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Interview with Maciej Kuciara

By Simon Morse

Web: http://maciejkuciara.com/ (will open in new window)
Email: moc.liamg@jeicamaraicuk

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Date Added: 30th October 2012

Another thing that I noticed in your work is that you don't seem to be afraid to use big strokes of bold color. Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to use this sort of technique?

The best thing to do is to observe and study your references, whether it's nature or photography. Painting with colors can be hard, as it requires you to think about the color palette from the very beginning. It also requires you to know how light behaves and interacts with objects in a scene. I think possessing that knowledge is the most difficult step in painting in general. But it benefits you hugely if you master it, as it gives you more freedom to get away from what is in the reference picture or what you see, yet still keep color and values intact.

With each artist I interview I am always intrigued to learn a little more about their technique. Do you ever sketch your ideas first or do you find that your first port of call is to get some paint on the canvas?

There are several ways to start your painting and I recommend trying all of them. In most cases, I will start with a quick black and white thumbnail (or series of thumbnails) to get the ideas down on the canvas. If my focus is to get a really interesting composition I will limit my initial sketch to only two values: black and white. For a painterly look, I would probably go with a mix of photography and random custom brush strokes to create a busy texture to start with. I do likewise with images when my goal is to achieve an ultra-realistic look, since photography can provide the details.

I also used to paint with flat colors (just colors, no values) to lay out good light information into my concepts. But again, it all comes down to the purpose and it's never a good idea to limit yourself to just one specific workflow. You might be missing quite a few interesting tricks that would help your art become even better.

The variety of techniques you use really shines through in your work. Are there any artists that have inspired you to get into this field or that you look at and wonder, how did they do that?

Many actually! I always look at work by new digital art "heroes" as inspiration to push myself beyond the limits. I think over a long period of time Craig Mullins has been one of those heroes. You could probably find Neil Campbell Ross, Bill Anton, Nathan Fowkes and Xaingyuan Jie among my inspirations as well.

I also pay a lot of respect to traditional art masters, such as Caravaggio or Jean-Léon GérÃ'me, and even though I never had much to do with traditional art techniques, there is much to learn from just looking at their art. Last year I had a chance to see GérÃ'me's art exhibition in Los Angeles and it totally blew me away.

I noticed on your site that you are familiar with some of the 3D programmes. What part do these play in your pipeline and in what kind of situations would you use this skill?

I use 3D mostly for very complex scenes that involve a lot of tricky perspective, which for me only happens during production time. I might use 3D to lay out some of the initial lighting in the scene as well (for example, interior concepts). Usually I would model my scene with simple objects such as boxes and spheres in Maya and then make a quick light pass before I hit render. I render most of my scenes on layers so I can separate objects later on in Photoshop.

There have been several occasions where I have used the Maya mapping technique to change the camera angle in photography and then use it later on as a base for my concept scenario. This is a pretty fun technique to work with, although probably too time-consuming for non-complex scenes.

You have worked on some outstanding projects, which of these has been your favorite and if you could choose any project to work on what would it be?

There are quite a few that are my favorites but I can't really talk about them just yet. From those that have been released however, I think the Crysis

franchise and Hardkor44 stand equal, since both of them were quite challenging and both of them gave me a lot of production experience.

I noticed that you have given painting on an iPad a go. What do you think of painting in this way, and do you think there is an opportunity for it to be developed in the future?

In the end it wasn't my thing (Laughs). With my impatient nature and my desire to see quick results I found technical disadvantages with iPad that were just too frustrating. I did love the mobility of the device and the really nice battery life however. I like the direction the tablet market is going and I'm excited to see how this market will look in a few years time.

Well it has been great to speak to you and to have an excuse to spend time flicking through your great work whilst at my desk. Thank you for finding time to speak to us; hopefully we can catch up again in the future.

Thanks for having me!

To see more by Maciej Kuciara, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
and Digital Art Masters: Volume 7

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