Games have always accompanied me - an interview with artist Jakub Różalski

He is the creator of the amazing 1920+ universe, in which the Iron Harvest game is set as well as the author of illustrations that fascinate audiences around the world. Today we decided to find out what inspired Jakub Różalski to work creatively as well as what titles he loves to play the most!
GOG.COM: When did you decide you want to become a professional artist? Was it a revelation or did you think of such a profession for a long time?
Jakub Różalski: There was no such moment, it just happened itself, and I think it had to happen because it is the only thing that seems to work for me. I have always loved to draw, paint and create some fantastic stories. I read a lot of books and I love watching movies. Definitely, I have always felt better in the land of fantasy than in everyday reality.
Painting has always been my greatest passion, a way to express myself, communicate with the world and escape from normal life and the everyday things in which I did not feel well. I think that for many people, fantasy is not only a passion but also a way to deal with everyday life.
For me, it happily turned into a job, and over the past few years now one can even say that it became a career. I live from what I like to do most and what I enjoy the most - I think it’s hard to have a better definition of success! Since 2015, I have been working only on my own projects and projects under the 1920+ alternative world license of which I am the author.
Even the most prolific artist sometimes experiences a creative block. In such a case, what do you do to stimulate your creativity?
For certain. In general, the last few years have been very intensive for me. I worked a lot; I rarely saw the sun and even my beautiful wife! :) Most of the day I spent in my “cave”, painting or writing. Now I’m starting to slowly feel the material fatigue. During such times, it is best to go somewhere, if it’s possible and reset the brain, change the environment, see something new. Of course, in a variant where we quickly need some refreshment, nothing works better than an all-day walk in the mountains or the forest. In general, I like to walk a lot, preferably alone. It allows me to gather my thoughts and calm down, to arrange everything.
What would you choose - vacation in the city or nature?
I live daily in the bosom of nature, high in the mountains, far from civilization. So Alsu and I usually spend our vacation in some more civilized areas to not go completely wild and to enjoy a bit of culture. :) I am a zodiac Pisces, so the best place for me to rest is by the sea. The sea soothes and calms me down.
In the images from your 1920+ series, history meets state-of-the-art technology. Where did you get the idea to combine these two so contradictory elements?
We’re not exactly dealing with modern technology here. Many people have interpreted it as so but my idea was that the walking machines of the 1920+ world are not futuristic machines. Rather, they are something resembling the first tank designs from the time of World War I. Slightly clumsy, heavy, unreliable, arousing amazement and horror in people not yet accustomed to the presence of such machines in their lives, realities and on the battlefields.
In fact, World War I and the first tanks were the main inspiration for me when I worked on the concept of mechs in the 1920+universe. I just imagined what people must have felt during this period, seeing for the first time such huge machines on the battlefield, dominated to a large extent by the cavalry and white weapons. It must have been a surreal experience! It always inspired and fascinated me!
History has always been my great passion and greatest inspiration (along with wildlife and old beliefs). I love to draw from it, process it in my own way and create something new based on what we know. The present and future seem to me rather boring and do not inspire me at all. I grew up on books by Sienkiewicz, the Polish series “Czterej Pancerni i pies” (Four Tank-Men and a Dog) and the movie “Jak Rozpętałem Drugą Wojnę Światową” (How I Unleashed World War II). I think that is all shown in my work - the alternative world of 1920+ and its heroes.
The game Iron Harvest created by King Art Games is based to a great extent on your creativity. What was your cooperation with its developers like?
Iron Harvest isn’t based on my images but set and created under the license of my 1920+ world. The pictures, concepts and illustrations are, of course, the main basis for the artistic direction and the visual layer. But I’m also the author of the main heroes and the core of the world’s history, which will be able to visit and explore in the story campaign of Iron Harvest.
It’s hard for me to say how such cooperation usually looks like. I think these are very rare situations in the event of other than a famous writer or a movie license. Iron Harvest is based on the heroes I created, the visual layer, the mechs projects and the story’s main thread. However, many new characters have been added, and history has been deepened and enriched with many new threads.
I am very pleased with this cooperation and how the final product looks. My role, after completion of the early work, identifying the artistic direction and history, was mainly to consult and assist in several different production aspects.
Are you a gamer? If so, what titles or genres do you like to play and why?
I’ve been a gamer since the mid-1980s, from the advent of the first arcade games, the Atari and Commodore 64 computers. I still remember the times when games were copied from one cassette player to another by a friend. Loading the game took an hour, and our hero consisted of several pixels, so we had to use our imagination. In the old days, playing was like reading a book, because a lot of things happened in our head. On the other hand, playing today’s titles is more like watching a good movie.
Games have always been in my life and I can’t imagine life without them. I very much like knowing that I was present at the birth of this medium and I went all the way from the first, very simple titles to the huge, complex, hyper-realistic productions that we are playing today. From the beginning, I played practically only two genres, strategies and role-playing games, and sometimes some FPS. I love strategies because they’re a great stimulus for the brain, and I’ve always loved the worlds and stories of strategic games. I grew up on titles such as DUNE 2, Heroes of Might & Magic III, Starcraft and Warcraft.
As far as RPG games are concerned, taking into account what I mentioned earlier in terms of the possibility of escaping into fantastic worlds, I think no additional comment is needed. :) Nothing gives you the chance to experience an unforgettable adventure like RPG games!
What do you feel when you see that the images you paint become works seen and interpreted all over the world?
It’s still hard for me to believe. I try not to think about it too much because it only makes my head spin. I focus on work, new ideas, worlds and stories to tell. I am extremely happy and grateful to my fans for the great support they have shown to me over the many years. Without them, I wouldn’t be here, and I would never be able to play Iron Harvest or Scythe. After all, an artist without a publication does not really exist!
To celebrate the launch of “Iron Harvest” on GOG.COM, you’ve prepared a special digital art for gamers. What inspired you to make its main character the famous historical persona - Wojtek the bear?
Wojtek, or rather his alternative version, is one of the main heroes of my 1920+ world, and I think its most famous and favorite character. He is the brave and faithful companion of Anna, one of the main characters of this story, whose fate we will be able to follow in the single-player campaign of the game Iron Harvest.
So, it seemed obvious to me that these two heroes should be included in the promotional illustration. Placing Wojtek in my alternative world of 1920+, I wanted to pay tribute to this extraordinary story and interest people who may not have heard of Anders’ Army or Corporal Wojtek before. I am very proud that this has been successful and many people, through contact with my work, have started to take an interest in the fate of Wojtek and the Polish Army during World War II.
You can’t wait to visit the world of 1920+ created by Jakub Różalski? Play Iron Harvest today! The game is available DRM-free on GOG.COM. When purchasing, you will also receive digital artwork prepared by the artist especially for players.