“True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings…”
The Art: Emergency Landing
The Artist: Jakob Rozalski (a.k.a. Mr. Werewolf)
About the Work:
What must it have felt like, in 1920, to be a Polish citizen watching the red tide of Russia crash down upon your homeland with every intention of sweeping it away?
Most of us can only imagine. Polish artist Jakob Rozalski though? He can imagine better than most.
In his series 1920+, Rozalski conjures to life an alternate dieselpunk (steampunk, but with 20th century tech) history in which the Soviets invaded Poland in battle mechs launched from battleships amongst the clouds.
These digital artworks put us in the shoes of ordinary Eastern European villagers attempting to live their lives in the shadow of such a colossal threat.
1920+ gained so much attention that, when searching Google for information on the Polish-Soviet War, the first image you’ll see is one of Rozalski’s own paintings. He has captured tone, setting, and scale so deftly that even people who generally dislike the genre have marvelled at his work.
So it is that Rozalski’s style has evolved into a brand unto itself.
In 2015, his art was used as a basis for Scythe, a board game that went on to become the most funded non-miniature based board game in Kickstarter History, pulling in over $1.8 million USD.
The following year, RTS game Iron Harvest was announced, so too founded on the world Rozalski had created in his images.
But why him? Why, out of every artist who has a viral success, is Jakob Rozalski the one who has been able to build an entire franchise out of a few paintings?
The answer, I believe, is that he’s ultimately a storyteller. Whether it’s in the dieselpunk world of 1920+, or the medieval fantasy realm in which the Wolfpack prey, Rozalski isn’t interested in just putting together a ‘cool’ painting.
He wants to tell a story. He wants to portray ordinary life in the context of an extraordinary world, and to do it without words.
And he succeeds in doing so every time.
There’s a lesson there for all artists: give your audience just a hint of the world that lies beyond the borders of a single painting, and they’ll be left clamoring for more.
Head over to Rozalski’s ArtStation page to see more of his work, as well as to delve into his process, which he breaks down for every artwork, often with a laugh or two.