Simon Stålenhag can no longer create a dreamy painting. For most of the past ten years, Stålenhag has created beautiful landscapes, depicting villages and towns in an alternating universe-it looks a lot like the 80s, but there are clumsy robots and clumsy mechanical buildings everywhere. And the beast. They evoke people’s nostalgia for the sci-fi world they grew up in.
However, looking at some of our current actual horrors, such as the United States where the United States isolates children from their parents at the border, Starlenhag feels compelled to explore a different reality: a world is destroyed and mankind is on the verge of extinction. People are required to prove their harsh decisions. His new book, maze, Which is full of darker images than he had previously explored. He created a world covered with ashes, buildings in ruins, and humans must wear protective clothing to walk through the planet to survive.
“This is not a warning or a political message. This is another nightmare,”
Stålenhag’s book-like his debut, Cycle legend, Was recently adapted into an Amazon TV series-combining his creepy digital paintings with short stories to construct a science fiction landscape. The new book tells about a scientist and her brother who tried to escort a child in a dilapidated world full of mysterious black gas. It was released in December, is currently funded by Kickstarter, and the event ends on Friday.
Stålenhag and edge About the motive behind him maze, His artistic creation process, and the feeling of seeing his works adapt to new media.
For clarity, this interview has been condensed and edited. All illustrations are reproduced with permission of the author.
Can you tell me something about the new book?
maze It was the result of my first exploration of the true end of the world in recent years.I made a dystopian setting Electrical state [in 2018],I think Cycle legend It’s almost…not utopian, but definitely not dystopian.So use maze, I really want to do a doomsday thing, because nothing else has meaning. Going back to the style I did in the past, I don’t think I can indulge in that fantasy. This is a good thing, I don’t feel good about the world. Therefore, making those ash-covered landscapes is the only meaningful thing.
Your book combines painting with storyline. When painting, where do you start?
I start with vision. In my opinion, it’s almost like a dream-it sounds pretentious-but it’s like a vision. You get a visual idea worth exploring, and then I start thinking about possible stories. I have seen people write stories about my photos, and this is almost what I do myself. I saw the picture and then tried to figure out what was happening or what might be happening here.
While doing this, I took a lot of notes. I usually write on the iPhone Notes app. My phone is full of them. I wrote an idea for a character, then went out for a walk, and found that everything I wrote was wrong. However, instead of changing the note, I made a new note, so I kept redoing it and tried to tell the story over and over again. Whenever I deal with visual effects, it changes, so these are two separate processes.
What is the process like? How long do you spend on each painting?
In the sketching stage, I can sketch faster. I might spend two to three hours sketching so that I can get the color, composition and tone. Then, I chose about 10, 20, and 30 images with the same settings, the same concept, but some progress, and then I chose one and spent three to four days for the final rendering.
in maze, All these volcanic ash landscapes. I made sketches and took photos of Stockholm, and painted these photos in Photoshop. I have about 60 or so. It is a variant of the same theme, so it becomes part of the book.
Then I did all the interiors, it was a completely different process. For indoor research institutions, I created very accurate 3D models of all these things, such as chairs and kitchen sinks and electrical outlets. I hope it becomes super real, existing stuff, super familiar. I really can’t make sketches, because it depends a lot on the measurement results.
What tools and procedures do you use?
All the paintings these days are in Photoshop. I use Wacom pens for MobileStudio Pro. For 3D modeling, I use an architecture program called SketchUp. For my next book, I am using a terrain simulation tool to create sand dunes and natural patterns, which are calculated through mathematics. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time. These 3D environments became the basis of painting in Photoshop. Exploring new technologies to find new images is part of this work.
How did you adopt this format to pair paintings with short stories instead of pairing more traditional graphic novels?
I have never read comics. I am not a fan of comics. When I started painting when I was a child, I was attracted by paintings and naturalists, who made very precise renderings of birds and similar things. I always feel that the comics I read in Sweden are a bit sloppy. I just want to do a whole set of work…not that artists are bad, but you can see that they have to work fast.
I always like to make a graphic novel like that, because there are so many different panels, I can’t achieve the accuracy I want in terms of getting the whole environment, the whole atmosphere and every small detail.
To me, environment and emotions are more important than order. I also like poetry and things, they have a more fragmented dream quality. That is what inspired me in prose. Therefore, I think you might be able to take some measures-render these keyhole moments, and enter a keyhole moment in the larger world that you cannot see in the text.
It’s almost like a short film, you can glimpse something bigger, but don’t spoil it by paying too much.
Your work has been adapted into a TV show, board game, RPG, and there is a movie in it. How do you participate in the adaptation?
not much. In the TV show, I read the script and provided some additional designs-very few, some key items that are important to the story, such as a character’s prosthesis and this stagnation device for pause time. Other than that, they just take things in the book. I know if [writer and showrunner] Nathaniel Halpern and [pilot director] It would be good for Mark Romanek to be allowed to turn their vision into reality.
Same as role-playing games. From the beginning, I trusted their instincts very much. They know these materials very well, so reading their thoughts is just a pleasure.
Fortunately, the places I came in and had strong insights were only superficial things like layout. In terms of character and game design, this is really important.You can do it easily Cycle legend Become a role-playing game that focuses more on action. But there is a sense of social fear, not like fighting robots. Someone said: “Shame is important.” When I read that sentence, I was like saying: “This works. It’s great.”
Your work is now being distributed, including adaptations, and companies and artists are using similar methods, such as video games Zero generation And board games sickle —Do you consider keeping your artistic freshness when others are struggling?
Sometimes I think I hate my aesthetics. I have watched a lot. Moreover, when people are influenced by my work, it is also very flattering to be part of the aesthetic movement.
This is indeed a complicated situation and I have always been very personal. I can’t change too much. I try to do different things, but to do completely different things, I have to change someone, but I can’t do it.
Therefore, I am a little scared, if I am part of the trend, then the trend will pass, but I will not. I will still be me, and I am getting old. I’m already thinking about those things, like I have to prepare for nothingness, basically, rather than trying to surpass myself.
It’s hard not to be affected by it, but you don’t have much choice in what attracts you.
Why do you think your paintings resonate with so many people?
I think most of them are references from the 1980s. I hope it’s more about personal things, but I think it’s a good time.
When I was studying game design, one of the projects we did was to create a concept for the game, and my concept was to make games in the small town of America in the mid-80s, letting children ride BMX bicycles, as well as the government and some exotic creatures.very alike Strangers, That was in 2008. This is obviously something that many people are considering.We grow up watching ETEveryone is nostalgic for those movies and music.
Are you trying to move on from nostalgia maze?
The first popular quiz nostalgia-I grew up with Volvo! -That thing is missing. There are some elements. There was a phone from the 1980s, and there was a light switch that anyone who grew up in Sweden would know. But most images do not. For me, why make books with stories? For me, the driving force is to tell personal things that happened to me. Popular culture things are becoming popular, and this medicine can be swallowed to some extent.
I know that the new book is more like a reflection on the present. What special elements did you bring?
There is a strange coincidence because it has police brutality and masks-it has nothing to do with COVID or protests in the United States. I did it before they broke out. This makes me feel that I am worried that people will think this is a cheap use of real events.
There are many perpetrators of state violence.This is a topic maze. While doing so, these images began to pour in from protests in the United States. When I started thinking about this issue, it was during the protests in Spain in 2016 or 2017. I remember thinking that democracies could put these mobs on the payroll to do these things.
To me, from the outside, this is a crack. Therefore, I began to explore visual effects to design the uniforms and equipment used in the book, as well as those elements and violent scenes. When I actually saw what was in the news, it was really strange…The reality is worse than you think.
One last question: Don’t you feel pressure to make your new book the same name as the legendary David Bowie movie?
Ah, what a good name.There are many mazes.But this is a reason “The Labyrinth” by Simon Stålenhag. I always wanted that.like Works of John Carpenter.I can have my own, this is mine maze. There are many mazes visually-the game this child is playing is a maze. I know that legendary movie, so I came up with a different name. But I just think this is a maze.It must be maze.