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What programs do you use most often?
The main set is Zbrush, Photoshop and Maya. I use also some other programs, such as xNormal. All depends on my needs at the moment, but the basic set is usually sufficient.
Your works are very distinctive and have their own unique climate. Have you already met the opinion that Tomasz Strzalkowski has his own style?
Sometimes I hear such opinions and it is very nice. I've always wanted to make my works interesting in some way, with their own climate. I try to make something little different than generally perceived 3D. I like painterly quality and mysterious atmosphere. Some people say that my works remind them paitings of Giger and Beksinski. I love works of these two great artists, they are very inspiring for me. I don't dare to compare what I do to their works, but if someone mentions these artists in connection to my work, it is very uplifting :)
Luckily, people also often highlight that they can recognize my own style, and it means more for me than comparisons with other artists. I remember when as a young boy I discovered Salvador Dali paintings, I was absolutely fascinated by them, but I wanted to do something more dark. I was impressed also by amazing paintings of Heronim Bosh. When I discovered Beksinski and Giger I was fascinated even more. But I always wanted to do something distinctive, to show my visions in my own way.
Do you have any art education or is it just a passion?
I have master's degree in art (Master in fine arts, MFA). Since I can remember I liked drawing and painting. I remember my first portrait of Bruce Lee, I was at the age of 5 – 6. That time one of my favorite activities was copying portraits of people on stamps. Sometimes I was spending whole day on it. Selection of a particular profession and tools came later, but graphics is my passion from early years.
Where do You find Your inspirations?
You can be inspired by almost everything, everywhere - while walking on the street, being in the woods, listening to music, watching videos. I love to look at the trees, their various forms are incredibly inspiring. I like also mechanical, industrial enviroments. I try to make works that are a little ambiguous. I try to hide some thought, a story in each of them. Everyone has to discover it on his or her own. A great influence on my works came from watching movies, like for eg. “Star Wars”. I watched original trilogy many, many times. I also find inspirations in science fiction books.
Can You tell us a little bit about commercial projects that You have worked on?
One of them was Painkiller (PC game). I created geometry for the levels, I did also the texturing and illumination. Among other things I made graphics of such levels as the Town, the Castle, Forest and Hell. I was in the People Can Fly almost from the beginning, I gained the position of Senior Graphics Artist.
Another project was Painkiller: Battle out of Hell (PC). A similar work, I made some levels, like, for example Leningrad, Coloseum (only texturing and lighting), Shadowlands.
Painkiller: Hell Wars (Xbox)
I made convertion to Xbox and general optimization. In the meantime, a new title was created which I'm not allowed to speak about.
Gears of War (PC) - In this project I was helping in a variety of matters, such as building parts of meshes and optimization.
Bulletstorm (PC, Xbox360, PS3) - I was Lead Environment Asset Artist during this project, I was responsible for creating the environment assets for this game, building meshes and illuminating some levels.
Is there anything else that you are passionate about in 3D?
I remember the moment when I fell in love with 3d graphics. I realized that it is possible to create realistic looking, but still surreal worlds. And 3d graphics lets you to be in this world. Lately, I made some works in anaglyph 3D and it can give such immersion, it's like the possibility of visiting surreal world. Creating this world is making the vision come real.
Do you have a dream project?
Yes, of course, even more than one. I would like to participate in the making of a movie like Prometheus. When it comes to visuals this movie is just brilliant, especially Giger's works. As I mentioned earlier, he is the one of my favorite artists and working on project with this graphic style is my dream. Another dream project is to animate some of my works one day, it is a part of a larger idea. I hope that someday I can do this.
What do You think about software that is on the market? Does it limit the artists or maybe it's more than enough to dream on?
Software is a tool, but I think a lot of people keeps forgetting about it. It often happens that when a new version of software is coming out, many artists try to use new features not thinking if it is right or wrong. I think the most important is the final effect and using your tools in creative way, not just using them because they are new.
One of the first programs I used was Bryce 3D, and there was the editor to create terrain using displacement maps. There were two options - you could create a terrain with a flat base or mirror reflected solids. There was one window with a preview of the object and the second with displacement map that could be modified by varying filters. You could draw and create any 3-dimensional shapes. It was a little like carving in Zbrush, although it was very clumsy - editing window was very small. I didn't have a tablet back then, but I started carving anyway. In those days it was amazing, I carved many things, even my self-portrait :-) This tool wasn't designed for such work, but I didn't care. I used this method to make a work which was later rewarded in 3D Warehouse contest. I took the first place in the category: “maximum 3D”. It was an incredible inspiration and motivation.
It convinced me that software is only a tool to achieve my purpose. I decide how to use it. Sometimes it is not the way it was designed by the developer, but it's cool. Nowadays it is of course much easier, because software and hardware are created with the aim of the creators and artists, and tools are more intuitive and friendly.
Do you have any other hobbies? How do you spend your free time?
I spend time with my loved ones, I try to devote as much time as I can to people who are important in my life. I also listen to music and it is a huge inspiration for me. Graphics is my job but also a true passion. Although I work in the production of games, outside of work I don't play too much, I like to watch them. I also like reading, watching movies and going to the pub with friends.
What would you take on a desert island?
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