Róalski Scythe Artist Returns for Sequel to Award

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The creation of the Scythian board game dates back almost a decade after the game designer Jamey Stegmaier visited Kotaku and got acquainted with the world of the 1920s and more, as shown in Jakub Różalski’s series of paintings. Now Stegmaier and Różalski have teamed up again for Expeditions, an independent sequel to the 2016 strategy game that tells the story of an alternative European world that, after a long series of wars, is looking north to explore the wilds of Siberia. Although we don’t know much about how the game is going, one thing remains consistent: Różalski’s powerful images and his ability to evoke miracles and inspire storytelling.

Although he has tried his hand at other subjects, Różalski’s work is central to the exploration of pastoral environments seasoned with towering and almost alien weapons of war. It is a world filled with the bright blue glow of electric plasma, steampunk technology and ballistics of the First World War—but also with young bathers, elderly farmers and fat women in babushkas. Of course, his contrasts served as inspiration for Stegmaier, but also for the video game developers behind Iron Harvest and even for Neill Blomkamp’s own experimental film studio.

In an e-mail interview with Polygon from his home in Poland, Różalski revisits his work and reflects on how the world around him has changed dramatically since his breakout board game success.

Our exchange has been edited and formatted for better readability.

Polygon: I’ve been attracted to your work since I first met him. I even have one of her pieces here on my office wall and I appreciate it. That being said, when we were playing Sense with friends, we always left the table a little nostalgic and always wanted more. The world they created in 1920+ is so rich and inviting that we can’t help but tell their stories together as we play.

From your notes on ArtStation, it is clear that this time you had a chance to really dig narratively and concretize this world of forgery for yourself. For a long time, her work in the 1920 + room felt like she was looking back on a simpler time. Beautiful rural scenes full of humble people doing their job. But it was always contrasted by these imposing war machines.

In her work, armed conflicts were literally always seen right on the horizon. It must be very difficult now to look back on your own work with what is happening east of you.

Clearly, what you have shown publicly for a year has changed. But it also seems that their work on expeditions is ahead of the invasion of Ukraine. My main question is, how have you used your time since that time last year on expeditions and in your art to explore a post-war space?

What does this room want to inhabit? What happens next after the artillery noise in the world of Scythe subsides? What are you trying to show your audience? And what are you trying to tell yourself through your work?

Jakub Różalski:Thank you very much. The painting “white dress” is still one of my favorites after all these years, so I am very glad that you like it.

Yes, now it feels like it was in another life, already ten years ago, crazy. Telling stories through my work has always been the most important thing for me. For me, art has always been an escape from the gray reality and the world to which I never adapt. Now I’m trying to create these portals to other worlds, not only for myself, but also for the recipients of my art.

From my childhood I remember the withdrawal of Soviet troops from my country. Convoys and trains. It certainly had a huge impact on me and the creation of the world of the 1920s and more. Yes, I have always been fascinated by the Tunguska event of 1908, as well as the early exploration of the Arctic and the vast wilderness of Siberia. I also wanted to give my 1920s+ world a slightly darker, otherworldly look. I also grew up on Sienkiewicz Street (in desert and desert was one of my favorite books in my childhood). That, plus Indiana Jones movies and the Thing are all influences that I think will be visible on expeditions.

I still can not believe that a decade after starting work on my alternative world of 1920+, my illustrations have become almost prophetic… with tanks roaming the countryside, people dying and bombs falling, literally a few hundred miles from my house. It’s as if my darkest nightmares are coming true! This war also had a very real impact on my life. My wife is from Tatarstan, we have family in Russia, many friends in Ukraine and Ukraine. This is a great disaster.

I started working on expeditions long before the outbreak of the war, so this did not have a direct impact on my work and vision. Rather, it became for me once again an escape from the sad and tragic reality in which we found ourselves.

This time I just wanted to experience an adventure, which I have always dreamed of, and take my viewers with me. After the sounds of artillery and action mechs subsided, life returned to normal. Our heroes did not know exactly how to find themselves in this new reality in order to find their place in the new world. Fortunately, the world was still full of mysteries and not-known and unexplored places. And even something out of this world.

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