Paul Bielaczyc is well known within the convention circuit, within the art community, among Wheel of Time fans, and, of course, at JordanCon, where he is the Dealer Hall director, as well as a co-conspirator for the Art Show. You *could* recite his long list of accomplishments -- including winning a prestigious Chesley Award for his art, co-founding Aradani Studios with his brother artist Michael Bielaczyc, his cosplays of Rand al'Thor, or his licensed art for The Wheel of Time®, which was featured in The Wheel of Time Companion -- as reasons for his being so well-known. But the honest reason is his friendly nature and his prowess (no lie) as the DJ for the annual (and very well attended) JordanCon dance party. So when you come to JordanCon, go say hello.
How long have you considered yourself an artist?
I think the first time I truly thought of myself as an artist was the summer after I graduated high school. While in high school I took art classes, and I drew incessantly, but I never felt like it was something that was defining for me. I applied to the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts and was rejected, and so I just didn't have much confidence in my abilities. I remember my family was on summer vacation in Michigan, and my brother was showing his sketchbook to our uncles. I remember thinking that I wished I could draw like my brother did. I pulled out a charcoal pencil and tried drawing some characters from the book I was reading at the time, The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks. The charcoal drawings were awful. The lines were so thick and crude. Later that night, I pulled out a .5 mm mechanical pencil, and started working. Every day, I would work a little more on the piece, and when I finished, I had spent about 24 hours working on a single piece of art, 12"x18". It was the longest amount of time I had ever spent working on a single piece, and when I finished that piece, that was the moment for me.
What's one of the things you have learned about yourself as an artist?
I find it amusing that my initial reaction to charcoal was that I disliked it and thought it was crude, with no possibility for detail, but now I use it almost exclusively for all my work. Discovering the potential of charcoal started in college. During a drawing class my sophomore year, we did one project in charcoal, and I liked how it flowed across the page. Our next assignment was in graphite, and it frustrated me how slow graphite was to work with compared to charcoal. When I took Drawing 2, I worked almost entirely in charcoal, learning how to achieve the fine detail, while still being able to quickly and easily move the medium across the page.
If you could create your masterpiece, what would it look like?
Over the years I have played around with pastels in order to complete a few color pieces. I enjoy pastels because they work similarly to charcoal, but I prefer working in black and white. That being said, there are a few pieces I have completed that would not have been successful without color. Counter This was a piece that I had planned to complete for years, and only started on it once I had a firm grasp on how to use pastels and a better understanding of color theory. And right now I am partially done with what could become "my masterpiece," and it is another piece done in pastel.
But before I start working on that piece again, I do have a couple of others that must be completed first. I am working on a new piece in my Dark Creatures series, a sort of "Choose Your Own Adventure" style piece of art involving a kid being sent into a dark basement by his parents. And I'm working on my next Wheel of Time piece which I think will involve Shaidar Haran. I find it amusing that I am so talkative and goofy, yet I love to draw such dark, creepy stuff. Maybe I am affected by the Taint.