Interview with Paweł Nolbert
Warsaw based artist, illustrator, photographer and designer Paweł Nolbert is a master of altered realities. While his painted typographical forms are distinctively rich in tone and texture, his photographs adopt compositionally vivid landscapes that jump out of the screen.
Nolbert’s aesthetic is presented in vibrant colour-rich 3D. By elevating the ‘flat’, the self-taught artist digitally remasters works of paint and lens that have become synonymous with his style. Behind the screen he is constantly questioning visual reality taking inspiration from fashion, travel, shape and form. His aim however is to ensure that the end result is always believable.
For Create Zine Issue 1, we spoke to Nolbert about his art, his ‘real’ realities and how social media has influenced his work.
CZ: Your work can be described a colour-rich, surreal and vibrant. Where did you perfect your skills?
PN: I am a self-taught artist. If you want to keep up to date with art and technology, I think a school cannot give you an effective education, as it is very hard for institutions to keep up with the speed of change.
I picked up some graphic software and started playing with it. It became a hobby until my first commission. My formal education is in computer science technologies, which was bonus knowledge. I quit university in my final year, on the very last lap actually, to pursue a career in design and advertising. I don’t regret it.
CZ: Your work is predominantly digital, how do you approach a project?
PN: Yes, it is mostly but not entirely digital. In the end the deliverable is always digital, but I try not to overdo the digitalisation so the final result is natural and believable. I do some sketches on paper or a digital painting but sometimes the idea just comes to me.
With my painterly work, I break the given composition into segments, which I paint by hand with acrylic paint. I then scan it in at a very high resolution to get the best possible level of detail, after which I digitally recompose those segments into my final composition. I use Photoshop to shade, distort and compose the brushstrokes to look 3D.
CZ: In your ‘Constructed Series’ you appear to be elevating ‘the flat’ into new dimensions, can you tell us about that?
PN: Yes! That’s my thing, putting flat stuff in a more three dimensional composition. I guess 3D came naturally with “Constructed". I wanted the big graphic colour blocks to be seamlessly integrated within the photo environment, while at the same time still looking vaguely graphic. Putting it in a three dimensional environment by casting shadows etc. was necessary for that integration.
CZ: Your Instagram account @hellocolor has a huge following. Why do you think this is?
PN: It’s not for me to say why people follow me; I just post my pictures and have fun with it. I started my Instagram with only mobile photos and once I gained an audience I switched to posting my graphic work. I guess I've lost some interest from the people following me solely for my photography, but it was a reasonable step at the time. I recently launched my other Instagram account @pawelnolbert for my regular photo stories.
CZ: Can you tell us about your photography work where social media & distorted realities come into play?
PN: I’ve been observing the rise of popularity in fake realities on social media and it looks like people don’t like to see reality as it actually is. It’s as if they want to believe that what they see through those beautifying filters is actually real. I wanted to beautify my photos in a controlled but honest way so that you know that it has been Photoshopped, but it’s done in a way that it could be the real thing.
CZ: Can you tell us about working with big brands such as Google, Apple or Mercedes-Benz?
PN: I like working with well-established brands. Unless it’s a rebrand, they always come with guidelines, which I like seeing at the beginning of briefing. I enjoy working within those constraints while staying true to my style or stretching those constraints to their limits.
CZ: Where do you get your inspiration?
PN: From everywhere! Things often inspire me outside my profession like fashion, technology or food. Recently the great stories in “Chef’s Table”, a Netflix’s series, inspired me.