Food for thought

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You know what I realised while I stumbling from one hipster-tumblr-blog to another: Most of the previous generations of young people fought for a revolution of some sorts, while we seem to be burnt out in our 20s, and now only desire to be the grandmas and grandpas, retired into our log cabins, making rustic food, with a mug of coffee in hand and snuggling in front of a fire in our cozy cardigans.


6am, new apartment, and inking of course

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When you have too many things hanging by a thread all around you, Instagram will do in place of writing :)

I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I reiterate: moving’s a bitch

But at least we have a new pal bunking outside our window:

The spidey turned Silver into a superhero!

And our new routine is to get up at 6 in the morning and get our personal work out of the way before work:

One of the best finds for a while: “Comic epitaphs from the best old graveyards”. Some unexpected timing for humor :D

And a lot of inking:


Moving part 2

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The moving frenzy continues. From packing and sending to frantic house searching and familiarizing with everything strange.

But in order to lighten up the tone from last blogpost’s “moving sucks”-statement to something positive, we can give you a little peak of Berlin on our second Saturday afternoon here:


This is the street we live on. A slight shock after the pristine Frankfurt, but I prefer the liveliness here.

This is the street we live on. A slight shock after the pristine Frankfurt, but I prefer the liveliness here.

What is a post about Berlin, if it doesn't have graffiti in it?

What is a post about Berlin, if it doesn’t contain graffiti of some kind?

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This city has an endless amount of dogs, mostly running around without a leash, minding their business, while the owners are walking a hundred meters behind. The mutual trust between these dogs and the people is impressive.

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Meet Peter. We're lunching in a hipster cafe with him, while the conversation takes a plunge into goals, expectations and affirmations that the playlist playing on the background is indeed surprisingly awesome.

Meet Peter. We’re lunching in a hipster cafe with him, while the conversation takes a plunge into goals, expectations and affirmations that the playlist playing on the background is indeed surprisingly awesome.

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And lastly a sneak peak into our temporarily teeny tiny workspace and the pages that I'm working on..

And lastly a sneak peak into our temporarily-teeny-tiny workspace and the pages that I’m working on..

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And with that, I wish everybody a great week, and see you next Monday :)





Story of a private hairdresser and spur of the moment decisions

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Fun fact: For the last six years Silver has acted as my personal hairdresser. The story that broke the camel’s back and led to this arrangement includes a really bad haircut and me walking out of the hairdressers fuming, with vengeance in my heart, and vigorously holding back tears. Since then I’ve had stress free hair cutting sessions resulting in bobs, pixie cuts, halfies and mohawks to name a few.

Silver’s done a fantastic job sculpting my hair (as he calls it) but for two of those six years his duties had been reduced to the monotony of shaving my head bald. Well, no more. I started growing my hair out, and Silver’s been tweaking it as it grows. He seems happy again.

Now, we both might have tendencies towards certain extremes, but I imagined growing long hair from a stubble would be a several year long trial of patience. Not that I minded that, but this plan did lack that touch of weirdness that I’ve been used to when it comes to my head.

However, dull plans sometimes get a sudden twist of inspiration. One day you might be sitting, minding your business while leisurely looking through a folder of reference pictures. You might see a photo you like, and say: “Let’s do this to my hair when it gets long enough.” and you might get an answer from the desk opposite of yours: “Let’s do it now”. And end up having half your head shaved within the next ten minutes. Again.

Call me Helmet Head:

Before and After

Before and After

The image that got it all started.

The image that got it all started.




The horizontal ones

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The first year year of making Run Freak Run was riddled with confusion, self doubt and too often pushing yourself over the edge to a free fall into burnout. So, I’d rather just be happy about having gotten mostly over the biggest hurdles of this project and for having a good rhythm going for me, instead of looking back at a harder phase of production.

Nonetheless, I was jolted back in time, when Silver dug up a stack of RFR pages. The pages. In our minds these were the infamous pages. The bittersweet ones. The ones that were our false start.

The horizontal ones.


22 consecutive pages never saw the light of day.

22 consecutive pages never saw the light of day.

Monsters were changed...

Monsters were changed…

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Some full page vistas were removed…

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The pace of the story was quickened…

Some techniques were dropped due to their time consuming qualities.

Some techniques were dropped due to their time consuming qualities.


Yes, we have 22 pages of RFR in horizontal format. I’ve always liked horizontal graphic novels and it felt like a better format to publish on the internet. We never got to try out that theory though, because we restarted the comic in vertical format after the first chapter was done.

We had given ourselves a year of preparation before we’d launch the webcomic. Out of those 12 months, only 6 were left at that point and we were in square one again.

Funnily enough I don’t remember switching to a regular format being a hard decision. We had reasons that fundamentally outweighed the “cool” factor of the horizontal pages. More affordable printing costs in the future being one of them.

The positive note in these kinds of situations is the knowledge you accumulate on the first try. Restarting something you’ve worked hard on will be demoralizing, but redoing the work will go faster than on the first try and dare I say, even better if you hunker down and just do it.

Silver got to rewrite some of the story, I got to streamline the techniques I wanted to use for drawing the pages. All in all it gave the comic a slightly better start and made our future production easier.
There’s no big morale to this story. As you already know, everything has ended well. Sometimes false starts just happen. And I guess you just have to know when to kill your darlings and restart.





2 Comments on Sketches!

I’m posting a drawing update, since this weekend I drew some cute mushroom-men for the next chapter, and thought their cuteness should earn them a spot on the blog.

This weekend's haul.

This weekend’s haul.

This has been the state of my desk for a while now. I really need to clean up.

This has been the state of my desk for a while now. I really need to clean up.


I simply ran out of space on the rest of the table and got squeezed out onto my wacom tablet to draw. This happens often enough, that I'm surprised it's still in as good a condition as it is.

I simply ran out of space on the rest of the table and got squeezed out onto my wacom tablet to draw. This happens often enough, that I’m surprised the wacom is still in as good a condition as it is.



A sneak peak at a future page ;)

A sneak peak at a future page ;)



I tried out ink on a new kind of paper.

I tried out ink on a german etching paper.

The paper is so soft, that it ... the ink and leaves it slightly grey and looking like it's been printed or stamped on. I highly recommend trying new and different materials from time to time. You might get some really interesting results.

The paper is so soft, that it soaks up the ink and leaves it slightly grey and looking like it’s been printed or stamped on. I can’t recommend enough trying new and completely different materials from time to time. You might get some really interesting results and spark some new ideas.







Questions answered

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Sometimes we get emails from RFR readers full of questions about anything ranging from creating comics, writing, to concept art and games industry, and we love answering them.

Often they are questions whose answers have become part of the noise of our everyday life, in which case it’s always interesting to look at them more mindfully and dissect them to something that could be helpful to others. Other times the answers are something that we’re still figuring out for ourselves. But telling about the road to a still incomplete answer can be interesting too.

Recently we received an email from Holger (31), who has been learning concept art for a year now with the help of books and workshops and wants to turn his hobby into a profession. For us to be truly helpful, we felt his questions have to be answered more thoroughly and would (as per evidence below) need to be more than one- or two-sentence statements.

So Holger agreed to become a case study for our blog readers. You can find a link to his portfolio here.

Now to the questions:


1. How to get to the industry and when will I be ready for it?

Kaija answers: If you are looking for any work that will get you started on your career, you probably won’t be too picky about the company. If that’s the case, send your portfolio out to all potential employers that you can think of. You can cherry pick the projects you want to be working on later in your career. If there’s a chance you’ll get hired, then take it. And as long as you feel that you have the basic skills under control, I don’t think it’s ever too early to send out your portfolio or to start building your online presence. Most of the drastic leaps in skill you’ll make at the job anyway.

Having said that, your portfolio shouldn’t try to please everyone out there. I still recommend that you focus on your strengths. Especially if you feel that you don’t have all the time in the world to get good at everything, hone your skills with the goal of becoming an expert in one area. You seem to be leaning heavily towards environment concept art, and that is what you should focus to excel at. Many employers will even prefer to have concept artists compartmentalized into environment artists or character artists.

Now about the portfolio: the rule of thumb is to show a minimum of eight pieces of your best work. If you have more, great. But remember quality over quantity. Even one bad piece among good ones can instill doubts about your skills, or at least about your ability to objectively assess the quality of your own work. From an employer’s point of view, having a lot to learn is fine, but not seeing where your work isn’t up to par is worrying.

A lot of concept artist start out by getting freelance illustration gigs (e.g. for roleplaying game books and card games). They are a lot easier to get than permanent positions, since the client is taking a smaller risk with hiring you short term. You’ll get some experience with working under deadlines and you’ll have something to start your CV with. You might even get regular clients and realize that freelance lifestyle suits you. In this case you’ll have to continue to constantly be on the lookout for new clients which can be nerve wracking, but the upside is that you can have more control over what kind of projects you’re working on, than if you were working in an office.

If you are after a job in the games industry, your portfolio would always benefit from a focus on concepts with a function in mind. You will not be creating fine art at any games company. Most concepts you make have to serve the gameplay and/or story in some way, and it will help your portfolio greatly if you show that you understand that aspect of the job. To achieve this remember to focus on the design, not only on illustration. Think more along the lines of industrial design with a layer of gameplay function on top of it. In your case, it would make sense to start by adding some prop designs to the portfolio in addition to your environments.

2. How do I refine my skills, when no one is teaching me and I am self-educating?

Silver answers: You mentioned you’re teaching yourself with workshops, books and the internet. That’s a great start, there are multiple different online education opportunities, from paid ones to totally free. There are so many, that I wouldn’t recommend college to anyone but for the sake of getting out of your parents house and learning to be an adult. Also, the latest rage in the concept art circles are affordable, shorter tutorials from industry professionals.

Now, this isn’t anything new – workshops and presentations have been around for years, internet has just made it slightly more convenient again. But no matter how much material you have in your hand, it won’t make you a better concept artist by default.

What you need is focus.

I have a friend who used to only draw Conan the Barbarians, over and over again, until they got spectacular. One day he got hired to work as a concept artist for the Conan MMO.

As a self-teaching artist, you have to set out a plan of what kind of a portfolio you want to build for yourself. You know the old saying: If you don’t have a goal, you can’t score. When I was starting out, I chose to only make epic fantasy and sci-fi environment illustrations, with couple of prop designs to support it.

So, if you want to be an awesome environment concept artist, I recommend you choose what kind of environment concept artist you want to be.

For example, if you want to work for cinema, then I recommend you make a portfolio of cinematic landscapes and filmic compositions with lots of storytelling. It’s quite simple really, just screencap couple of the latest hit movie trailers from the genre you’re interested and start making your own versions of those. Or find concept art from those movies and make your own versions of that.

Prove that you’re able, rather than unique. There’s always time for uniqueness when you’re established.

But maybe you want to be working in the video games instead? Well then, what kind of video games? There’s a big difference between casual/mid-core/hard-core concept art requirements. Usually the casual games (farmville) are cell-shaded, and friendly, the hardcore (halo, ryse) games tend to get gritty and extremely realistic and mid-core (clash of clans, league of legends) can be anything between.

You also have illustration work in your portfolio that seems to fit into the roleplaying game book and card games industry. To succeed in the book and cover market, you have to be a spectacular storyteller with multiple characters. As an environment artist, you’re always going to be struggling for work in illustration, since most illustrations are character based.

Judging from your current portfolio, you have most potential for hard-core games and film set design.

If you want to get into the games industry, then I recommend making additional prop-designs and gameplay-concepts for the type of games you’re interested. Most of the freelancers who are hired in games industry, are for either pitch art or to help out through production with prop-design.

If you’re more interested in the film industry, then I recommend making concepts in cinematic aspect-ratio with characters that are acting out a scene, and it wouldn’t hurt to have some storyboards there too if you want additional work. Directors are always in search for good storyboard artists.

I know I pivoted a little bit from your original question, but I think my point is still strong – whatever you teach yourself, teach it with a focus and a goal. The spectrum of drawing, concept art and illustration is so wide that you can spend years trying to become good in all those subject matters – and you should do that too – just do it in an orderly fashion so as not to stress yourself too much.

3. What do you have do to be recognized, when i get a lot of rejections? How do you deal with rejections?

Silver answers: To be recognized, you only need consistent good work. The concept art world is ridiculously small, so if you keep pushing out new work weekly, and putting out in social media or art sites like ArtStation, you will start gathering like minded peers. Now this won’t get you clients yet, but it will get you recommendations in the future.

The better you get, the more likes/shares you will have and the more times potential clients will see you.

Just take a look at James Paick, Maciej Kuciara and Fightpunch. These guys are putting out new work, professional and personal all the time – and they are swimming in work.

Being a freelancer is tough work, you need to advertise yourself and find new clients while maintaining the old relations, and it’s not easy while just starting out.

It doesn’t mean it’s impossible though. You just have to find lower profile clients, like junior directors and young start ups that can’t hire those high profile guys yet.

But what if you get rejected by them?

Now, rejections are just part of this business – and remember – they are never personal. The reason you’re rejected is that you haven’t convinced the client that you’re the right person to the job. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

First step to dealing with a rejection is understanding what kind of work the client was looking for and how does it differ from your current portfolio.

The next step is changing your portfolio to fit to the clients expectations or finding a different client who is looking to make projects that your portfolio can serve perfectly.

Never take work for granted, and try to understand that concept art is just a tool for the client to communicate their vision and plan, and every time they hire you, it’s a financial risk that needs to make sense.

4. How do you deal with all the awesome work out there? Does it depress you and make you feel you’re behind?

Kaija answers: There is always going to be awesome work out there, how sad would the world be if you were the only one producing the only beautiful things out there?

Another point I want to stress is, if you’re like most other creative people, you will always be striving for something better, new, and challenging. And the things that inspire you, whether they are other paintings, great stories or extraordinary people, will play a big part in kicking your butt to get up and contribute with your unique perspective. That’s a positive thing.

And you will hopefully always be in a state of learning, which means you can either spend your whole life ear-deep in insecurities or enjoy the process.

Learning doesn’t have to mean you’re worse than someone else, it means that you can progress from yesterday.

Few words on your portfolio

Your portfolio site is too complicated. We almost missed your navigation button on the top left and once you go to the different pages, you can’t enlarge any of the images.

Also, we can’t find the header illustration anywhere, and that’s our favorite.

We recommend using a different tumblr-profile or going to squarespace for a portfolio. The easier it is to view, the better, for example Silver has his stuff on tumblr like this:

We also strongly urge you to add characters to the concepts that have none at the moment. Human scale always makes a difference. And if they are acting a scene or gameplay at the same time, it’ll be even better.

Your paintings are not bad, they are pretty impressive for someone who has only been doing concept art for a year – but what shows is that you’ve been only focusing on the act of painting, and not so much on design.

We know this’ll sound like a broken record, but we suggest you start trying to think like a movie director or a game designer when doing additional work, because they will be your clients, and the faster you can get into their heads, the more work you will get.

So, there you have it Holger! We hope you find this useful and best of luck with your journey and career!

For all you curious cats out there who have questions, please sent them to contact at and we’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.


Smiles and love,

Kaija and Silver

Ode to self-learning

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Ode copyWhat can I say about self-learning? Well, I owe my job and my skills as a concept artist to being self taught.

I have no official qualifications to pursue any of my side projects or hobbies either. But who has? Picking it up out of interest and working at it as long as it makes you happy. Isn’t that the definition of a hobby anyways?

And with the hours you put into it and the research and learning you do, you get good at it. There’s no final exam before you can start working or gathering revenue from whatever it is that you’ve taught yourself.

I think the thing I most love about self-learning is that you can move at exactly the pace you need to move. You can either let the skill develop organically or (if you’re as goal oriented as I am) you can set deadlines and manage your progress through completing projects or breaking them down into tasks.

Self directed learning forces you to become a better problem solver, because information is rarely handed to you in a neat package. You either have to come to your own solutions or learn to find the answers you are seeking.

Whether it’s a hobby or a career path that you want to pursue, being self taught speaks of a passion deep enough that you’re willing to dedicate your time to it, whether it’s mornings, days, evenings or nights.

And finally it speaks of self improvement and a will to change.


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Skillshare is one of my new finds in the self-learning category. It’s an online learning community with short classes on design, business and many other topics. You pay a monthly fee of $9.95 to get access to most videos on the site. With this link you can get one month free trial.

These are a couple of classes that I found and that I particularly liked. So much so, that they made me want to share this site with you guys:


Yuko Shimizu – Mastering Inking: Basic and Pro Techniques

This class is taught by a great Japanese illustrator, Yuko Shimizu. She goes through the basic setup for inking and reveals some nice tips and techniques along the way. More for beginners but still nice to watch, and I too leaned a couple of new things.



Seth Godin – The Modern Marketing Workshop

Seth Godin will give you a look into the mindset for thinking about marketing today and provide a framework of rules to get you started. I liked this class a lot, especially the two case studies he talks to towards the end and I found it easy to apply what I heard to my way of thinking.


Anya Ayoung Chee – Garment Construction: Introduction to Draping

I love fashion design and I like sewing my own clothes whenever I have the time. Anya Ayoung Chee, who won the 9th season of Project Runway (both me and Silver are crazy about that show) shows the basics of draping and then transferring that to a pattern and a finished garment. Again, this is more for beginners, but even knowing this much you can already apply that knowledge to a vast amount of designs. I would recommend it if you have any interest in sewing!


James Victore – Radical Typography: What Do You Have to Say?

James Victore is an art director, author, designer and filmmaker. In this class he teaches to think of typography not as a typeface composition, but as a strong way of expressing those powerful thoughts that deserve to have an impact. Letting go of perfection and thinking of creative solutions to every problem.

Suffice it to say, it got me pumped up!

Skillshare_James Victore

Tell me if you checked out any of the classes or if you have any thoughts on self-learning. You can do that through twitter or here in the commets below :)





Kaija’s guide to coffee

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“The elegant way to pour water”

“Pouring with passion!”

Silver always says that coffee is the best thing in the world. Right after me, that is.

Coffee marks one of the highlights of his afternoons, and allegedly when that perfect cup of coffee is made by me, it makes it taste that much better. And so, me brewing the coffee has formed into a kind of daily tradition. By default, that also makes me the coffee master at our house, and I don’t take the title lightly.

I like the thought of perfecting that cup of coffee and experimenting with different tastes and brewing methods instead of doing it the easy way – straight from a box. I simply like the ritual of buying your own beans, grinding them and brewing. There’s a kind of magic in that process.

The good news is: it’s not a hard skill to learn. You just need some basic equipment and a place to get coffee beans and you’re good to go. As a fairly cheap first investment I’d recommend a burr grinder and a french press. And lets not forget the beans. We buy them in the greatest smelling coffee shop here in Frankfurt. The fragrance in there is so amazing, that it causes me to fantasize of diving into a pool of coffee beans and swim in them à la Skrooge McDuck.

Apart from loving the fragrance, I myself am not a coffee drinker. I love drinking tea the most, but through experimentation with Silver’s coffee even I have found certain types of coffee that taste delicious to me. Blue Mountain beans form India are to die for and Ethiopian Sidamo comes as a good second. Both of these are high on Silver’s list too, although he is more open minded and probably would list many more varieties that he loves.

Now, learning about different beans has been a long hit and miss process, and even now I’m not too much wiser that when we started. But I feel I am past the point where I randomly pick beans just to see how they differ from the last batch we bought. I wanted to do some information digging to get a better understanding of the dozens of choices that are out there. Eventually, I feel I pieced together a comprehensive enough picture of some basic information and I’d like to share it with you in a form of an infographic.

Maybe it’ll give a good starting point to other thirsty information seekers out there. See what I did there? ;)


Coffee infographic3


And now a demonstration from the Coffee Brigand himself:

“The coffee brigand strikes again”

“The coffee brigand strikes again!”

“Press it!”

“Press it!”

“Pour it!”

“Pour it!”

“Stirr it!”

“Stirr in honey!”

“Drink it and enjoy!”

“Drink it and love it!”





Tell me all about your coffee dreams @kaijarudkiewicz or comment below!