Wacom’s Deep Dive: Karl Kopinski – interview with an inspirational artist
We already had Karl on our radar. So meeting him at THU was an inspiration, we’d like to share with you. Fortunately, he loved to spend some time with us testing the new Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 and answering a couple of questions. Have a look at this video or maybe even read a rough transcript below.
[After testing the new Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16] I’m actually and genuinely – not just saying this for camera – I’m really impressed with this. This is really nice.
How Karl Kopinski made it though feeling lost
Could you tell us who you are and how you got to where you are now?
I’m Karl Kopinski, from Nottingham in England, a sort of fine artist originally, then I went on to work for various games companies and now I’m a member of superani. It was a big honor, they asked me I think only last year, but Hyunjin said “I’ve been wanting to ask you for 5 years or something, but I was scared you’d say no.” . And I was like “Why am I going to say no?”.
So he’s great and he is nice as well. Because sometimes you go to events and you’re kind of on your own and you go round trying to meet up with the guys you know. But with this you have like your own knytten, sort of team of support. I just was super into drawing from an early age and then I developed more and more. As a child at school people were always saying “You’re the best drawer in the class.”. So that was my thing then. And I had a long period at university, where things went pretty bad and I was pretty disillusioned. I chose a bad course and really struggled. And afterwards I think it filled me with a lot of energy and passion to do something. Because I was kind of lost – for a few years I didn’t know where to go.
for a few years I didn’t know where to go
So when I left university and found myself in a better situation I was really pushing hard. And I felt like I had to learn all the things that I thought they would teach me at university, but they didn’t. So there was that super intense learning period. I found a job at a place in UK, Nottingham, called Games Workshop with a great team of artists. So for 4 years I was learning super fast. I still wake up thinking “It’s a dream, something’s going to go wrong.”. Because I feel so lucky. I’ve worked really hard, but there’s so much luck and fortunate events in my life that have helped.
What about your art is it you love doing?
For me, I don’t know. I think I like probably oil painting and portraiture – that really is the core of what I love to do.
So like this painting? [pointing at one of Karl’s paintings next to him]
Yeah, but this is without reference. Really I like painting people and that was the foundation of what I did. I loved live drawing and portraiture.
What do you think makes your artwork stand out?
So I think now is a nice combination of having enough skills to be able to invent my own characters. But really a lot of my characters I invent are focused about – like, creating somebody with character or an interesting face. I like the idea that you can tell a narrative without having to do a big story on the page. But your character can have a lot of narrative within them – in their facial expression, how tired they are or the things they’re carrying.
Is there anything that has influenced your style and if so, what was it?
I have such a love of historical – when I started out real passion for sort of Victorian and painting and even Victorian and literature. I was a huge fan of Sergeant and there is a Russian artist in the era wrap-in from the same period. And a lot of military painting as well I was really into. So it’s kind of a melting pot of elements of portraiture and military history. And also as a kid I was super interested. My grandfather was a pilot in World War II. From Poland he left and flew for the British air force. So I was interested in plains and the uniforms of the pilots.
And I love Asterix and Obelix, getting Tintin and things like this and all sorts of weird Asian cartoons that came from Japan mid to late 70s. Now I’m looking back and I’m thinking “I really love those things.” and realize they have an influence on me. So for me, my style is a weird mix of so many elements and so many interests and it’s constantly developing as well. You know, me and Jung Gi 7 or 8 years ago and now we do a lot of events together. So you can’t help, but be influenced by these great artists around you. It’s just you’re constantly changing and morphing.
How to find inspiration and overcome the creative block?
What inspires you?
Life maybe inspires me, you know. Having an attitude where I try to keep my eyes open all the time and looking at the things around me and being inquisitive and being interested the word and in people maybe. Because also, I think in the current environment, new media would have you believe it’s a terrible, awful place to be. People are dying, stabbings, people being shot or blown up. There are awful things in the world, but I’m pretty sure 80% of the people in the world are nice people and they just want to get on with their lives and have a nice time. And I always think about that – that kind of thing inspires me as well.
I love art of such different varieties. I was a huge fan of Greg Manchess, who sat over there for many years. You know, I see his work in the flesh and I meet the guy and go for a meal with him. And obviously you’re completely inspired to paint like Greg Manchess. I don’t know, I have an enthusiasm and a love for it that I can’t imagine ever not having. So, I think I don’t have a pension plan or anything, because I don’t want to stop painting – I don’t want to stop doing this. If I stopped doing this I don’t see the point in me. Do you know what I mean? I have a family and I love my kids and I love my wife, but without art I would be a horrible person to be around.
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How do you deal with the so called creative block?
One of the things I always tried to do was to – if I feel like I hit a wall or if I’m struggling with the painting or project I’m working on – I would often completely change medium or try to learn a new skill. I spoke to some people yesterday – you’re learning curve is not like a graph like this [painting a straight, diagonal, rising line in the air], the way you learn is: You go up, you plateau and maybe drop and then you go up again. And a lot of the times, I think, the block is this plateau or the drop and then you can become super depressed. It’s crazy to think that you could just go like this [painting that straight line into the air again] – nobody does that, everybody reaches this point.
So, if you can understand – that that even happens to the greatest, the people they admire the most, they all have this – then you can work a way to take yourself through this. And for me it is to change media or try some watercolor, or pencil. I was working with digital for a long time. So by doing that you can just push yourself to feel you’re learning again. And by doing that, it can just take you out of this down and you can start to slowly creep your way back up and go back on and upward.
Find inspiration anywhere and how to develop constantly
What influenced your recent artwork?
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I had a really great book I was looking at just before I came here and I gave a copy to Jung Gi and Hyunjin. It was an artist working in the first World War called Fortunino Matania and he was making drawings for the national paper to report on the war, but very much like propaganda. So I had been looking at his work a lot before. So there’s always a composite of elements of kind of military, heavy, layered clothing and many layers of equipment. Like I said about developing a character is interesting.
In my head he was like some kind of a minor digging for something with some big kind of pneumatic drill and in here maybe he has found I was thinking some kind of organic life that they have been searching for and placed in a container. Because the message is so much this THU is about – the climate – so I like the idea that maybe he has found this plant or flower and we have to get it back quick, whether it is to the spaceship or the base or something. It’s that kind of thing, where there’s a narrative in there. But I also like the idea that, often, when you talk to people, they have their own little story and for me that’s like one of the beauties of doing these drawings. You can see people’s imaginations kind of [making a sparkling movement with his hands]. I really like that. That you feel like you’re inspiring their creativity as well. That was the idea.
inspiring their creativity