Jakub Rozalski is a Concept Artist and Illustrator from Krakow, Poland. He has a deep interest in history, and a lot of his personal projects are based around important historical events that occurred in the twentieth century. You can see that 1920+ is the most popular project by far. This is because of the amazing world-building that Rozalski worked on for many years now. The project was so successful that Scythe (a board game based off of the 1920+ world) was successfully funded on Kickstarter, with thousands of people pledging over $1,800,000 in order to make the product a reality. Of course, there are also other projects Rozalski is working on. You can see ones like 1863 – Wolfpack and The Ancients showcased on his ArtStation portfolio.
Rozalski told us that The Ancients will be made into a VR game with the help of Immersion – a Polish video game developer focused on virtual reality projects. He also hinted at a film or television production for one of his projects in the near future. You can find out more about the artist’s future plans in the following interview.
What sparked your interest in digital art?
I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember, but we only had traditional art back then. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my way around programs like Photoshop for a very long time. I learned to use it after I went to university because my roommate from Sweden taught me. He showed me how to use a scanner and how I can work with layers. He showed me many useful things. This is how my adventure with digital art began.
This was actually sixteen years ago. Remembering it like this makes me feel a bit old.
What motivates you to continue creating art?
Painting is my greatest passion, I can’t imagine what my life would look like without it. I don’t need motivation, I just need to paint. I need to keep creating something new, it’s like air for me. I just get some ideas and paint. Especially now when I only do work on my personal projects, not the client work.
Cover illustration for ‘Scythe’ the board game.
Walk us through the processes you use when creating artwork.
It’s always the same. I need an idea first, and sometimes that idea comes to me straight away, but other times it’s after hours and hours of pain. Once I have an idea, I will either do a quick sketch or maybe I’ll just start painting! I never draw because I don’t really like lines, I have a tendency to use colours and shapes for sketching too. After that, I collect references (or maybe not if I know the topic already). I begin to work on a composition and figure out what atmosphere the piece is gonna have, looking at the colour palette and all that. Once I am satisfied with my work, I’ll start painting. It takes me quite a while to finish a painting, but the process isn’t as complicated as you may think. I always paint zoomed-in, rarely enlarging the painting. It gives me more control over the whole thing.
Warsaw Uprising: a personal artwork
You have a lot of followers who engage with your posts on social network sites. I often see artists trying to grow their fan-base using social media but it doesn’t work anywhere near as well. What’s the big secret?
I don’t know. I guess I am consistent in what I do and how I do it. I have a lot of respect for my followers and I am always trying to reply to all of the comments I get on my work. However, I never consider what people want to see. It’s not calculated at all. I just paint whatever I want, and I think that people can see that that’s what I do. Maybe I should cover popular topics like Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Blizzard Games, but this isn’t my way. I just want to do my own thing, so I will continue creating my own worlds and telling my own stories. If people like it, I am more than happy to do more. I enjoy storytelling, but also leave room for the viewers’ interpretations. The key is to find your own way to express what interests you.
1863 – someone to blame
1920 – caravan
Were you expecting 1920+ to be such a big success? After all, there are very few artists who can make a living working on personal projects like this. I read somewhere that 1920+ was based on the Polish–Soviet War. How did you go about translating this part of history into a project like this?
I’ve always liked creating my own projects more than working with the ideas of other people. I think that this is exactly what every artist should try to achieve – independence as a creator. It’s tough, but it’s also a lot more satisfying, and you feel good because you’re realizing your own dreams. History is my greatest passion, it is very inspiring for me. I love other cultures, mythology and mythical creatures. My favorite part of history is the beginning of the twentieth century, when tradition clashed with modernity, and the world was filled with mysteries and secrets. The world of 1920+ is made up of everything I love. An alternate history project based on what happened in the twentieth century. We have the countryside, XIX century painting, extraordinary machines and nature. I also like to paint giants and werewolves. I really like those because to me, werewolves are the epitome of the wild. They are a force of nature and they possess brute strength unlike any other. I always imagined them as mythical guardians of nature, not as evil monsters.
I am happy because I can make my own projects. I feel lucky. I am my own boss and I can make a living working on personal projects and selling prints. I am very grateful to all of you for that.
1920 – final charge: alternate version of the Battle of Warsaw events, with the marshal Józef Piłsudski in his heavy mech, on the background.
The story of Wojtek the bear was one of the many that inspired your personal project, right? What other stories did you use?
I love the story of Wojtek the bear. It’s actually one of my favorite stories from the Second World War, very inspiring. Oftentimes, important historical events or decisive battles are what inspires me the most. I grew up reading history books as well as Henryk Sienkiewicz, so these kinds of things interest me so much more than the present or future. Sometimes I read an interesting story, find a character or maybe some old photographs where I see something that inspires me, but it’s never too specific.
Environment study / concept
You’ve worked on a bunch of different stuff now. What projects are you wanting to do in the future?
I’m currently working on a video-game set in the world of 1920+ and a VR game inspired by some of my paintings. As well as that, there are a few other interesting projects I’m doing. Maybe we will get a film or a TV series set in the world of 1920+ so keep your fingers crossed!
What’s next for Jakub Różalski?
Vacation! I worked very hard during these last two years, so I’m looking forward to a good rest. Of course, I have a lot planned, and there are many ideas I have for the future. I don’t want to talk about it yet, but know that you have something to look forward to. Now I will continue to expand the world of 1920+ and hopefully find more time for oil painting.
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
Upper left image: 1920 – retired veteran;
All images used with permission by the artist.
© Jakub Rozalski or their respective copyright holder.
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Article in Slovak language;