Karol Bak was born on 30 May 1961 in Koło in the Wielkopolska Region. He graduated from the Fine Arts High School of Poznań with a degree in Interior Exhibition Arrangement. In 1984, he was admitted to the Graphics Department of the State College of Art (currently the University of Arts in Poznań). He already knew what direction he wanted to take in his studies – painting, graphics and sculpture were perceived as a prestigious pursuit of “searching for pure art.” He was confident he had made the best choice. He graduated in 1989 with distinction, with two degrees in Graphics, under Prof. Tadeusz Jackowski, and Drawing in the studio of Prof. Jarosław Kozłowski.
In the years immediately following his graduation, the artist focused on drawings and copperplates which portended the characteristics of his future style. The two were not the only techniques dear to his heart. As the artist himself explained in an interview for Food & Life magazine:
I have long searched for my path and I think I still am searching. After all, it is not the end that counts but the meticulous journey (…). As early as my university years, I began with drawings and graphics, explored the world of sketches and frescos. For some time, I dwelled on modern art: abstracts, performances and installations, ultimately to arrive at oil paintings, years later.
In the following years, the artist focused on the commercial design of, for example, magazine covers, exhibition stands for the Poznań International Fair, the first billboards and tram advertisements, perfume packaging, company logos, tattoos and public and private interiors. The world was not receptive to more artistic creations.
In the early 1990s, Karol Bak set out on a number of travels to explore and experience the uniqueness of sites which are key for Western European art. In addition to the museums in Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain included in his scheduled itinerary, there were others which he visited spontaneously, without prior planning. The artist earned money during these travels by drawing portraits.