Kamila is a Polish artist based in Germany who does beautiful moody environments and also some character work. She has been doing concept art for games and companies such as Bethesda, Fantastic Yes, Slitherine Games, Fantasy Flight Games and other names.
In this interview, by Isis Sousa, she talks about the perks of working freelance, share tips for you who would like to go solo, personal work vs. client work and much more!
Isis Sousa : How did you start in digital painting and how was the beginning of your career?
Kamila Szutenberg : I always liked to draw traditionally and about 7 years ago after discovering some digital painting tutorial videos on YouTube I decided to give it a go. At the beginning, it was purely fun and a hobby for me, but after a few years I started to get my first illustration commissions. For a while, I was working in my day job and doing these small jobs in the evenings, but eventually decided that this is what I would love to do for a living. I quit my job and became a full-time freelancer.
I.S. : You have some character work, illustrations and many concepts. Which of those you find most pleasant to work with? You have any favorite themes when producing artworks?
K.S. : Definitely moody environments, sometimes I feel that I lack the patience to do really complex illustrations, especially if there are many characters involved. At the moment I prefer to get the idea across as soon as possible and move on to another piece.
I.S. : What are the biggest challenges and benefits of being a freelance concept artist and illustrator?
K.S. : Well, I think it depends on a person. As a freelancer technically you are your own boss, most of the time you can decide your working hours and plan your time as you wish. But it also means you have to think ahead, often for months and choose your contracts wisely. Also working alone in your art cave can get lonely sometimes. The big benefit would be a possibility to work on a few amazing projects simultaneously.
I.S. : Can you tell more about your workflow? Which programs/tools and resources do you like using? Do you do any traditional work or studies?
K.S. : I work primarily in Photoshop, depending on the job requirements I also use different 3D tools to help me out. As for traditional media, I only participate in Inktober and yes, shame on me, but this is the only thing I do traditionally these days.
I.S. : What routine or action do you take to sharpen your skills as artist in between jobs?
K.S. : I absolutely love learning new stuff, so every few months I will take an online course or a mentorship from an artist I admire. This kind of slightly competitive class environment always pushes me to go beyond my comfort zone and to try harder.
I.S. : For those looking forward to start freelance work, what is your best advice or tips?
K.S.: A strong online presence is a must for a freelancer. You have to post new work regularly and constantly update your portfolio. The ideal situation is when the clients find you and you don’t have to look for work yourself. Another very important aspect is the financial and juristical side of the business, I strongly recommend to get a tax advisor from the beginning to help to avoid any unpleasant situations and to get a better understanding of the financials.
I.S. : What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
K.S. : Downtime and traveling help me to focus anew, visiting different places always sparks an inspiration to create something fresh. I also love to look at old master paintings, observe their brush strokes and color choices and try to transfer it to my pieces.
I.S. : Is there any type of work or industry you would like to try in your career and if so, which one/s?
K.S. : One day I would love to work in an AAA studio, just the idea of being surrounded with like-minded people sounds amazing to me right now.
I.S. : Can you tell your view on personal work vs. client work and positive/negative aspects of each?
K.S. : I really enjoy the freedom I have while doing my personal work, I am free to completely change it at any point as I wish and just let my imagination flow. The downside is I have a huge amount of unfinished pieces just laying around on my hard drive, because often if something doesn’t feel right I will ditch it and try something else. Client work is sometimes challenging and scary, but I live by the motto: ‘Scared is good’. It makes you push harder and produce better work. The negative aspect for me is when you have really strict guidelines, because it can kill the creativity sometimes.
I.S. : How has art platforms and social media impacted your work? Where do you get most feedback/exposure from nowadays?
K.S. : Both of them had an impact on my work, in a negative and positive way. On one side getting recognition helped me to stay motivated, but on the other side, like many people I fell into a trap of constant comparison to other artists, which can lead to doubt in your own skills. I feel if I want to get valuable feedback the best way to go about it is to ask directly a more experienced artist.
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