At the end of last year, the conceptual art website ArtStation unveiled its first printed book: Project 77 by Martin Deschambault, an ordered collection that combines conceptual art and science fiction storytelling. The site announced its next book earlier this week: Howling at the Moon by Jakub Rozalski, the artist behind the acclaimed board game Scythe.
The book is a beautiful collection of fantastic art that reminds me of the style of Tales from the Loop by Simon Stålenhag, which represents an alternative and futuristic Sweden. Rozalski's art presents robots and threatening machines that dot the countryside of his native Poland, but instead of looking to the future, he is inspired by the country's rich past, using its history, wars and folklore as the basis of his work.
Rozalski tells The Verge that he draws inspiration for each painting from a variety of sources, sometimes he finds an idea in an image or something as he goes for a walk or brainstorms scenes that fit into a larger story. "I spend many days looking for a story or a story to tell, I imagine different scenes, characters, composition and what I would like to show."
From there, he organizes the scene in his head before sitting down to start working. "These days, I work mostly digitally, which saves a lot of time, and sometimes the final effect is exactly the same as I imagined, and sometimes things have changed or evolved during the work process."
"I like the open spaces, the grays, the mists, the silence, the underestimations, the atmosphere of mysticism and mystery, I always look forward to autumn and winter, I'm not a big fan of summer, sun and variety of colors, because everything is flat, literal, noisy and off ".
Like Project 77, the book brings together the body of work of Rozalski from ArtStation, but it is not exactly the same: Howling at the Moon does not include a general history that covers the entire book, but a series of smaller worlds that present art that represents a shared world: Los Antiguos, which confronts medieval figures against huge and fantastic giants; The world of 1920+, an alternative past in which soldiers assemble mechs through Polish shepherds, fields and forests; The Day of the Apocalypse, which takes place in an alternative World War II with giant Nazi mechanical soldiers; Wolf Pack 1863, featuring menacing men in front of the soldiers; Folk Stories, with a random variety of fantasy creatures; and finally, a section of tutorials, in which Rozalski describes the steps he takes to create his fictitious worlds. We will see more of The World of 1920+ in a forthcoming adaptation of a world video game called Iron Harvest, which has just been funded on Kickstarter.
"I always try to make everything connected to each other," he explains, "develops [ing] and builds [ing] the broadest narrative, the characters and the atmosphere of the world." Building the world and telling stories was always a very interesting part for me in the whole creative process. "
One of the things that stands out most when reading this book is his fascination with landscapes, something that appears in almost all his paintings, giving his body of work an appearance and sensation that is art taken from an alternative timeline. He says he is more inspired by nineteenth-century painters, such as Józef Chełmoński, Józef Brandt, Isaac Levitan and Ivan Shishkin, known for their realistic photographs of landscapes and portraits. "I try to combine classical painting style, wild nature, mythology, history and interesting concepts, create a unique atmosphere through telling some kind of story, show everyday situations in an unusual environment."
Rozalski incorporates fantastic elements in his landscapes: almost all paintings include some kind of leviathan or solid mech in the background. "I like to use massive objects / figures in the background," he explains. "It helps create a sense of space and depth, a mysterious atmosphere and this kind of" what will happen next "feeling.
These fantastic mechs and soldiers are at the forefront of series such as World of 1920+, which represents an alternative world of mechanized war against the Polish countryside. Rozalski says he is particularly fascinated with the history of the early twentieth century, "when tradition clashed with modernity and the world was still full of mysteries and secrets."
The entire series, he explains, is based on real events. For example, the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 and the Polish-Soviet War, which are both fundamental battles in the field of military history, where traditional methods of combat such as mounted cavalry were used for the last time on a large scale. Not only is he interested in representations of war, but also in the kind of world he left behind during the transition from a more agrarian to a mechanized society: "You can also find that there is a certain kind of longing and nostalgia for the world with the life close to nature, wild forests and rural landscapes, all of which were violently taken by progress, technology and civilization. "
Howling at the Moon by Jakub Rozalski is now available on ArtStation.
Photograph by Andrew Liptak / The Verge