STUDENT ARTIST PROFILE: Rafal Banasiak

What degree are you studying and what year? I am currently a 3rd year studying Bachelor of Creative Arts (Digital Media).

What is a concept artist and would you describe yourself as one? A concept artist is responsible for solving design problems outlined in the brief and presenting the client with a variety of drawings or paintings to choose from. The drawings have to be completed very quickly and need to remain quite rough and flexible to enable quick iterations to be made based on feedback. It’s very much like designing a logo but with pictures. The design skills are key and come from understanding the world around you, being able to invent new, believable things, but art skills are similarly essential in creating a clear and pleasing presentation to help “sell” the idea. I consider myself half concept artist and half illustrator. I primarily specialise in environment work, but I occasionally work on props and vehicles as well. My goal at the end of uni, is to be very flexible, stylistically and to be comfortable with designing an extensive range of subject matters, like characters, creatures, mechs and weapons to broaden my job opportunities and adapt to diverse briefs.

What is your art background? Many artists I follow often say that they drew ever since they were three years old. In my instance, I actually didn’t draw for most of my life, and only took it seriously during my first year at uni. Prior to that, I remember doing some Star Wars fan art every once in a while, and then taking some basic painting and design classes in high school, but I never pushed myself outside the boundaries of homework. I spent all my free time playing games, and when I received my very first Wacom tablet at 16, I started doing some occasional paintings and sketches without reference and horrible anatomy and perspective. Once uni started, the energy of the people around me, motivated me to achieve many breakthroughs. Two years later and here I am at the level you see, with my contributions inside this year’s issues of Empire Times.

What kind of things do you learn during your classes? Many of my classes are devoted to learning new programs or putting certain workflow techniques into practice. Frequently, we are encouraged to collaborate on assignments in teams to practice communication and pipeline production, which are essential skills in the business.

What skills has the Creative Arts (Digital Media) degree given you? The degree has brought together a fantastic group of people who want to work on similar things. We have been taught how to work collaboratively to achieve our crazy ambitious goals, and help each other out whenever things go bad. To me, the degree has always been about uniting people together and learning each other’s strengths, to create a strong team and work towards a common goal. I have made many great friends from this process and I am currently working closely with them to produce more amazing things. I owe all my artistic achievements to thisdegree and to all the people who encouraged me to keep going.

What mediums do you use? Do you have a favourite? My good old faithful Wacom tablet. Lately all I had the chance to do is work digitally as times get hectic and many people want to see refined work from me. I don’t use my pencils as often as I would like to, because digital workflows are already incredibly flexible and customisable to my stylistic needs. Though I still believe that traditional tools are superior at improving confidence and draftsmanship, so I will definitely need to find time for it eventually. The use of ctrl+z makes a huge difference.

Concept-art-for-an-honours-film-Genus-done-during-my-first-year-at-uni
Concept art for an honours film Genus done during Raf’s first year at uni

What programs do you use to edit/manipulate your artwork? Mainly Photoshop. To this day it is still probably the best tool for the job and it’s an incredibly rich piece of software with infinite possibilities. However, I do also work in 3D for the sake of speed, and use 3Ds Max to quickly block out structures in perspective to then overpaint in Photoshop. This job isn’t very technical when it comes to software and I like that a lot.

How did you get so good? Lots of practice! Artists have always said that their life is all about art, and now I know they weren’t exaggerating. Art and design is what I do all day everyday – it’s my job, hobby and a spare time activity. I am either sitting at my desk creating for a project, or for myself, or spending the time outdoors analysing the behaviour of light and colour or creepily staring at people’s faces at the bus stop. You just start seeing things differently and find the smallest, most everyday things so fascinating – almost like a physicist would, with all the their scientific knowledge of the world, but in this case just the visuals. Everything else is just feedback; I have an amazing circle of friends and lecturers who have helped me identify my errors and have given me suggestions on how to eliminate them. I always make sure to apply them. And let’s not forget all the endless online art communities and free video tutorials these days that I have playing in the background while I work, or the collection of reference books and art books I gathered over the years. It all helps.

Your artwork is reflective of a love for games, specifically Halo, Mass Effect and other sci-fi themed works. Can you elaborate on this further? Do you want to work in game design? That’s the dream. I have a huge passion for games and believe that the interactive medium is superior for immersive and branching storytelling, and for an emotional engagement. I would love to be involved in creating these awesomeworlds and unique locations, and allowing the players to experience it.

What has been the most valuable advice you have received or wish you had received? That I will fail, and I will need to fail to be good at what I do. Failing is always portrayed negatively but it’s actually the best thing to happen to you, as long as you understand why you failed. I never stopped failing and still do, but the issues with my work have steadily become smaller thanks to their occurrence. It’s quite obvious advice but it has eliminated my fear from starting a new painting or moving outside the borders of my comfort zone. If I failed, it means I learnt something new or found a new weakness.

Do you work on your art every day? My number one rule is to produce one page of art a day. It could be a set of quick sketches or a fully detailed illustration. The key is to never break routine. On average, I produce a couple of sketches and a refined painting.

How many hours does it take you to finish a piece? Anywhere from an hour-long speed-paint, to a 40-hour detailed illustration. On average, my more refined work takes about 20 hours to complete. It’s all of those finishing touches that take up the most time. I like to keep the concept work to about 5 hours per set of drawings; this might consist of 6 sketches or 3 paintings on a single page.

Does creating your artwork ever become a chore? It might sometimes when I am asked to draw a bunch of things I don’t particularly enjoy. Sometimes I just need to push through the work to get onto the cooler stuff, but in the end I am grateful for the variety of work I get to do. Every assignment teaches me something new and I can always plug that knowledge back to my environment work.

How would you answer the common question “What is art?”?

Latest-personal-painting
Latest personal painting

Nowadays it’s anything you want it to be. In short, art for mehas a purpose to present us with an idea, express an emotion, or a different point of view, or to tell a story. Good art achieves its purpose with clarity and an aesthetic that enhances it, and the artist behind it must have a strong understanding of fundamentals, like perspective, colour and rendering so that every feature in the artwork is intentional and not a mistake. I could talk about this all day but let’s just leave it there for now.

What themes do you commonly design around? I am a huge fan of scifi. I have this weird fascination for hard surface metal corridors, and epic structures in space with cool lighting effects and futuristic graphics. Retro scifi settings with a horror atmosphere like the first Alien movie or the Dead Space series are my favourite examples. I am very excited when I am given the chance to work on these themes, but I generally stay open to anything just for the sake of exploring new styles and finding new interests.

What are some pieces you’re particularly proud of? Anything that is the most recent. It doesn’t take long before I start noticing the hundreds of mistakes I did in my previous work to start hating it; so the fresher the work, the better I feel about it.

What’s the most frustrating aspect of your work? Fixing major mistakes in a refined painting. There is always something that catches my eye relatively far into the process, and if it’s a big problem, then the perfectionist in me will not be silenced until it’s fixed – so I fix it.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? Finishing something for good and seeing it built by the production team as a physical item for a film or a 3D model in a game. It’s just an amazing feeling to see something from my sketch turn into reality.

Where has your artwork been published? So far, just here inside Empire Times. Most of my work can be seen throughout the Flinders honours films like The Little Girl and games like Solstice as props or sets designed by the production crew based on my design drawings.

What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out at uni? This may not work for everyone but has certainly worked for me. Use the time at uni to participate in screen and media projects where you are required to work in a team towards a single goal. Once you’re given deadlines to work to, you will be pushed to work, with the work of others encouraging you to push yourself further to ensure the success of the project. It is incredibly satisfying seeing all your work in a much bigger product. Along the way, you will find friends who strive towards similar careers and will likely support you during your time at uni and after. Lastly, always be open to constructive criticism and never let an ego set in. Be open to what your colleagues and target audience have to say about your work, and keep the suggestions in mind when working on your next artwork. It worked for me very well and I ended up improving much faster. My-first-digital-painting

Where should everyone go to check out your work? You can find my portfolio at www.rafalbanasiak.com or my Artstation page at https://www.artstation.com/artist/rafalb  for all the most recent activity you can follow me on Facebook where I post nothing but art stuff.