What inspires you? How do you approach your creative process?
It depends. I basically work in two ways. When I’ve got enough time and inspiration, I work on cohesive series – like the Dream Journal that I’ve mentioned, where the inspirations were the figures from my dreams. When I have lots of commissions and little time for my own work, I usually work in reaction to a cool thing I’ve encountered. That could be an interesting root by the road, something mentioned in a Grimoire I read, or just some nice illustration or painting that I’ve seen online and which struck me so much that I decided to do my own on a similar topic. Recently I’ve been working mainly through the second method, but I am now preparing a series based on Czech folklore. These are based mainly on old documents like Příběhy ze staré Šumavy (1974) or Pověsti z Čech (1863 – first edition).
The first seven black-and-white illustrations are from the “Dream Journal” series. For quite a long time I’ve been exploring lucid dreaming, sleep paralysis and dreams in general, and I’ve been writing them down diligently. The exhibition consisted of chosen illustrations of various entities from these diaries, and each was accompanied by a short text that described that particular dream. The exhibition took place in Prostor 39 in 2019.
Dream Journal 28. 12. 2013
We first need to get through a landfill to reach a spacious cavern at its end. Through it we get to the Island. The Hunter lives in its forests. He shows me his way of life. He kills purely for pleasure, as if it was a game. We meet a huge stag and the Hunter tosses a mutagen grenade at its feet, and the animal is enveloped in thick smoke. He aims at it and tells me that in this way it can grow two heads, which makes for a much better trophy. Suddenly, a massive wolf walks out of the smoke. It has a long neck and four heads. The Hunter starts laughing and runs away. The wolf catches up with him quickly and tears him to pieces…
Dream Journal 18. 12. 2018
The Mechanical God
We are walking through a theme park built by an unknown genius. So much work and movement has been concentrated here that supposedly a new consciousness came into being, and so became the Mechanical God. The park has many small lakes, statues and forests. Under the surface there swirls a complex network of tubes and machines that slowly but surely move the park, transforming it. A monumental artificial mountain with a face towers above the landscape. Glimmering white smoke escapes its mouth towards the sky. Tourists drag across the scenery and are carefully being watched by the guardians in white who wield bronze spears.
Where are you from? How is your place of origin reflected in your works?
I was born in Jičín, which is sometimes called the “city of fairytales”. It is a local custom to hold fairytale character parades, and it is also the setting of several Czech animated fairytales. Nonetheless I have to say that I don’t really see any of that as inspiration for my works. Perhaps from the perspective that this kind of fairytales has overwhelmed me and made me despise them and turn to older and more brutal folklore and stories.
Dream Journal 8. 5. 2019
The Sea Snake
A massive snake lives on the coast. It can easily swallow a whole human. The bump on its stomach, a thing very typical for snake digestion, soon becomes a pregnant belly, and the snake finally gives birth. The swallowed human becomes its child, but deformed and changed. Their body is now vividly purple, their head elongated into that of a fish, and sharp fins of various sizes sprout from their skin. The largest ones grow on the back, forming something not unlike a pair of wings. The snake’s children are wild and cruel. Nobody is strong enough to kill the snake, but many are desperate enough to walk to the beach and let the snake swallow them.
I follow one of them and accompany them into the snake’s stomach. We walk through the massive intestine, until we meet a knight in broken armor on a horse. He wants to stop everybody who seeks this transformation, and to ensure nobody got past him, he let the snake devour him as well.
Dream Journal 30. 1. 2019
The Mad King
The Mad King’s massive procession walks through the landscape. They walk without stopping and leave dead bodies behind. Howling screams are heard miles away. Nobody knows where they are headed, but everybody avoids them. We see entire cities flee once they learn the King is headed their way.
Whoever comes near and even just hears the screams sees the sky split in half by a straight line passing through the center of the sun. One half is red, the other white. Mad with fear, in the red glare they all follow the King, hoping he will lead them to the light side. The King screams the loudest, because only he knows that they will never get there and that he himself will never die of exhaustion.
Dream Journal ?. 11. 2013
The warriors on both sides are children of about ten years of age, who without hesitation launch into battle. I am in the window of the house, watching the havoc of the battle. A child wearing decorated heavy armor is trying to get on top of a mechanical horse and to ride it into battle. But the horse doesn’t work and before the child manages to start it up, the battle is over. Nonetheless, after the fight, everybody is awestruck by the child’s beautiful armor and unusual horse.
Is there a recurrent motive in your works? What inspires you right now?
As I’ve mentioned, visually I enjoy all kinds of imps and demons. To choose specific ghosts, I am currently enchanted by the stories of the Swiga of Šumava, an ancient woman figure in wolfskin who wears mighty antlers on her head. She forces people to stay in the forests and worship her – if they refuse, she turns them into menhirs. Some versions of these stories talk of her as of a forgotten goddess from the pagan times, who to this day stands undefeated, roaming the forests on the edges of a fearful Christian society. I find that very intriguing.
BIO / Occult-loving professional artist and illustrator living in Prague.
I am currently working as an illustrator of fantasy and horror board games. My teenage self, constantly immersed in DnD and historical fencing, would be proud of me for sure. The problem with a job like this is that the magic has begun to fade under the piles of realistic digital paintings I create every day. The turning point came at the beginning of the pandemic. I decided to learn the linocut technique and use it as therapy during the lockdown. I have no other goal than to sit still, blast some dungeon synth music and draw demons. I wanted to rediscover the feeling of pointless drawing for pure joy, which does not require any concept or advocacy. That is a feeling that I almost forgot during my studies at art schools and as a professional illustrator. During this time I became very fond of medieval and dungeon synth aesthetics and its “imperfections.” At the moment, I’m just beginning to explore this journey, but it’s already hella fun. And that’s enough for me.
Artworks / Michal Kocourek aka Yeronym @_yeronym_
Translator / Tomáš Kovařík
Interview / Markéta Kosinová