Hungarian artist Rudolf Farkas, who lives in Budapest, creates dynamic and intricately composed illustrations of a wide variety of marine life as well as the unique marine ecosystems in which they live. X-Ray Mag interviewed the artist to learn more about his artwork and his creative process.
"To live and prosper, we need healthy oceans."
X-RAY MAG: Tell us about yourself, your background and how you became an artist.
RF: I live in Budapest, Hungary. While I am a person who lives in a city, I have a passion for creating illustrations of animals and nature. During my 40-year career, I have developed a distinctive style through my artworks.
I graduated from college in 1978, majoring in fine arts. Then, I served two years in the army, after which I joined Wessely Tibor’s fine art society. In this group, I mostly focused on realism in my paintings. I gained greater insight into the representation of the flora and fauna of the world. My artworks were featured in several group and individual exhibitions.
In 2005, one of the leading book publishers in Hungary asked me to create illustrations for their upcoming editions. It was in this year that I started producing digital illustrations for children’s books. Over the past 15 years, my illustrations have been published in more than 100 different books and magazines as well. Nowadays, I have gone back to my roots by creating hyper-realistic oil paintings.
X-RAY MAG: Why marine life and underwater themes? How did you come to these themes and how did you develop your style of painting?
RF: I have been an avid angler since I was a kid, and I have always been amazed by sea life and underwater creatures. I spent many hours at the waterfront. In various art projects, I had to specialize in marine life, even though I had always lived in a continental country.
X-RAY MAG: Who or what has inspired you and your artwork and why?
RF: I have always been attracted to realistic representation. At the beginning of my career, I took Tibor Wessely’s fine art courses. As part of my studies, I produced several copies of well-known paintings by artists such as Vermeer, Leonardo, Caravaggio, etc., but mostly, I focused on creating my own oil paintings.
X-RAY MAG: What is your artistic method or creative process?
RF: First of all, accuracy is essential in my artwork. Therefore, I thoroughly study the anatomy and habitat of the selected animal for the piece. Usually, the next step is to create an exact drawing and then create the graphic rendering.
X-RAY MAG: What is your relationship to the underwater world and coral reefs? In your relationship with reefs and the sea, where have you had your favorite experiences?
RF: I have seen a lot of footage of coral reefs in nature films, but unfortunately, I have not had the chance to study them in person yet. During holidays, I have spent a lot of time on the Adriatic Sea where I had the opportunity to examine the underwater world.
X-RAY MAG: What are your thoughts on ocean conservation and coral reef management and how does your artwork relate to these issues?
RF: Generally speaking, people need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, a climate they can live in, beauty, inspiration and recreation. In my opinion, we have to remind people that they belong to something bigger than themselves. I would like a better future for those I care about, and future generations as well. To live and prosper, we need healthy oceans.
X-RAY MAG: What is the message or experience you want viewers of your artwork to have or understand?
RF: By creating extremely detailed artworks, I would like to raise awareness of the importance of environmental and ocean conservation. I am concerned that oceans are becoming more and more polluted nowadays. I hope that my illustrations can draw the world’s attention to the imminent danger.
X-RAY MAG: How do people—adults and children—respond to your works?
RF: Most people appreciate that my pictures have a realistic style. I receive a lot of positive comments and letters from readers.
X-RAY MAG: What are the challenges or benefits of being an artist in the world today? Any thoughts or advice for aspiring artists in ocean arts?
RF: I think it is very difficult to pursue a career as an artist today. I would advise young people to follow my lead as one who lives very far from the ocean and yet does his best in representing and illustrating sea life.
X-RAY MAG: Regarding your work, Devonian Marine Life, please tell us how you visualize and render extinct species as well as envision the ecosystem in which they may have lived millions of years ago.
RF: I received this specific commission from a publisher who needed an illustration of Devonian marine life. After we agreed on our future collaboration, the editor sent me a brief about the animals, plants and properties of the image that would be placed in the book. I was completely free to create the illustration within the given limits. In paleoart illustration, fantasy plays a big role, as knowledge about these ages is incomplete (or partial).
I started with a rough sketch first and sent it to the publisher for approval. The next step was to develop the digital rendering. I created the work with a well-known drawing software program. The workflow was very similar to developing analog images (e.g., oil paintings). I used brushes but in a digital form. In my opinion, digital painting is a much easier way of implementation, compared to acrylic or oil painting.
X-RAY MAG: Would you call this type of illustration “paleoart” or “paleontologically-inspired art”? And what is the difference between the two?
RF: Yes, I think there are two branches of representation. In one branch, fantasy dominates, at the expense of science. In the other branch, the artist depicts a specific animal and era on a purely scientific basis. The scientific representation of extinct species and eras is the one closer to my goals in illustration. I aim to spread knowledge.
X-RAY MAG: What are your upcoming projects, art courses or events?
RF: I am currently working on two projects in parallel. The first one presents the development and breeds of frogs. This book will be published later this year. The second one is a series of pop-up books. These editions focus on dinosaurs in a playful manner.
X-RAY MAG: Lastly, is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about yourself and your artwork?
RF: Authenticity and accuracy are essential to me. In creating illustrations and imagery, I would like to draw readers’ attention to the fact that they can find beauty in the smallest details of animal life, and moreover, that they should conserve wild species and protect their habitats. As a professional artist, I always welcome new challenges, and I really enjoy coming up with creative ideas. If you would like to get further detailed information regarding a particular image, I will be happy to respond in a private message through my agent (Kevin@KJA-artists.com). ■
For more information, or to order commissions or prints, please visit the artist’s webpage at: kja-artists.com/portfolio/269.