Wacom Presents: Let’s Talk Art with illustrator Bartosz Kosowski hosted by Jack Woodhams
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Wacom Presents: Let’s Talk Art with illustrator Bartosz Kosowski hosted by Jack Woodhams


Hi, my name is Jack founder of PosterSpy.com and welcome to another Let’s Talk Art video. This time we’re in Łódź, Poland, to chat to award winning illustrator,
Bartosz Kosowski. So, Let’s Talk Art. Jack: First of thank you so much
for being part of the Let’s Talk Art series, I’m a huge fan of your work and
have been following it for a very long time. So how did you first get into poster art? Bartosz: To be honest I’ve always liked movie posters, right. I remember when I was a teenager, I liked the works of Franciszek Starowieyski and he created those really detailed works which were really dark and gloomy at the same time, and very symbolic. So I like his work. Then I also like the works of Waldemar Świerzy who is another Polish poster artist. He used smudges and dots and splashes to create what seemed to be an abstract art when you looked up closely, but when
you stepped back and looked at it from a distance these were like really realistic posters. So I think I’ve always liked that kind of stuff, even when I was a kid, right. Recently, “recently” meaning back in 2013 or ’14. I created my first movie poster, so this is how it all started. Jack: One hugely popular piece of yours, is your Lolita poster. Which uses a lot of really great visual metaphors. How did you get started on that piece? Bartosz: I created this piece back in 2014, and it was for a show at Spoke Art Gallery. It was a Stanley Kubrick show. So actually, when I was preparing for that show I had three ideas for the posters. One was Lolita and the other two were A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. I did some sketches and I thought, well, I’ll probably go with this one, so it wasn’t like a decision, I didn’t realise that the poster would become very popular. I remember that I came up with this idea after having a look at the original
poster for the film, which depicts Sue Lyon, the actress, in heart-shaped glasses with a lollipop. I started looking at the lollipop, drawing the lollipop and then, at one point, I saw something more in it. So this is how it all began right. This was the most difficult part, for me, personally, it’s always the most difficult thing to come up with a really strong idea, which could symbolise the film in one simple picture. Jack: So even now, the piece is hugely popular, you’ve had people email, even call you to figure out how to get it. Bartosz: Yeah. Jack: How does that feel, as an artist, knowing that, was it four years ago that you created this piece? Bartosz: It was, yeah. Jack: That people still want it? Bartosz: I mean, it feels great
on one hand. Because it’s always, you know, you create things, I’m not saying that you create things for people, right. Because you create things
because you want to create things, right? Of course it’s a great feeling when you know people like the stuff that you do and they email you, or they call you, because they want to get it. Or people just tweet it, re-blog it talk about it, even though very often they don’t even mention your name. Because, you know that’s the internet thing. They just post stuff and not necessarily credit the artist, which I kind of understand. On the other hand, this was actually the first proper movie poster that I created. So I set the bar pretty high. It’s really difficult, once you start with something
that people really like, which is a very strong image, to come up with something equally good. When you set the bar high, you have thing kind of thing like musicians have when they record
the first album, which is really good and then people start criticising them like “You will never do someting like that again.” I hope I will. It’s not that I stopped there, I kept creating posters, you know I did plenty of posters actually after that. Jack: Are there any films in particular, that you’d like to make a poster for? Bartosz: Well there are plenty of those, right. I have a list of films, that I really really like. I think at some point I might create posters for One of them is definitely Moon, by Duncan Jones, right? It’s a great film, I love it. I even had some rough sketches for that, but then, on the other hand, the original poster for that film is pretty strong. That’s the problem, I mean it’s not
really a problem. Once you’ve got a really strong poster, the original poster. You don’t want to go up against that. Or you have a feeling like, what’s the point? I really like the film of Wes Anderson I actually did a poster for one of his films, actually two of his films. I did one for Grand Budapest Hotel and then the other one for Life Aquatic. I’m actually working on a new poster for a
Wes Anderson show. Which will be later this year, so yeah I’m working on one definitely. Jack: A lot of your film posters, like your Lolita poster and like your Jaws poster use very sort of, symbolic and simple imagery to put across an important idea. Is there a reason you approach
film posters this way? Bartosz: Yeah, I mean I think there is. The reason is, that even though I like posters which depict the characters, from the film and I sometimes do those as well, right. I think that the strongest posters are those which are more metaphorical. I remember what Saul Bass once said, and I love his works, right. He said that, a really good poster, is a poster which is simple, yet thought provoking. Because if the image is simple, people are just like, well it’s a nice clever image. If it’s something more than that, people will come back to it and then think, ah, there is more to it, than just the surface. I really like the work of Polish poster school. It wasn’t really an artistic movement, it was more like a phenomenon, back between the ’50s and 70’s in Poland. There were a lot of poster artists, who created those metaphorical posters, which used visual metaphors to show the film, the content of the film. Whilst in the United States, at that time, you had posters that were just showing the main characters, of course they were
beautifully painted or drawn, but these were just the characters. Here in Poland, we had those really
marvelous artists, who painted really weird looking posters. With hand written typography very often, with something that was very abstract, the funny thing is that they created
those posters because very often, they didn’t even watch the films,
that they were creating posters for. Which may sound weird, but on the other hand it’s not so limiting. Because once you see the film, you know what the characters look like. You’re somehow limited by the
universe of the film. Whereas when you approach a title, just by reading the synopsis for instance, you try to think in a more metaphorical way. That’s a nice way to go about it, I think. The works that you’ve mentioned, Jaws and Lolita use a similar idea. I just wanted to create something which would
be clear for the viewer. Even if I cut out the credits and title of the film, Probably, if you asked someone
“what is this poster for?” They would guess, is probably Jaws and Lolita. Of course everybody knows the original Jaws poster which is a very powerful image. You can see, the shark and the swimming girl, and the shark is just about to devour her and it’s a good poster, it’s very powerful. But this is very straightforward. I wanted to create something more subtle. So you can see the vast ocean with the little waves, and a smooth surface and then you just see the little fin. Of course, the shark is there, you just don’t have to show the real shark,
with really huge teeth To scare people. Sometimes, what’s more scary than showing
the monster is just knowing that the monster is there,
but you can’t see it. So that was the idea. Jack: Your work often contains in fact, almost always contains a lot of texture, which adds a lot of depth to your work. Is there any advice you can give
to emerging and aspiring artists who want to add texture to their own stuff? Bartosz: It’s actually a really difficult question, because I cannot tell anybody to add texture right, it’s always up to the illustrator whether they want to have a really
flat surface, or some textured surface. I went for texture because I just feel it looks good. Actually, I use a lot of textures which I got from scanning this really rough paper and different surfaces and things like that. Because I wanted to have this analogue feel to the work which is actually created digitally. Another piece of advice, which is connected with that, is that I always tell people to learn how to draw with pen and paper, before they go digital. I’m not saying it’s a must, but if you want to have this really analogue
feel to your work it’s good to know, what you’re trying to achieve. And it’s good to be able to achieve it, if the power is down and you have just
a piece of paper and a pen. So it’s very useful. I think it’s very important to just to basically learn to draw, in an analogue way. Jack: Most people know you as an illustrator, but not many people know, that before
you were an illustrator, you were actually an English teacher. What made you change your career path so kind of drastically? Bartosz: It wasn’t really the case that one day I woke up and decided ah, I’m going to be an illustrator! I’ve always liked drawing, when I was a kid I used to draw pictures
like every day. When I decided that I will study English literature and not art when I was like eighteen or something. It’s because I was thinking practically. I could for instance, teach English, or do something like this. Whereas if I study art, you never know, right? So that was basically a decison like that. Even though I studied English, I kept drawing all the time, attending different courses and art classes, stuff like that. So when I finished English philology, I thought OK maybe it’s time to do
something about it. So I kept teaching English during the day, and I started studying art, print making specifically. During the day I was teaching
people English and in the evening, I was just drawing and I was also attending classes. So I kind of managed to do two things
at the same time. Once I finished art academy, I still kept teaching English for a while, I was getting my first illustration commissions it was a long process. I was getting more and more of those and I kept doing two things, at a certain point, when I was about, well it was about eight years ago I think I thought OK I cannot do it anymore, because I cannot have like two regular jobs. So I thought I’m going to try doing the freelancing full-time freelancing, right. I’m going to just take a gap year from teaching
and see how it works. It’s been like what, eight years now or
nine years, ten years? I never came back, so, this is how it worked, basically. Jack: It must have been pretty exhausting, when you were trying to juggle teaching
and illustration at the same time. but I guess it’s also an example that it’s
never really too late to start, if you want to. Bartosz: Yeah! Precisely! You know, I started getting proper illustration
jobs when I was about thirty. I think so, so yeah, it’s never too late. Jack: You’re at a point in your career now, where you do get a lot of freelance work, obviously organising your time can be
quite difficult when you have a lot of work to do. Are there any practises, or things that you do to make organising your time easier? Bartosz: Yeah I mean, definitely if you
work from home well, not necessarily from home, but if you’re like self-employed, doing
full-time freelancing. You have to be very organised. Because there is no manager, no boss who
can tell you “OK get down to work” “Do this, do that” You have to do it yourself. Basically I think it’s very important to plan
your day, week and month and stick to the plan. My typical day, is just like I wake up at about 9am or something and then eat some breakfast, up until about midday, I usually
do the email stuff. So I just respond to emails, from
different clients and things like that. Then I start working, let’s say “properly” yeah. Because if you’re doing freelancing, you have to do all the things yourself. So you have to remember about that. Being organised helps. Jack: You created a poster last year for a
Polish film, called I Am a Killer It’s a piece that I’m really interested
to learn a bit more about. Is there some stuff that you can show us? Bartosz: Yeah sure, let’s go and check it out. Bartosz: So this is the poster for I Am a Killer this is a poster that I created about a year ago. I was approached by the film producers, who wanted to have something different
from just the regular, Photoshopped head of the main character. As you can see it’s large format print, it’s like the typical film poster size, which is one metre by seventy centimetres. It was all drawn, digitally and then
made into a poster. Generally, it has a lot of details, and I started with drawing both of
the characters. because I thought it would be nice
to see where to put the tear in between them. So I thought, OK let’s have them
both drawn in full size. Which you have here and somewhere else I do have the other character. Yep, OK. So as you can see, it was all drawn. Like this, Jack: Because in the film,
these two are the main.. Bartosz: Yeah, these are the two main characters. This film tells the story which is set back in the 1970’s
I think in Poland. In the region of Silesia. The region is struck by a series of brutal murders on women. There are two protagonists, one is
the young police officer. Whose job is to catch the killer. The second person is the the man who is
supposed to be the killer, but in fact, he’s not. I wanted to have this dark imagery,
in the poster right. So this is why I went for the texture,
and the specific brushes, because when you look closely at
the way that it is drawn. The line work, is kind of gritty Jack: Super detailed texture.
Bartosz: Yeah. Bartosz: So this is where it all started. It was a long process, One of the initial ideas, was to use handwitten typography
in the poster. The title is based on the handwriting of
the real killer. Whose story is depicted in the film because
it’s based on a true story. I found this letter that he sent to the police. As you can see I just cut out separate letters
and just based the title exactly on his handwriting. But, although it was appealing to me, and although the idea seemed very nice. I’m not sure if it worked very well as typography on a film poster. It’s a very nice idea, but sometimes a nice idea
doesn’t mean that it will look good in the poster, right? So I thought maybe, I could do someting else. So I looked for some other, serial killers
that I could use. I came across the letters of Charles Manson. I based the typography on his handwriting, exactly the same way I took out separate letters
and just kind of re-drew it in my way. But that also didn’t work, So the next approach was to go a bit crazy
and use typography that is also hand written. But not based on anyone’s handwriting. So this is actually a division into three,
so slightly different than the final. I wanted to just experiment a bit with really
rough, handwritten letters. Which are somehow, hidden beneath the
middle part of the poster. This was one of the versions, but we tested
it against a focus group. It turned out that people wanted
to have something more traditional. The poster itself is totally different from
what you can see in the streets so, adding some extra, alternative stuff
was a bit too much. So finally we went for just a regular font. Well not regular, but a distorted font which
was actually used in the final. Jack: So how mant concepts did you actually
create for this piece, before you got to final one we saw earier? Bartosz: I don’t know, just like, many. Jack: Lots
Bartosz: Yeah. Bartosz: Thirty, fourty, there were lots of them. This is something that is closest to the final
but as you can see, I know they look pretty similar, but these are just different tones, that
I wanted to use, wanted to test. More blueish, more I don’t know, texture. You know. When you work on a film poster and
you know it’s a serious work. It’s good to test many different ways,
many different versions. This is just eight of them, so if you
put another thirty, we’d be there. Jack: I think it’s really interesting to look at
this as well and especially as we spoke about your influences. To see
how they’ve been brought into this poster. Thank you so much for showing
us this piece and talking through the creation process, it’s been really
interesting learning about it and thank you so much for being part
of the Let’s Talk Art series. Bartosz: Well thanks a lot, it was
my pleasure.

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