Toss a coin to your Witcher by Kamila Szutenberg
Image via https://www.artstation.com/artwork/XBoArw
The song “Toss a coin to your Witcher” from the Netflix series “The Witcher” is probably stuck in everyone’s head, including Concept artist Kamila Szutenberg.
The atmospheric picture is divided into two levels: The foreground and middle ground merge into one another and show the bed of a stream, framed on the left and right by steeply sloping hills. On the right, muddy path a rider is shown in rear view. The horse is wearing a blanket, the rider himself is wrapped in a dark cloak and probably has a hood on because of the weather. Noticeable are the two swords on his back, their knobs protruding over his shoulders and reflecting the indirect light of the cloudy sun (or moon?).
From this view, framed by the hills, a flat landscape with a pond opens up, on the opposite side of which lies a medieval ruin. The front building seems to have been the main building with at least two high floors and lancet windows. Behind it there are even higher floor ruins with smaller window openings. Birds circle around the ruin.
The grey cloud cover, puddles, the rider’s coat and a light fog in and around the ruin show that it has rained recently.
Here a special effect of the picture is also evident: the front picture level is clearly visible. In contrast, the rear plane is covered by the fog and indirect light in a veil that blurs the contours and elements.
Here the picture clearly stands in the tradition of romanticism and its atmospheric images. If one looks at other works of the artist, one sees a clear influence especially of the German Romantics such as Caspar David Friedrich, Karl-Friedrich Schinkel etc.
Kamila Szutenberg’s works are characterized by their monumental sublimity, and at the same time they appear calm and powerful.
Romanticism and the Fantastics
For fantastic art, whether it be literature, painting, films and series or, more up-to-date, video games, Romanticism is probably the most important epoch. Because this is where the roots of modern fantasy lie.
It all began in the middle of the 18th century with the so-called Gothic Revival in Great Britain. Horror stories became fashionable and at the same time the first Historicist building boom in the form of Neo-Gothic began in architecture. Horace Walpole wrote probably the first horror novel ever with “The Castle of Otranto” and at the same time he had an estate built for himself, which was planned completely in this new-old architectural style: Strawberry Hill.
Romanticism itself was expressed mainly in painting and literature, buildings did not produce it. However, Historicism with its orientation towards past building eras should be regarded as closely related. Both directions were oriented towards a past that was transfigured and exaggerated and which one wanted to revive in new and old forms.
During this period, i.e. the end of the 18th century and especially in the 19th century, myths, sagas and fairy tales were also rediscovered, written and extensively illustrated. The popularity of Grimm’s fairy tales, for example, remains unbroken to this day and lays the foundation for modern Fantastics, especially Fantasy.
But also Science Fiction was born in the middle of the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution changed people’s lives so much that even then there were warnings of technological upheavals, globalisation and too rapid a development. However, it was also the time of great scientific discoveries and inventions, which were expressed in a general belief in the future (likewise, the past and future was only invented here in the form of the historical sciences). Jules Verne may well be one of the first and still best known founders of science fiction.
Romantic image art is characterized by something that contemporaries already called “sublimity”. For the first time outside the religious context, things were depicted that can be attributed to the realm of the miraculous. The magical and fantastic finally found its way into art.
But sublimity is also expressed in other pictorial motifs. The monumental is especially important for the Romanticism as well as the Fantastic. Titanic buildings, a soulful, overwhelming nature and dramatic scenes can be found again and again. The great and overwhelming can also be found in all fantastic works to this day, partly even by adopting pictorial compositions from the 19th century.
In addition to all these points, however, Romanticism is also characterized by its strongly inward-looking motifs. Emotions, loneliness and the state of the ego and soul are treated. This is reflected in the calm of many works, which, despite their monumental elements, radiate something that stands for contemplation and inner movement.
Geralt of Rivia as Hero of Romanticism?
The romantic motifs in Kamila Szutenberg’s picture fit well with the protagonist of The Witcher: Geralt of Rivia. He is a lonely traveller, introverted and tight-lipped. But he always stands up for his personal canon of values, helps persons (humans, elves, dwarves etc.) in need and has a soft core, well hidden.
In the video game as well as in the TV series we often see him riding through lonely areas, with his horse as his only reference. Especially in the successful game “The Witcher 3” the huge Open World with its different landscapes is shown in a romantic and picturesque way with impressive sceneries and sunsets or moonlit nights.
Here, too, the legacy of romanticism lives on, both in the pictures and in the atmosphere and mood.
Kamila Szutenberg and Romanticism
All this can be found in the complete works of the artist Kamila Szutenberg. If one looks at her other works on ArtStation or Instagram, the influence of romanticism is always present. Often she shows historicizing buildings, often in ruinous condition (another important motif in Romanticism), which seem overwhelming and sublime. Nevertheless, all these works of art are always balanced and radiate calm. The persons portrayed are usually alone and appear to be turned in on themselves, although they are not the absolute centre of the picture.
Kamila Szutenberg can rightly be called one of the most outstanding artists in the field of the fantastic. The quality of her works stands out clearly and is evident in every picture and composition. As with “classical” works in a museum, one would like to sit or stand in front of them for hours and get lost in the pictures. Which happens immediately, because they captivate the eye and draw the viewer into the worlds created by Szutenberg.
Kamila Szutenberg is a freelance concept artist with a focus on concept art & design, environment art & design and illustrations. She worked mainly for leading game developers like Bethesda and film studios like Warner Brothers.
She lives in Tübingen, Germany.