It was a great pleasure to get to talk with artist Darek Zabrocki to discuss his work. Darek came to my attention when I first encountered his fantastic Star Wars work. Zabrocki is a professional concept artist who has worked with major clients like Ubisoft, Guerrilla Games, and Square Enix.
Start of interview
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Poland in my home city, Gdansk.
How did you learn your craft?
I am a self taught artist, drawing and painting were always my biggest passion and I’ve known I couldn’t live without them since my early years. I had some bad days or even months but it was always the thing which made me happy. A couple years ago I fully understood that’s what I am on earth to do.
Was there a moment where a teacher or a mentor really impacted you?
Yeah there were couple of those. I always had big support from my parents (big hugs to them!). They never stopped believing in what I do and they never tried to stop me from dreaming about doing it for a living in the future! This was one of those things which I am very thankful to them for. My mother was my mentor and teacher. She has a master’s degree in Architecture, and she has a good eye for catching stuff that doesn’t work on the picture. She likes to visualize stuff and has amazing 3 dimensional view/imagination abilities. When I was a teenager (before going to high school) I had a huge gap where I was doing nothing related to art. I almost abandoned the idea of doing it, and instead, I tried to develop in other areas. I was so silly but fortunately my mother never let it happen. She never gave up on trying to inspire me. And it happened, and has lasted until today, so I am full of hope that it will last forever!
When you hit a wall artistically, or find yourself unable to create, are there any artists, films, books, or pieces of music that you turn to for a burst of inspiration or creative fuel?
Of course! Every artist has that moment of not being inspired or just has the feeling of being burned out. I had it more often when I was freelancing only. Now, when I go to work every day, and I am surrounded by art all the time, I don’t have much time to cry over my boredom or indisposition. I never stop searching for new sources of inspiration. I can find them in some movies (I love watching movies/tv series!), other artists works, and of course in nature! The things that surround us are the best way to seek inspiration. People, landscapes, environments, or just city traffic, it all can be inspirational for many subjects, and I don’t mean only those that are very emphatic. For instance, city traffic can be inspirational for making some kind of “Hive” picture! Ha ha. There are many ways to interpret what we see and what we can depict in art.
You have a fantastic take on the Star Wars universe. Is that a world that has had a big influence on you as an artist?
Yes and no. I was away from that universe for quite a while…. It probably made some impact on my artistic point of view, but I think it was more like a subtle one. It changed in 2014 when I did my first serious take on this subject. I fell in love with that universe and even though I had watched the whole series before (probably more than once), I started watching it over and over again. It is so amazing and I am happy I finally realized it. It gave me inspiration to do so many works in such a short period. These are of course fan arts, but it would be lovely to work on some of the new movies! I have to admit it could happen but…. I am happy where I am and can’t really complain!
Was there a moment where you felt you “found your voice” as an artist?
I always wanted to do it, but I never thought I could make a living out of it. It all changed when I got more serious jobs and commissions in 2008-2009. It wasn’t anything big back then, but I can say I had quite regular commissions, so I felt I could make it. Last year was such a blast and I live with the hope that every year will be even better because of working on so many amazing projects. It gives me a boost, and I appreciate what I do even more!
Is there a project you worked on that stands out as particularly rewarding?
The one I am working on at Sony Guerrilla Games is a big challenge to change my mentality and my “lazy” freelance habits. I have to be at the studio every day in the morning. I started using 3D in a proper way and tried a lot of new things. I feel like I am learning something new every day, especially working in the team, using different Language (English is not my native one of course), new techniques and challenging tasks! I can finally call it proper concept art now that I am designing with tons of variations and stuff. I love working on other projects as well, and for instance, I had so much fun working on a new, upcoming title from Ubisoft recently. I also started working on Magic Cards for Wizards of the Coast and it seems it is going to be something really MAGIC. So yeah, I can’t really tell which one is the best, but every of them has something special. It always gives me a fresh perspective and it is challenging for me as an artist and as a person.
Do you have any daily rituals or habits that you find helpful to producing good art?
I try to walk a lot and do some gym exercises (at least 3x per week). It really keeps me in good shape, and I feel very refreshed after I move a bit. I had some real health problems related to my work, so I want to avoid it in the future because it is really easy to be distracted while designing things. This work needs constant focus, so you need to be ready. Your body and mind need to stay fresh.
What do you think the future for artists in the digital age looks like?
I think the digital era is still so young, and I predict a bright future for all this digital madness. I stay positive, because there are so many projects and everything is produced digitally these days. Future artists will still be using digital devices, and there will always be those old school guys who paint on canvases that I admire a lot. I used to be like this, but unfortunately, I am not anymore. I have plans to do more traditional stuff in the future though.
Are you available for freelance work? If so, how should those who are interested go about contacting you?
Yes, but my timeline right now is so tight… As I mentioned, I have been helping the guys from Ubisoft lately, and now, I am totally focused on my studio job. Apart from all this, I also started Magic stuff as well. I like to prepare potential work in advance. If some new clients reach out to me I try to do it smart so I won’t disappoint them with not delivering art on time. It might be inevitable sometimes, but it’s better to stick to the road and do your stuff regularly so you and your client’s schedule won’t be affected. They usually write me an email asking if I can do some work for them, and I still think it’s the best way to start a conversation. Then, it can evolve to phone call conversations or Skype conferences.
End of Interview
If you enjoy Darek’s artwork you can visit his website here. You can also follow him on Facebook here.
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