The last time I visited Celal was in 1991, when Marc (Rosocha)
and me were about to order the creation of the Lethal Xcess
cover. He was a really nice and friendly guy back then, so I
didn't hesitate much when I recently learned that he still lives
in cologne and gave him a call. I asked him if he would sell the
original painting of the Lethal Xcess cover to me and he agreed.
While driving to cologne I thought "why not try to get a live
interview" and since Celal is still one of the nicest persons
you could ever meet, here we are.
While answering my questions he always fetched something from
all kinds of places within his flat. It's unbelievable how
organized he is, without searching he just pulled one thing
after another from his cupboards to show me examples, photos or
small models. Unfortunately I cannot supply these things within
the interview but I hope you will find it interesting even
without all the media that was used in it's creation :) Now lean
back and enjoy a small interview with one of the busiest graphic
artists on this planet.
cxt: Merhaba Celal, you are an oldskool graphic artist who has
worked for various game studios in the past. Painting covers and
doing in-game-graphics were your daily grind. I guess some
people might not know your name, but they have surely seen one
or probably several of your magnificent cover paintings. Please
take some time to introduce yourself.
celal: What can I say? As you already know my name is Celal
Kandemiroglu and I was born in turkey in 1953. I started drawing
very early and made my first comic when I was five years old. It
was inspired from the classic Dracula and Werewolf movies,
basically what you would call classic horror movies. I have
studied fine arts at the fine arts academy in Istanbul and after
graduating I offered my comics to the German Bastei Verlag in
1978. Until 1985 I made mostly video and movie covers and since
1988 I started working on computers and for computer related
releases. Besides painting I have two big passions one is
motorbikes (I currently own four of them) and Computers.
cxt: The sheer amount of your paintings is really impressive, do
you have an idea how many pictures you may have created so far?
celal: I guess I created about 400 illustrations and covers from
1982 until 2000. If I count in everything it would be more than
twice that number, but some of the painting have been done in a
rush so let's stick to 400.
cxt: Why not make a book from a selection of these graphics?
Perhaps a "Best of Celal" like thing. We could produce it
ourselves perhaps financed by pre-orders. With the web as a
marketing platform this should be possible without much risk.
celal: Hmmm, sounds like a plan. You know I don't want to earn
much money with it; I just like the idea of my pictures being
printed. However if we are going to pull this off I want the
best possible quality for the book.
cxt: That's great, let's see what we can achieve then. It will
probably take some time to select the pictures and perhaps we
should also add a bit of text too :) Anyway let's talk about
that later and get right back to the interview. I know you were
THE artist of almost any game produced in Germany around the end
of the eighties, how many pictures did you usually work on at
the same time?
celal: Yes these were busy times and in hindsight I produced a
lot of pictures, however I usually worked only on one picture at
the same time.
cxt: I read somewhere that you need five to seven days to create
a picture. That's quite impressive especially when you consider
the outstanding quality of your paintings. Haven't you ever got
tired of it, I mean you produced a lot of output between 1988
and 1992. I guess it would take ages to finish a single picture
for me and it will probably be of much inferior quality, so
what's the moving spirit that keeps you going?
celal: Perhaps it's a kind magic force inside me, and in
addition to that I was much younger back then :). Of course I
grew tired sometimes in the past and perhaps that's also the
reason why I haven't touched the airbrush or a real brush within
the last five years. Actually I have put down a lot of well paid
offers because I am tired to work with real paint.
cxt: On some game covers we can find a Kandemiroglu double
feature with Celal and Ogan in the credits. Who is Ogan? Is the
name Kandemiroglu just common in Turkey (e.g. like Smith) or did
you call in reinforcements from your family to balance the
celal: LOL, as you can guess my family name is not very common.
Ogan is in fact my "little" brother and he helped me a lot with
many in-game-graphics. He also helped me to finish covers in
times with heavy workload. For example he did the background of
the paintings and I just added the foreground and details.
Perhaps you have already seen him, because he was the model for
the guy on the cover for the game "Crime Time".
cxt: So you painted your friends and family like Boris Vallejo?
celal: I usually take photographs of the objects and persons I
want to paint, and it often happens that a "victim" of my family
finds himself in a costume for a photo session :)
cxt: Our audience is probably familiar with most Atari ST and
Amiga games. Can you comment some of your covers from that era?
Perhaps there are some more or less funny stories to tell about
one or some of them?
celal: If you call it funny that some "customers" have never
paid my work but published it anyway or that originals have
vanished in some mysterious way, of course I can. Otherwise I
guess the answer is simply no.
cxt: I am sad to hear that. Well, I also saw you starting to
push pixels in 1988 with X-Out. Which painting program did you
use at that time?
celal: Actually I started in 1986 on Amiga with Deluxe Paint and
practiced a lot before I offered my services in that area. But
you are right I started in 1988 painting with DPaint on PC for
professional game projects. I created a lot of pixel-graphics on
PC mostly in 32 colours for Amiga games.
cxt: X-Out like many other games has been ported to various
platforms, like Amiga, Atari ST, C64, Spectrum which machine was
your favourite and why?
celal: The Amiga was my favourite platform because it had more
colours than the others. Hehe, and while you mention the
Spectrum, I had one as well. I still remember the "R-Tape
Loading Error" message after ages of loading time :)
cxt: LOL, yeah I guess I saw that one too, a few times :) Since
you were supporting all these platforms, does it hurt to see
your graphics being colour reduced or downscaled, or don't you
mind about it?
celal: It's always a pain, for example the Atari graphics for X-
Out looked quite poor compared to the Amiga version but it seems
it didn't affect the sales, the ST version sold almost as good
as the Amiga one.
cxt: You worked for many companies like Rainbow Arts, JoWood
(Wings), Koch Media and currently at Take-Two. What has changed
during the oldskool days (90s) till today?
celal: Well, back in the days you could create the whole graphic
for a single game in a single month and then you could sell the
game. Today you have to paint with several artists for at least
2-3 years for just one game, everything happens on a much bigger
cxt: I think we met for the first time in 1991, when Marc
(Rosocha) and me talked about our vision of the Lethal Xcess
cover and showed you the in game graphics. I guess you have done
a lot of work afterwards; can you give us a small insight about
the most important projects you have worked on since then?
celal: I did the whole graphics for Talisman in 1994, it took
one year to create the polygonal characters and the static
backgrounds. Like already mentioned above I created a lot of
single frames from photos where my brother acted like the
character in the cartoon of the intro. Perhaps the work on the
intro took even longer than the in-game-graphics :). My next
milestone was Sacred II, which I started in 2004. I am still
working heavily on it as an art director; in fact I have to
create some more sketches when you leave. :)
cxt: Ah, I better hurry then :) In the past you always wanted
your paintings back after they had been scanned for the covers.
I learned recently that you also sold some of your original
paintings. How does it feel to you to give away one of your
celal: Honestly I am not really comfortable with it. You know,
if I keep them, they are mine; I can get them out and look at
them whenever I want. If I give them away they are gone. I can't
fetch them to have a quick glance. However if I sell an original
painting it's most likely to people who will keep them, people
who know what these paintings mean to me.
cxt: Is there something like a favourite picture for you? A
painting you would never sell?
celal: That would have been the first Turrican Cover, but
unfortunately it has somehow disappeared while it was borrowed
to Rainbow Arts for scanning. The second one is X-Out which is
still in my possession.
cxt: When I thought about the whereabouts of the Lethal Xcess
cover artwork a few years ago, I googled for your name and found
you were working for a company in Hattingen called Wings. Since
Hattingen is just like next door to me, I always thought about
getting in contact but you know our schedules always work
against us :). Anyway you have left Wings some time before, so
that opportunity has vanished. Lucky enough I found out that you
still live in cologne and managed to contact you. Perhaps you
can shade some light onto your work at Wings and perhaps the
reasons why you gave up working freelance and joined them. It
might also be interesting to know why you left that company
celal: I have been in Turkey for two years and ran a second hand
motorbike company which went bankrupt. So I came back to Germany
with lots of debts on my back and got a gun-to-my-head-offer to
take the job or be unemployed. Since I had to pay my debts I
took the "offer" but it hardly paid off, mainly because of
travel expenses. I left wings because there were major
management problems. You know, nothing was organized the way it
should have been and so I finally decided to leave the sinking
ship, which was a good decision since Wings went broke shortly
cxt: Your current employer "Take Two" is about to release
"Sacred II" once it is finished. You did most of the impressive
artwork and modelling for it. You are also the art director for
that game. If someone would like to work for a game company as a
graphics artist, which abilities should he have?
celal: First of all you need to "live" in the world of the game,
you have to feel it, you have to breathe it, to sweat it. For
example you have to feel tension about the design of a new
characters or models. The game has to keep a grip on you even if
you are asleep. You have to feel connected to the product; you
need to identify yourself with it. Of course you should know how
to work with Photoshop and Maja or 3DSmax. Well and in addition
some talent should be present as well. :)
cxt: In the past you did lots of brush and airbrush paintings,
you already mentioned that you haven't touched a real brush for
five years. So, what is your favourite painting tool now?
celal: Yes that's right I more or less quitted using real paint.
My favourite tool? Well that's quite simple, the answer has to
be Photoshop because it's simply the best painting program ever
made. There are a thousand reasons for it and I can't possible
name them all, but beside the outstanding brush implementation
and the overall stability it's much easier to change picture
details in postproduction like swapping colours, exchanging
layers and so on.
cxt: While you mention postproduction changes. I know at least
one example where you did several versions of a painting. Of
course I am talking about the cover painting for "Hard'n'Heavy"
which was the unofficial follow-up to "Giana Sisters". To my
knowledge you made two versions of it, one with a human girl in
the middle and another one with a robot-girl instead. I heard
Nintendo sued Reline and they had to change the whole game
graphics since it was too similar to "Super Mario". What can you
tell us about that picture and much more important about the
history behind all of this?
celal: The original was the top one, and I had to brush over
the original painting to change the graphics. So the original
version is more or less lost. Today that would be no problem
because you just disable a layer in Photoshop and you are
halfway done. Or you can scan the original and work on a copy of
it. However that was no option at the time I had to change the
"Hard and Heavy" cover, and so I changed the original.
cxt: Are there any funny stories to tell about your customers in
the past? Do your customers ask for changes in finished pictures
celal: I have to think about that really hard, because a lot of
time has passed since then. But no, this mostly happened when I
did covers for videos, you know they mostly wanted some famous
actor which has a small role within the movie to be shown much
bigger than originally planned :).
cxt: What about the Katakis cover painting. It contained the
game logo within the picture; I guess this caused a bit of
trouble since the title of the game was changed to Denaris
later. Was this a reason to leave out logos in later paintings?
celal: The Denaris logo was done by someone else, the original
painting was never changed, Rainbow Arts did this in post
production. But experiences like these delivered me the
arguments I needed to leave out logos in later pictures. However
the main reason was because I never liked doing logos. I think
it is really boring; it's simply not what I want to do.
cxt: Lot's of your covers look very realistic, especially when
it comes to details. I guess it's pretty hard to come up with
this stuff on your own. In the few computer graphics I made I
used miniature catalogues and self-made models to get a feeling
for the look of something, for example airplanes, boats, robots
etc. Where do you get your inspiration from?
celal: This is not about inspiration, its mainly about details
that need to be matched. Most of the time I would buy a toy
model of some kind and take pictures of it to get a feel for the
authentic look. I also take photographs of my family in all
kinds of costumes to get an idea how specific poses should look.
cxt: I also noticed that all of your pictures are nicely
composed, what is the secret to create pictures that focus the
attention of the viewer exactly where you want it?
celal: It's very important to have experience with materials and
techniques, you will also need talent and its very helpful to
view pictures of others artists like Frazetta or Vallejo for
example to get a feeling for composition. Last not least, the
tools and materials itself have to be in the best possible
condition, you can't create a masterpiece with a bad brush or
cxt: "The Temple of Celal" ( http://www.nemmelheim.de/celal/ ) a
website by T.R. Schmidt offers a lot of scans of your pictures.
I guess you have you seen the site already, since the guy claims
you have sent him scans for his site? What do you think of the
site? Can we expect more scans in the future?
celal: Mr Schmidt has searched a lot of pictures by himself and
put the site online without my help. Later I gave some feedback
to him as well as a few scans. I guess I will send him a new CD
at the end of the year containing more graphics of Sacred, which
wasn't possible earlier because of existing contracts.
cxt: Is there a question you always wanted to be asked in an
interview, but nobody has asked so far?
celal: I was often questioned for my comics but never for my
other artwork as far as I remember. There have been small
features in Amiga magazines with some sort of short biographies
but never real interview, so I really can't answer that question
because I never thought of it. :)
cxt: Well thanks for your time and all the interesting insights
you gave to our readers. I hope you will stay active and produce
more of your magnificent graphics. Allaha ismarladik.
celal: Thanks for the interview, the pleasure was all mine. Of
course I will continue to work on graphics digitally as long as
I can. You know I have no plans for retirement yet, and so I
hope you can see lots of graphics and models in the future.
Cyclone / X-Troll for Alive, 2005-09-22
Games worked on
Sacred (2004), Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.
Sacred Plus (2004), KOCH Media UK Ltd.
Soeldner: Secret Wars (2004), JoWooD Productions Software AG
Panzer Elite (1999), Psygnosis Limited
Emergency: Fighters for Life (1998), TopWare Interactive
Biing!: Sex, Intrigue and Scalpels (1995), Magic Bytes
Elisabeth I. (1995), Ascon
Menateus (1995), Siemens Nixdorf
Der Planer (1994), Greenwood Entertainment
The Patrician (1992), ASCARON Entertainment GmbH
Fate: Gates of Dawn (1991), reLINE Software
Masterblazer (1991), LucasArts
Monster Business (1991), Eclipse Software Design
Battle Stations (1990), Magic Bytes
Dragonflight (1990), Thalion Software
Legend of Faerghail (1990), reLINE Software
M.U.D.S. (1990), Rainbow Arts
X-Out (1990), Rainbow Arts
(1989) Magic Bytes - Air Supply
(1990) Play Byte / Psygnosis - Atomino
(1989) Rainbow Arts / TimeWarp - Berlin 1948 - East vs. West
(1990) Magic Bytes - Big Business
(1995) reline / Magic Bytes - Biing!
(1990) Starbyte - Crime Time
(1989) Factor 5 - Denaris aka Katakis
(1988) Time Wapr / Rainbow Arts - Detector
(1990) Magic Bytes / Micro Partner - Domination
(1989) reLINE Software - Dyter-07
(1990) Thalion - Dragonflight
(1990) Rainbow Arts - M.U.D.S.
(1992) Thalion - No Second Prize
(1990) reLINE - Legend of Faerghail
(1991) Eclipse - Lethal Xcess
(1989) Rainbow Arts - Rock'N'Roll
(1989) Rainbow Arts - Sperical
(1988) Axxiom / Micro Partner - Spinworld
(1990) Rainbow Arts / Amiga Artists - Startrash
(1992) Eclipse - Stoneage
(1989) Starbyte - Tie Break
(1990) Rainbow Arts - Turrican
(1991) Rainbow Arts - Turrican II
(1993) Rainbow Arts - Turrican III
(1988) Rainbow Arts - Volleyball Simulator
(1991) Eclipse - Monster Business
(1990) Thalion / Eclipse - Wings of Death
(1989) Rainbow Arts - X-Out
(1990) Rainbow Arts - Z-Out
(1988) EAS - Zero Gravity
(1990) Rainbow Arts - Masterblazer
(1991) reLINE Software - Fate: Gates of Dawn
(1999) Wings Simulation - Panzer Elite
(2004) Wings Simulation - Soeldner (Secret Wars)
(2004) Take Two - Sacred