Meet the Artist :: Maciej Kuciara

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Old 08 August 2013   #1
Meet the Artist :: Maciej Kuciara




Maciej Kuciara's career began with some freelance illustration jobs back in 2004, while he was still studying at the Technical University in Gdansk, Poland for an electric technician academic degree. He soon dropped out of the college to pursue his art career and swiftly moved across the country to join video games studio People Can Fly in Warsaw.

After few months working on the 'Painkiller' game expansion, he moved to Germany to work at Crytek Studios. He worked on critically acclaimed games 'Crysis' and 'Crysis 2' as a concept artist. Maciej Kuciara dabbled in Matte Painting enough to have one of his early images used as cover for the original Ballistic d'artiste book.




In 2010, Maciej got an offer from Naughty Dog and relocated to Los Angeles to work with the talented team on the PS3 exclusive 'The Last of Us'. Most recently, Maciej had a chance to work on several highly anticipated movie projects, including the Wachowski's sci-fi epic 'Jupiter Ascending', Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and Bryan Singer's 'X-Men: Days of Future Past'. His career continues to transcend the walls between game and Movie production.

Ask Maciej Kuciara questions about his work, his art, his career and techniques. Please make him welcome as the second 'Meet the Artist' candidate of the modern era.

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For Editor and features writer, CGSociety; Global Artist Liaison, Ballistic Publishing. Freelance writer, media consultant & digital producer.
 
Old 08 August 2013   #2
I've got one Maciej,

Firstly, welcome to you mate. It's been a while. I noted in the introduction, your earlier work in environments and matte painting. This kind of points to a wide range of talents straight up, when you lived back in Poland. How did this expansive interest help you get work back in the early 2000s?

And then, what drew you towards the area of character concept art you have done recently at NaughtyDog on 'Last of Us'?
__________________
For Editor and features writer, CGSociety; Global Artist Liaison, Ballistic Publishing. Freelance writer, media consultant & digital producer.
 
Old 08 August 2013   #3
Hi, in this picture below, did you start with the character first or the background first?
http://maciejkuciara.com/characters-2/
While you are painting, the idea would show up make you high or the act painting make you high ?
Tk you.
 
Old 08 August 2013   #4
Originally Posted by PaulHellard: I've got one Maciej,

Firstly, welcome to you mate. It's been a while. I noted in the introduction, your earlier work in environments and matte painting. This kind of points to a wide range of talents straight up, when you lived back in Poland. How did this expansive interest help you get work back in the early 2000s?

And then, what drew you towards the area of character concept art you have done recently at NaughtyDog on 'Last of Us'?


First of all Paul, thanks for having me here. A great pleasure to do this with CGSociety.
To answer your first question. Little story:

Ever since I was a kid, I loved to build stuff. I always wanted to create something out of nothing. My family used to visit my grandmother's farm every summer, every year I was building hideouts on local trees from ropes and branches together with my cousins. Or weapons from chopped pieces of wood and nails and rusted tools.
Then I always used to draw things everywhere I could. I can't count how many newspapers or books I drawn over.
This urge for creation brought me quickly to sci-fi and fantasy genre, that is books, table top games, pen-and-paper RPGs, films, comics. Was hooked up on that from very early days. This whole chain was missing one link that would set my career direction and I found that link when I was in high-school in 2003..
Back in early 2000's everyone I knew wanted to be either an engineer or finish economy at University. I probably would have gone the same career choice if it wasn't for Tomek Baginski's 'The Cathedral', that was nominated to academy-awards in 2003. I saw the preview on TV and said to myself.. 'f**ck! I wanna do CG too!'. I had a computer back then. good start! No internet tho.. Thankfuly internet cafe was nearby and I used it alot for a while. I found 3d artist forums. Started reading up about what programs people use, looked up the work they do, got totally hooked up. Back in a days there were no tutorials online, nor free youtube stuff, resources were scarce, so forum was my to-go place with pretty much any question I had.
I started learning 3ds max first, with poor results. I knew how to draw (or at least I thought so, since i've been drawing stuff inspired by books films and RPG games almost daily by then) so started digging thru forums. Then saw Sijun. Goodbrush, CptFlushgarden, Sparth, Vyle. I don't think I have to tell you how inspiring their work was!
I needed a tablet. Found one that cost 60 bux. I found work cleaning windows in local hospital. Three weeks later it was me, my precious Pentagram with battery in pen, 14'' CRT and Photoshop... That was September 2003...
In early 2004 I got my first job. Someone found me on Max3d forums. Paintings for web-based game. Then a month or two later, I got to do card illustrations for board game made by small German company (I can't recall the name thou..). In summer 2004, I commissioned a concept piece of Alastor for company called Digital Amigos (they did cinematics for Painkiller game). It all started there. People Can Fly CEO Adrian Chmielarz saw that concept, friend of mine I met of Max3d forums who happened to work there told him he knew me. Got hired. Left University. Relocated to Warsaw

About the second question. Just to quickly clarify, almost 99% of character concept art done for 'The Last of Us' come from an amazing artist Hyoung Nam. I did few infected ideas very early in production. What truly drew me to more character work? Three names:
-Mike Nash
-Scott Robertson
-Danny Luvisi

Mike's work doesn't need any introduction. His zbrush sketches inspired me to learn Zbrush myself and try to create something with it. I did few creature designs and one hard-surface concept while learning the tool.
Then Scott..Oddly enough, Scott's work has barely any characters in it, except his Modo Replicator character concepts. I was so impressed with those, I had to try it myself. This is how I made two replicator suit concepts.
Finally Danny Luvisi. I met him via facebook and we quickly be-friended. Super inspiring artist and just an awesome person as a whole. The way he explained to me the way he works and approach art as general got me thinking way more about the aspects of story in art, and what else could tell a better story than a character?

Hope this answered your question Paul
__________________
maciejkuciara.com
 
Old 08 August 2013   #5
Originally Posted by nosisme: Hi, in this picture below, did you start with the character first or the background first?
http://maciejkuciara.com/characters-2/
While you are painting, the idea would show up make you high or the act painting make you high ?
Tk you.


Hi nosisme,

I start with idea first. It can be anything. And I mean really, anything. For instance, the 2075 Trooper chick image, the whole idea behind it was that I really really wanted to spend way more time with Modo than with Photoshop. Again big thanks to Scott Robertson here for his free friday tutorials that got me even more into 3d and kit-bashing idea. Since I love sci-fi genre, I went with something as simple as soldier design and just worked with shapes. I modeled broad shapes that I thought would look cool and populated the rest with kit-bashing detail pieces from xpolygon.com model set.

Not sure what you mean about being high, I assume you meant being excited about the idea itself or the act of painting? I think its both. When theres an idea, you want it on the canvas right away. Feels almost like endorphins after workout! And then the whole act of painting/creating. It's what i live for..
__________________
maciejkuciara.com
 
Old 08 August 2013   #6
Smile

Hi Maciej,
thanks for sharing your passion with us!

Here is my question:
how do you personally approach "lack of inspiration" when you actually are forced to produce something (I mean in a studio or working for a client). To be more precise, how do you brainstorm, what's your method?

Thanks in advance!!!
 
Old 08 August 2013   #7
Hi Maciej,
i'm a big fan of yours, really.

I have a question, maybe a cliché one.
How do you produce such a realistic color and rendering in your painting, both matte and not.
Did you use photo reference, or did you make a blood contract with demon ?

Thanks before !
 
Old 08 August 2013   #8
Hello,

Do you travel a lot (and take pictures) for reference for your paintings? How much of the reference is from on site visits? Lastly how much of the world have you seen?

I am fully aware that the brushes are only tools to help you paint bit faster and has nothing to do with artistic skills and or talent. Is it rude of me to ask if you could share your brush set on Photoshop?

Thanks in advance for the answer, and thank you for being such an inspiration.
 
Old 08 August 2013   #9
Hi Maciej,

First of all, I'm a big fan of your work and I'm very inspired by your career's story.
I'm also from Poland, and I really want to break someday to the creative industry... I'm having a lasting problem though which is hunting me for almost an year now. There's no question that I need to be really good if I want to start a career as an artist, and that requires lot of practice. Right now I need to work full time in a totally non creative job, often I spend about two weeks at work without any day off just to pay my bills and save some money. When I come home I have to do all the house related stuff, and usually I'm totally draind out when it comes to sit to my tablet... so instead of practicing and learning for hours all I'm able to do before I get too tired to do anything but sleep, is usally 1 hour of painting.
I don't see any major improvement in my work since I'm doing it this way, and I'm totally loosing my motivation.

My question is - In your early days have you ever had to deal with a similar problem, and if yes, what were you doing to overcome it?
You were learning only through forums sitting in internet cafes, and you menaged in less than a year to get your first freelance job. I have broadband internet from my laptop, tons of resources in just a few clicks, but I'm sturggling to learn for about 2 years now and I'm feeling like I'm going nowhere... What should an aspiring artist with lack of time like me do, to ever get noticed and break to the industry?
 
Old 08 August 2013   #10
Hello Maciej

At the beginning I really want to thank for a post that You posted on facebook some time ago about how you were spending 12 hours a day painting and failing. Yet you still managed to find yourself with your dream becoming true - such stories like yours really kicks my butt to keep practice and get better to hopefully someday wake up as a professional concept artist in professional studio...
Actually I have a tons of questions for You, but for now I woulkd like to know did You had any problems at the beginning of your career linked with so called visual library..?? If so, how did You managed / overcame it..?? Also I'm trying to get an overall sense of a concept design and my thoughts on it are: learn how to paint > learn how stuff / things / nature / animals / world works and paint it during this learning > put this knowledge together with Your painting skills and You can call yourself a concept designer... Is it really like that.?? what are Your thoughts abut this...?? I'm asking cause I really don't want to lose myself in this quite difficult learning path...
p.s. You should run a school of a concept design like Feng Zhu but in Poland...

thanks in advance and best of luck for You (hope my english is unerstandable - it's a shame we can't chat in polish here .... :P)
__________________
http://www.artstation.com/artist/Marou
http://www.max3d.pl/forum/showthread.php?t=82190&page=2
 
Old 08 August 2013   #11
Originally Posted by Coldsight: Hi Maciej,
thanks for sharing your passion with us!

Here is my question:
how do you personally approach "lack of inspiration" when you actually are forced to produce something (I mean in a studio or working for a client). To be more precise, how do you brainstorm, what's your method?

Thanks in advance!!!


Hi Alessandro,

There are several ways. Most efficient method I had so far was to take a quick break, relax and clear my mind from thinking about work. I would often go running, long walks or even do a quick workout session. I had quite a few new ideas and/or ways to solve problems coming to me right after leaving the gym.
On tight deadlines however even quick 10-15 min break will reset your mind at least to a point where you can organize your workload and break it down to what is most important first. By 10 minute break I mean going offline, not looking at any social media, news, forums, tv.. Just stopping any information flow and allowing your brain to take a break from excessive thinking.
__________________
maciejkuciara.com
 
Old 08 August 2013   #12
Originally Posted by BillCreative: Hi Maciej,
i'm a big fan of yours, really.

I have a question, maybe a cliché one.
How do you produce such a realistic color and rendering in your painting, both matte and not.
Did you use photo reference, or did you make a blood contract with demon ?

Thanks before !


Hello Bill,

When I started working with Photoshop back in 2003, my main focus was always drawing and painting in colors. I tried many times to paint from head but never got any close to satisfying results when it comes to realism of light, values and hues. So I started looking at photography and nature and tried to copy what I see. I ended up eventually with using photography in my concepts for quicker results, mainly because I felt more strong about how I handle lighting and color than being able to design things. Everything else came with practice of doing all of above.
__________________
maciejkuciara.com
 
Old 08 August 2013   #13
Originally Posted by VengeantSpirit: Hello,

Do you travel a lot (and take pictures) for reference for your paintings? How much of the reference is from on site visits? Lastly how much of the world have you seen?

I am fully aware that the brushes are only tools to help you paint bit faster and has nothing to do with artistic skills and or talent. Is it rude of me to ask if you could share your brush set on Photoshop?

Thanks in advance for the answer, and thank you for being such an inspiration.


Before I came to US, I wasn't traveling a lot at all. There was always something on a way, need to provide for family first over urge to relax, lack of time because of work, or just simply feeding myself with excuses, even if I couldn't find one.
That changed a bit when I relocated to other side of the globe, I felt way to shameful for not experiencing life around me.
Anyways, when I started traveling a bit more, I got myself good camera and forced myself to use it. It helped me a ton! There were several projects that I got a great use of collected travel material. In other occasions thou I had to rely on what I could find online.

The brushes.. I actually made them available some time ago. Here's the link:
http://tiger1313.deviantart.com/art...-v0-1-381264656
__________________
maciejkuciara.com
 
Old 08 August 2013   #14
Originally Posted by marowak: Hello Maciej

At the beginning I really want to thank for a post that You posted on facebook some time ago about how you were spending 12 hours a day painting and failing. Yet you still managed to find yourself with your dream becoming true - such stories like yours really kicks my butt to keep practice and get better to hopefully someday wake up as a professional concept artist in professional studio...
Actually I have a tons of questions for You, but for now I woulkd like to know did You had any problems at the beginning of your career linked with so called visual library..?? If so, how did You managed / overcame it..?? Also I'm trying to get an overall sense of a concept design and my thoughts on it are: learn how to paint > learn how stuff / things / nature / animals / world works and paint it during this learning > put this knowledge together with Your painting skills and You can call yourself a concept designer... Is it really like that.?? what are Your thoughts abut this...?? I'm asking cause I really don't want to lose myself in this quite difficult learning path...
p.s. You should run a school of a concept design like Feng Zhu but in Poland...

thanks in advance and best of luck for You (hope my english is unerstandable - it's a shame we can't chat in polish here .... :P)


Hey Marek,

Thanks for good words! happy to hear that post was inspiring to you.
The path you're describing is good! Well put. Everything else is just matter of practice (a lot of it!) and constantly challenging yourself. In order to grow artistically you need to step out of your comfort zone whenever you feel good about your work. It's fine to appreciate your own achievements (after all every hard working artist deserve some kind of reward), but remember that any minute you're not improving your skills, dozen of other artists around the world (and your potential competition for work) are either catching up or getting better than you.
That notion itself was one of the bigger factors for me to take sabbaticals from work and learn new things, like Modo or Zbrush.
__________________
maciejkuciara.com
 
Old 08 August 2013   #15
Hey Maciej!
Thanks for doing this.
I was hoping you could talk about visa's and immigration. I'm a student outside of the US and am trying to gain as much knowledge as I can about what it is like trying to immigrate there since that is where all the major studios are right now.

I guess I'd like to know about the studios involvement in getting you into the US and the government's too, but also I'm curious about you working on the latest xmen movie. I hear that working in Movies, you have to be in LA to get the jobs. Does this affect the way you have to deal with your visa situation?
Thanks!
__________________
Here's my small and insecure blog www.JamesChoe.com
 
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