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Alive 11
Live Interview with
Celal Kandemiroglu
        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 
        paintings forever?

        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 
        a lot?

        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
        spoiled colours.

        cxt: "The Temple of 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

Appendix A
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

Appendix B
Famous Cover Paintings

        (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

Alive 11