?
I don't have one favourite piece, but there are many, which I like better than most. One surreal piece that I particularly like is "Edge of perception". The composition, colours, and metaphysical content works really well together. The blue sky, which gradually transitions into green and then meets the horizon as a bright red fog on the right and a soft white transition on the left. And then there is the abstract structure in front of a standing man looking ahead at the uncharted frontier. The closer one gets to the edge of perception, the more abstract and incomprehensible the unknown becomes. Eventually, a new structure of beliefs emerges which may lead to a new understanding of a particular aspect of reality.

  1. Evolution is an inherent facet of contemporary art. What new developments are you aware of, with regards to the application of technology, in illustration? 
In general, computer technology makes many things much easier to do. Especially what traditionally used to be hard or time consuming is now relatively easy and quick to do. Because of that much of the focus shifts to areas that digital technology offers greater control over, like finer colour ranges, better composition, more realistic and precise rendering, increased image complexity, etc. The availability of art assets like libraries of high quality 3D models and photographs transforms the whole process of picture making. Now, instead of doing everything yourself, you can simply use pre-fabricated 3D models, textures, photographs, etc and create a picture out of that.

For artists and illustrators the wonders of digital technology is a mixed bag. Personally, I don't like when too much stuff is being done for me. I like to paint my own textures, do the concept design, the 3D modelling or traditionally paint a 2D illustration digitally. That way I get satisfaction from my work and a sense of accomplishment. So in the end, it's a matter of personal preference how much technology one is willing to incorporate in the picture making process. Digital art is not any better or worse than traditional art; it is merely a product of the technological progression.

  1. What do you find most rewarding in the creative process, and how do you overcome that which you find challenging?
Doing the remaining 20-30% of an image is the most rewarding for me because the image just keeps getting better. I overcome the challenging aspects through learning, experimenting, and practice. Studying other artists work is essential.

  1. What have you done to promote and market your artwork?
My website under my own domain is central to my online marketing efforts. In the past, I did quite a bit work to improve my search engine rankings, but found it too time consuming. I have accounts on many popular social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and others. I try to post my new artwork there on a regular basis. Overall, however, the return of investment has been low. Regular updates through my RSS feed and newsletter seems to work better. There is so much competition out there and, now with the recession, getting sales is much tougher.

  1. What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in art?
Follow your passion and take care of your health. Good health is the most important thing in life - it allows you to do the things you want. Without it you are more limited. Educate yourself about healthy diet, do regular exercise, minimize stress, and cut out the unnecessary stuff. In the beginning, it's probably best to work at a studio with other artists, to learn not only the craft but also the business side of things. Working as a self-employed artist is not for everybody. The main disadvantage here is unstable income, and having to do everything yourself (promotion, selling, website, etc). The main advantages are more freedom to structure your daily life, do the type of work you really enjoy, no commuting, no office politics, bureaucracy, etc.

  1. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding your art being used in film and television?
As long as I get paid and credited I'm all for it.

  1. Describe your art in one sentence.
Colourful, thought provoking, original and memorable.

  1. What other interests do you have?
Health and nutrition is my primary interest - especially healthy diets and supplements. I have been experimenting with different diets for many years and keep journals about my observations. Another subject that interests me is anthropology. I find human behaviour and value systems across very different cultures particularly interesting. Lately, I've become interested in urban and wilderness survival in case the whole system, or parts of it, collapses.

  1. Where can we find you and your art? 
On my website at 

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