Artophilia  •  327   •  7 December 2020

I have always been drawing. Interview with Bartosz Kosowski


Bartosz Kosowski – born in 1979. The graduate of The Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź and English studies in Wrocław. For thirteen years he’s been in the business of making movie posters, press illustrations and portraits. He worked together with Apple, Canal+, Netflix, Legendary Pictures, Orange, ING, Kadr Film Studio, „The New Yorker”, „The Economist” „The New Republic”, „The Hollywood Reporter” or „Politico”. His works have been appreciated countless times abroad, in competitions like World Illustration Awards, New York Festival Awards, American Illustration, Spectrum, 3×3, Graphis, Polish Graphic Design Awards or European Design Awards and also published by Taschen, Abrams, Huginn & Muninn and Bloomsbury. Kosowski as the only Pole to be awarded three gold medals by the American Society of Illustrators, and over the pas year his works Spatial Composition made for PURO Hotel in Łódź and also posters to The Shining and Eraserhead won 15 awards and distinctions, including first award in the Spectrum 27 competition and third award in European Design Awards competition. For five years, he has been one of the mentors of the Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

Project Artophilia pays a visit to artists from Łódź was for us an enormous pleasure. We could get into artist’s studios, see three totally different worlds of creators working in completely different fields of art. At the end of our series, we present an interview with an outstanding graphic designer from Łódź – Bartosz Kosowski. He is an extremely talented and hard-working man who takes care of every little detail in his works of art, often spending many months on making them. Looking at his works, we feel that he’s a specialist in printmaking. His works have a great care for lines and a certain analog atmosphere, although they are created digitally, drawn on a huge graphic tablet. Check out how Bartek talks beautifully about his art.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

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What was the beginning of your journey with art? What made you dedicate yourself to this field?

I have always been drawing and that’s why, after graduating from English studies, I decided to continue my education at The Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź on the faculty of Graphic Arts. Ultimately, however, I became an illustrator, not a graphic designer, because after graduation, I started getting my first orders for illustrations. I’ve always also loved movie posters, so when in 2014, I got an offer to participate in several film exhibitions in San Francisco (dedicated to Lynch, Anderson, and Kubrick), I didn’t hesitate too long. My first real poster was made for one of these exhibitions. It was Lolita in Kubrick’s film, which turned out to be so popular that making next movie posters was only a matter of time.

Why did you choose paper as a medium? In what way does it change the thinking about art?

As I have already mentioned, illustration and poster weren’t my first choice, because during my studies I focused mainly on printmaking. I think that my choice (graphic arts, not painting) was simply caused by the fact that I don’t feel the colors and cannot build a composition or space with them. All in all, I have always preferred to use a line – thick, thin, indented, smooth – rather than a colored spot. To be honest, in my work I probably still like the linear drawing stage the most (before with traditional drafting pencils, then with rapidographs, and nowadays with “digital ink”). It allows me to approach the object that I want to represent in a very analytical way. Additionally, the graduate work I did during my studies was entirely made in intaglio techniques (etching and aquatint). This passion to some extent for creating a work only with the help of lines probably still remains a part of me.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

What artist inspires you the most? Who do you admire?

It is difficult for me to name one creator, because painters, illustrators and graphic designers I like are slowly changing. Among the artists whose work I have admired for a long time are the classics of American illustration, such as J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell or Bob Peak, or the creators of the Polish School of Posters, such as Waldemar Świerzy or Roman Cieślewicz. In addition, I love to travel and I try to watch as many works as possible in the “real world”, because one thing is to watch albums by Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud or Hokusai at home, and another to discover their works by looking at them face to face.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, Poster for Himilsbach Festiwal

What is your favourite work of art?

This is probably an even more difficult question because the things I like are changing constantly. When it comes to paintings, I would probably choose something by Lucian Freud, because his works in real live are so monumental and fleshy. I still remember that amazing impression they made on me when I saw them at the Center Pompidou in Paris. Speaking of the poster and illustration (on condition that we obviously include the poster and illustration to art), I think it would be Nocny Kowboj by Waldemar Świerzy and a completely contemporary The End of the Road by Nico Delorta. The latter is made in the scratchboard technique, I saw it a few years ago at the Society of Illustrators in New York. I was delighted not only with the composition and dynamism of the illustration itself, but also with its masterful execution.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, Portrait of Olga Tokarczuk for Znak Magazine.

What is your favourite museum or art gallery?

Again, a question with no simple answer. I don’t have one place that I could consider as my favorite. It is often an exhibition, and not a place, that makes me remember something. Among the museums or exhibitions that I remember very well, I could mention the Hokusai-kan Museum in Obuse near Nagano, because the Japanese woodcuts have always fascinated me. Another place is the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, which I visited, especially for the largest collection of works by JC Leyendecker. Among the most recent things, I could also mention the Arken Museum near Copenhagen.

How does Łódź influence you as an artist? Have you got your favourite places in Łódź, which were the source of inspiration for you?

I’ve been living in Łódź for almost 20 years and I can see how much this city has changed since I came here. I like Łódź very much for its atmosphere and the fact that it is a bit different from any other city in Poland. The architecture of the city is very inspiring, both from the XIX century tenement, which in my childhood I knew only from books on secession, and the modern one, which I discovered personally only a dozen or so years ago, when I moved to Łódź.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

How would you describe your process of art making? Is it more like a regular, daily work or quite the opposite: jumping into creative working caused by sudden inspiration?

In my case it is definitely regular, daily work. As I work mostly on freelance jobs, I just don’t have time to wait for an inspiration to come. When I need to meet the deadline because I have to make an illustration or a poster for a given day, I can’t really afford to procrastinate. In general, I follow the rule that inspiration comes only after we get to work properly.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, messi, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, Leo Messi

What do you think is your biggest success?

I guess my greatest success is that by doing what I like I can devote myself only to this without the need for additional work. Also, it is very nice when the works I create on a daily basis are noticed in international illustration and poster competitions. It is very nice to be noticed by a jury of leading illustrators, graphic designers and art directors, and I am lucky to have succeeded several times. To my biggest successes in this field I can include three gold medals awarded by the Society of Illustrators, this year’s gold medal in the Spectrum 27 competition and a dozen other awards that I manage to win from time to time.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, Agatha poster created for Spoke Art’s Bad Dads – art show tribute to the films of Wes Anderson, San Francisco, November 2014

What advice would you give to beginner artists or what was the best advice that you got as an artist?

I don’t know if I received such an advice myself, but I would definitely give it to everyone who wants to create anything: work for a few hours every day and keep grinding the workshop all the time. You can’t wait for inspiration and complain that it’s not coming, you just have to get to work. And, what is even more important, you must not get into self-praise because it is the first step to stop developing.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

Which of your works do you like best?

I have a few works that I like. These are posters for the films “Lolita”, “Jaws” and “Knife in the Water” and two works referring to Katarzyna Kobro’s Spatial Compositions.

What gives you the most pleasure in your work, and what is the hardest for you in being an artist?

First of all, I don’t really feel like an artist. This is a term I don’t like because it carries a feeling that you are better or somehow chosen. I feel more like a craftsman because I try to do the work I have to do in the best possible way. So the most difficult thing in the work of a “craftsman”, it is probably a constant struggle against time. Unfortunately, my work is usually very detailed and cannot be done quickly, which is not always understandable to the clients I work with. The most pleasant thing is that after a few, a dozen or several dozen days, each work is finished and … you can take care of something new.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a few projects, but unfortunately because of a non-disclosure agreement, I can only share one of them. These are illustrations for a campaign aimed at helping Belarusian organizations fighting against the Lukashenka regime.

What are your plans for the nearest future?

This is a hard question because during the current situation, it is difficult to plan anything. Normally, if it weren’t for a pandemic, I would probably be planning another longer travel abroad because this is something I miss a lot these days. When it comes to the creative plans, there are a few posters that I started working on a long time ago and due to the constant lack of time I’m not able to finish them.

Bartosz Kosowski, illustrator, poster artist, polish artist, polish art, Artophilia.com

Bartosz Kosowski, photo by © Waldek Piotrowski | wfoto.pl

What does art mean to you?

Hmm … it’s difficult to answer this question without falling into some kind of pathos straight from Paulo Coelho books 😉

What are the new challenges for art in the modern world? What is the role of an artist nowadays?

I suppose, It would be the best to ask an artist about it 😉


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Project Artophilia pays a visit to artists from Łódź was produced thanks to the co-financing from Łódź city budget.