If you are a fan of mechs you have probably come across some of the gorgeous artwork produced for the up and coming dieselpunk real-time strategy (RTS) game, Iron Harvest by King Art Games. What you may not know is that there is a good chance the artwork you saw was produced before Iron Harvest was even conceived. That’s because Iron Harvest was inspired by the incredible paintings of Jakub Rozalski, from his imagined alternate reality called 1920+. What is even more impressive is that Iron Harvest isn’t even the first game these pieces of art have inspired. The hit board game, Scythe, drew from the same sources for its development by Stonemaier games.
Rozalski’s digital paintings are created using the same artistic process as conventional painting, but with the added benefit of an undo button and the ability to work in layers or move objects as desired. The result is a large quantity of high quality work that you won’t want to stop staring at.
It’s not every day that an artist can capture the beauty of the natural world and the grit of industrial efficiency all at once. The resulting contrasts are jaw dropping. The artist’s love of the outdoors and rural settings is readily apparent. The iron inhabitants of these works only look more soulless and mechanical as a result of their picturesque settings. Each single image captures perfectly what I wrote about just the other day, discussing what it is that we love about mechs.
The portrayal of these diesel age mechs in pastoral and otherwise mundane settings only adds to the ease of viewers to experience their near reality. The above image in particular calls to mind memories from my childhood of any of the many rural farmers I knew and their sometimes unkempt farmyards cluttered with machinery in need of repair. Everything about the scene is a familiar memory, or common experience. Its entirely real- except for the fact that it isn’t.
I don’t drink tea, but if I did I’d want it served to me by a household mech while a platoon from the Imperial Iron Legion provided local air defense in the backyard of my Victorian estate. It’s hard to accept that this scene isn’t just another classical painting of a bygone era. It treads so closely to the truth that in some ways it is a more honest depiction of reality than how our own minds record it. It’s impossible to consider these scenes without being drawn in and compelled to contemplate what is real and what is artificial in our own lives and in our society.
Case in point, the scene above captures the sense of a famous tale from the Second World War that you may have heard. According to the story, Polish Cavalry forces charged a unit of German Panzers during the invasion of Poland. Somewhat more likely is the explanation that the Cavalry were scouts who became pinned against a river and had no means of egress except to daringly rush through their armored adversaries. Think about the reality of that desperation. The bravery and will to force oneself to rush into the jaws of iron death on the back of a wide eyed and panicked animal, are not experiences any of us will ever know. Yet, we are informed about that reality and offered a hint of its emotion with just a glance at the scene above.
I reached out to Jamey Stegmaier, creator of Scythe, and asked about how Stonemaier Games wound up creating their take on Rozalski’s work. He explained that it was an easy choice to pursue the project. Even though, at the time Jakub had only created his first twelve or so 1920+ paintings compared to the dozens there are now. Jamey’s “imagination was instantly captured and [he] thought, I would love to create a game in this world.” We’re glad that he did, because many thousands of gamers have thought that they’d love to play a game in this world. And who wouldn’t want to step into some of these powerful scenes?
The images in this article are some of my favorites, but there are truly so many great pieces to share and discuss that I am unable to contain them all here. If you’ve enjoyed these, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience more of the artwork of 1920+ and several other illustrated worlds, including ones inhabited by Titans and Werewolves, that Jakub has added to his gallery.