An Interview with Maciej Kuciara

August 15, 2021

Have you always aspired to create art, or did you discover your calling later in life?

My entire life has been pivoting around art. From early childhood when I loved to draw favorite characters from games and movies and my own imagination, to discovering digital art in 2003 and making it my career choice. I have loved drawing and painting ever since I could remember. My mother told me many times I inherited that passion from my dad, who passed away before I was old enough to know him.

Did you study art as a student or are you self-taught?

I dreamt of going to art school, but the reality of growing up behind the iron curtain meant there were no resources to even imagine art itself could be a career. I never studied to become an artist, with the exception of a few classes my mom could afford when I was very young. Skill developed naturally over years of just drawing and focusing on it being a fun hobby. The real pursuit to become better and learn happened during the early days of digital art in the 2000’s. Probably the most eye-opening moment was seeing behind the scenes of Tomek Baginski’s, The Cathedral and artists at Platige Image working on graphic tablets. It made me discover and fall in love with digital art. I went into deep waters and never looked back.

By Maciej Kuciara
What artist or artists informed your development? And what artists do you look to now for inspiration?

If I were to choose one artist that inspired me the most it would be Otomo Katsuhiro without a question. Akira was one of the first manga I’ve read which made me fall in love with Japanese art and culture and shaped the artist I am today.

There were many other artists that truly inspired and informed my development, from those who were purely just inspiration to those who I had a chance to interface with and had a chance to be pointed in the right direction.

What was a pivotal moment in the evolution of your work?

There were three moments that shaped my entire career. One I already mentioned earlier with discovering The Cathedral short film and digital art in general. Second one was joining Naughty Dog studio to help shape the look of The Last of Us franchise, which by itself became a four year long process of understanding and perfecting digital art. Last one was making my anime short film Showtime. All of those were moments of incredible pressure of either discovery, learning, or simply hard work. Each of them helped me grow as an artist and learn invaluable skills.

By Maciej Kuciara
Tell us about your process. Do you begin with an image or a concept?

I don’t think there is a grounded set of rules I follow when making art. It can be anything- a sketch, an idea, reference images that inspire me to create.

What informs your work? As a visual artist, are you inspired by music, film, science, literature or other art forms?

One common denominator of what inspires me the most is craftsmanship – in art, film, music, and everywhere else. I have a massive appreciation for things that take effort to make.  One of the best examples I can come up with is Akira. It’s probably the most insane production in existence when it comes to the amount of effort, passion and craftsmanship in the history of animation and cinema. There’s so much that can be said about Otomo’s body of work, I can only encourage anyone to watch the making of Akira. It’s truly mind blowing.

By Maciej Kuciara
What was the most challenging project that you worked on?

Creating my short film was by far the most challenging, intense and stressful experience. Because of my attention to detail and lack of compromise when it comes to quality, I promised myself to make every single frame of my film to look like a painting. That meant every single shot took an incredible amount of planning, execution, hard work (and a bit of my soul) to make.

I learned so much about myself while making this project. I believe every artist owes it to themselves to make an ambitious project that they will want to quit on many times before it’s all done and shipped.

By Maciej Kuciara
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? 

I love exploring the world of digital art, always learning something new, making it my own and perfecting it with time. I’ve been going through a cycle of new art and style over the decades, always taking lessons with me and applying them to new projects. I learned to evolve from painterly to realistic styles, learning a lot about lighting, composition, design principles. All of those skills broaden my toolbox. It’s a never-ending process of learning and discovery. I love it. It’s a substantial part of my life and a core of my personality.

How do you think NFTs will change the future for artists?

In its current form, NFTs have already massively changed not only the lives of artists but also collectors. It’s truly a remarkable technological disruptor that affects the art industry that I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime. In the past, selling digital art was very difficult to justify. In the same respect, there was no way to prove that you ‘own’ digital art as the ‘jpeg’ itself is fungible. With that major flaw, digital artists were often taken advantage of.

The proof of authenticity on the blockchain to digital art is what an original piece of traditional art would be in relation to print copies. The non-fungible token is like a digital signature from an artist saying ‘yep, this one is the real one’. This signature will allow for digital artists to be respected and regarded in the same way that their physical counterparts are. It empowers the artist and bolsters their provenance, unlike the system that we previously functioned within, where those same artists were undercut and exploited. This process is already beginning, and I think it will contribute to the longevity of artists’ careers.

Maciej Kuciara

Maciej Kuciara is a Polish digital artist and director who made his professional debut in 2004. Over the past two decades Maciej has established his artistic style and process, merging cutting edge 3D graphics with traditional art and animation aesthetics that result in a unique visual experience. His innovative approach to artistic medium expressed both in his works and educational materials have led a new wave of artistic styles that quickly became mainstream in the entertainment industry. As a self-taught artist who grew up ‘Behind the Iron Curtain’, Maciej brought unique visual styles that defined world renowned and award-winning franchises in film, video games, and space and technology industries. His innovative approach to concept art helped build the visual identity of projects such as The Last of Us, Captain America Civil War, the Avengers movies, and Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell.