The parallel worlds of Michał Karcz

We love the dreamlike landscapes Michał creates armed with only his computer and his imagination. He was the perfect choice to create the epic 1.7 splash screen for Affinity Photo.
How did you get into photo manipulation / editing?

In the early 90’s, my biggest passion was painting, the appeal being that it helped me to express a vision that was easier to create with than other visual techniques that were available at the time. I spent five years of my studies creating a series of oil paintings inspired by dreams and visions, but I wasn’t happy with the final effect. It was not so polished, it lacked dynamism and realism, so I left it and took up photography, which I found fascinated me.

At that time, it was still a world of traditional materials and developing chemicals, machines, and techniques. It was very complicated especially with the mountain trekking and photo shoots. Gear was heavy and bulky because I used middle format cameras and 6x6 films, but it meant that each frame was created with more patience and heart. After the revolution which brought digital photography and software, I found that I could combine these two techniques into one piece. In later years this would lead to me leaving the paintbrush and canvas to step into the world of photo manipulation which to me was very much like opening an existing door but with a new, modern key.

Canaveral Doom

It was 2004 when I first experimented with expanding my method of expression. I am entirely self-taught in the art of digital media and photo manipulation and thanks to the use of digital tools, my early fascinations of painting and photography now had the ability to be combined using photo manipulation. I wanted to ensure the realistic character of the final picture wasn’t lost. Digital photography and the use of software gave me an opportunity to generate unique realities that in the past were impossible to create with traditional dark room techniques.

Affinity Photo splash

Over the past 14 years, I have since honed and developed my own techniques to achieve a level that satisfies me and provides me with the opportunity to develop most of my ideas. Which brings me to where I am now.

Michał Karcz workflow featuring the music which inspired the piece.
How would you describe your style?

A lot of people find my artwork dramatic, dark and sometimes sinister but I think they just don’t look carefully at the whole picture. I always put some light in it. There’s always hope and forces which struggle with darkness.

Spiritual Archives

It all comes from my inner depth. I describe my style as realistic, photographic illustration of alternative realities. That’s what comes to mind when thinking about my artworks. I agree that there’s a lot of darkness, but only to make use of the light as a contrast possible.

For me pictures full of light and colour are too obvious and lack mystery. They can be nice and even beautiful, but I always search for duality, meaning and mystery. I think sunshine deprives the image of these attributes. When hidden in the shadows it can force you to look more closely and stop for a moment.

Core

My main focus is always on the details and the best realistic merging of pictures to make the composition believable and striking. On a technical aspect, the most important things are always light, shadow and composition. After this comes your own interpretation of meaning and content.

Spiritual Archives IV
You do a lot of covers for albums and books, do you feel that digital art is an equal expression of skill/talent as these media?

Absolutely. I think they not only complement each other but are the same tool of self-expression.

Good work should tell a story and allow the viewer to step into the picture, triggering their imagination.

Just as music or fiction is set to move our senses, every kind of art is just as valuable as it can affect the feeling and thoughts of the recipient no matter what media it is transmitted through.

Apocalypse
How do you choose projects to work on, does it have to inspire you?

Of course. Without inspiration I just can’t work.

In the beginning it’s a kind of spark inside my brain which triggers a whole process and it most definitely inspires me. I always ask musicians or writers for a full description of what they want to say through their work. All their thoughts are some form of inspiration for me.

Interloper

I also ask for a piece of music or text. Everything that they send matters and the initial feelings are sometimes so strong that I have already ideas in my head which I use later in the design process.

Sometimes I refuse to work on a project simply because I just don’t feel it and don’t want to waste client’s time (and mine too). I don’t want to work like a machine or a factory.

Final work will be signed with my name and I don’t want to put my name to it if I couldn’t give 100% of my abilities, effort and pleasure of creation.

Another way in how something can inspire me and what is often very influential in my personal work is the inspiration after a night full of dreams which are incredibly vivid or when I listen to music. Yes. I must say that music and dreams have the biggest impact on my work. They are inseparable elements that always accompany me, and which occupy my mind. They are like sound illustrations for non-existing sceneries and moments.

The Sentinel

Nature around me is also a very strong stimulus. Processes, complexity and its beauty affect my imagination. Close contact with every part of this planet. I see pictures, environments or situations in their entirety when I’m shooting. This vision, together with the photos, stay in my mind until I’m back. I always know how to start and develop that initial vision.

My inspirations for themes, mood, composition and colour usage come also from painters, especially from Zdzisław Beksiński, John Martin, Caspar David Friedrich and some futuristic visionaries like Moebius or Syd Mead. They are always somewhere around me and their spirit is noticeable in my artworks.

Who would you like to work with in the future?

There are a few possibilities. I think I could find some names from the music industry which would help to fulfil myself as a cover artwork designer. I’ve still got a plenty of time. Maybe someday I will find a message from them in my inbox. You never know.

Hyperportal

But thinking about other fields, it is really difficult to choose someone by name. I’ve just never thought about it. Perhaps they would be sculptors or fashion creators whose imagination would correlate with mine.

It could even be someone who represents digital 3D art. This is the field which I neglected and sometimes miss as it’s a very flexible technique to my work. I just haven’t had the time to learn this kind of software from scratch. Which is another thing, I am very demanding and expect maximum creativity and skills from myself. I do not know if I could work with someone as a co-creator! Maybe I would be too demanding for them or would impose on their vision! ;)

The Beacon

You can see more from Michał on his instagram and check out his website for more information.


Artist relations
Umar is part of our artist relations team. He likes to tinker with computers, build things and play competitive games. His favourite colour is green and he enjoys bouldering, which is basically climbing without any ropes. It’s less dangerous than it sounds.
Credits & Footnotes

All images copyright of Michał Karcz and used with permission.

Music from video used with permission: Hollan Holmes ‘Impluse’ http://www.hollanholmesmusic.com