Category Archives: finished

The Lady of Sacrifice


The goddess Freyja presides over many spheres. Her domains include love, fertility, sacrifice, and death. She taught the ritual magic of Seidr to the other Gods and she receives half of the dead who die in battle to take to live in her hall Sessrumnir. One of her roles is to oversee ritual sacrifice, one that she will continue to fulfill even after Ragnarok has ravaged the world.

Freyja wears a cloak of falcon feathers which gives her the ability to shapeshift and fly. She weeps tears that become gold and amber and around her neck is a dwarf-forged necklace called Brisingamen (gleaming torc or necklace).


Recent Works

Continue the Sacrifice, digital, 2013 (in progress)

Freyja’s Messenger, digital, 2013

Trollhunter, digital, 2013


Freyr and the Giants, digital, 2013ken_kokoszka_001

Orc Shaman, digital, 2013

Orc Shaman Redux! part 3

This is the final revision on my Orc Shaman digital painting from early 2012.

This consisted of a few more steps to finish it up. I layered on some transparent blues and violets to the fur trappings of the Orc’s clothing so emphasize the shadowed areas.


When I moved on to address the magic conjuration I went with some vibrant greens. I feel that this color choice created a very unnatural mood and was also quite arresting – similar to a poison dart frog that shows off its intense coloration as a sign that it is dangerous. I wanted a magic effect that was simultaneously thick and viscous, and ethereal so I combined blooming light areas with drips that employ a large value range. After the magic was finished I went over the figure with a final pass of green reflected light on the surfaces that face the spell and more violet to dramatize the shadows. Once all of this was complete I adjusted the values of the piece as a whole using the levels adjustment layer. I didn’t do anything too dramatic here, I mostly lightened the mid-tones a little bit.

Here’s the comparison again.


I think its very important to stand back and take stock of one’s progress as an artist every now and then.
I made this level of learning and improvement despite working and going to school full time for most of the interval. It serves as a reminder to myself  that there’s no excuse for not practicing or pushing myself – even if I don’t have as much time to devote to the craft as I would like, the time I do have is well spent.

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:

Until next time…

Find me on the web!
Ken Kokoszka Illustration website
Ken Kokoszka Illustration on Facebook
Ken Kokoszka Illustration on DeviantArt

FINAL: Troll-Hunter

The final version of this piece is completed!


I also submitted this piece into the free portfolio review program. If you haven’t heard about it before, this is a program wherein 50 pieces (including a single, specific question) will be addressed and reviewed on the ArtOrder blog. The deadline is in mid-July so I am very happy that I was able to finish this before it became crunch time.

The question I submitted along with this piece is as follows.

“Given that this piece is a good example of where I currently stand from a technical perspective, what element of my work most urgently needs to  be addressed/developed further/changed in order to become a successful illustrator for the interior pages of RPG/gaming books?”

Ken Kokoszka Illustration website
Ken Kokoszka Illustration on Facebook
Ken Kokoszka Illustration on DeviantArt

Quis ut Deus? Final Version!

This piece is finally finished!

This is Michael the Archangel defeating Satan in the form of the serpent, a tattoo design for my good friend.

This one was 100% digital using Photoshop CS4 and I referenced renaissance paintings like this one by Raphael.

michael tattoo2

ArtOrder Rocklove/Viking Challenge Voting!

Hey All! the public voting for the latest ArtOrder challenge is up.
Follow the link through to see my piece and hit [Like] if you wanna vote for mine!

Freyja's Messenger
Freyja’s Messenger



The body of work that I created for my BFA Thesis exhibition is entitled Encounters. Each of the five pieces in this series begin as an 8x10inch ballpoint pen drawing of an animal that makes its home in the deep sea.  This drawing is then blended using denatured alcohol, scanned into the computer and manipulated using digital media. The drawing is printed onto a 30x40inch sheet of watercolor paper and finally I flesh out the forms and some details using a brush and actual cephalopod (squid and cuttlefish) ink.  The series was inspired by a very personal state – my intense, irrational phobia of the topic of UFO’s, otherworldly beings, and alien abduction which is paradoxically a topic that I find absolutely fascinating. There have been many nights where I have been enraptured by television documentaries about UFO’s, watching them until 2 or 3 a.m. and then regretted every minute once the lights were off and I was trying to sleep.

As I created this series I began to explore what exactly the psychological phenomena are that are responsible for my reaction to the idea of the paranormal.  My research came up with three elements that serve as the pillars for my experience;  pareidolia, the uncanny, and cognitive dissonance.
Pareidolia is a process of the human mind that is engaged when random or vague information is taken in by the brain. The mind operates under the assumption that there is an inherent structure to the data it receives so when there is no pattern an invented structure is forced upon the information. A more concrete and understandable example of this process is the tendency for people to notice shapes that resemble faces in random forms such as clouds or the stains left by water. This is of course prevalent in the UFO field because the vast majority of UFO sightings are the product of pareidolia. Odd clouds or other weather phenomena, flocks of birds at odd angles, or the lights from planes at night do not provide enough information to the individual to determine their identity so the mind takes over and tries to impose an identity upon them, sometimes arriving at “structured craft” as the answer.  Oddly enough Carl Sagan the astronomer and astrophysicist proposed in his book “The Demon-Haunted World” that pareidolia was evolutionarily advantageous for early man. It is much safer to be briefly frightened after thinking that a shadow was an enemy than to be incapable of making that split-second recognition of a face and die as a result. This process is especially evident in my piece Untitled (Grimpoteuthis). The depicted animal is a dumbo octopus; something very alien and foreign compared to the things encountered by people in their day-to-day lives however the specific shapes of this animal’s body tend to be interpreted as something much more relatable – a puppy. The curve of the body on the left side is correlated with a puppy’s round head, the broad fin is related to an ear and the round, dark, reflective eye carries much of the emotive weight that man’s best friend does.


The second psychological phenomena is The Uncanny. This was a very popular topic in turn-of-the -century German psychiatry and Ernst Jentsch was the first to write about it. Jentsch identified the uncanny as a situation that created discomfort due to the presence of elements that are simultaneously familiar and strange. Sigmund Freud developed this concept further, pushing the term into its modern usage. For Freud many varied situations are classified as uncanny, even those as ephemeral as the repetition of a sequence of numbers occurring throughout the day in a way that seems meaningful or the moment when one is lost and accidentally and unknowingly retraces one’s steps. The Uncanny  is one of the most potent causes of anxiety in my own mind when I think of alien abduction as a topic. The most common description of an alien visitor is one of the most uncanny visages I can imagine. The being is very familiar in its humanoid shape (head atop a body, two arms and two legs) but also so very strange (the almond shaped black eyes, minimalist facial features, egg-shaped head and lanky proportions) In the work the presence of the uncanny is evident in every piece through the emotive eyes placed on such alien animals but it is especially present in the hatchet fish drawing. The fish’s large eyes and gaping, down turned mouth are eerily reminiscent  of a human face expressing extreme grief or mourning. Again it is simultaneity of the familiar and the strange that creates such discomfort.


Though Freud noted the negativity associated with the experience of the uncanny, it wasn’t until 1957 that the effects were truly explored in detail. American psychiatrist Dr. Leon Festinger identified that the negativity associated with the uncanny was present in a wide variety of mental states; cognitive dissonance is the term for the discomfort that comes from the mind trying to cope with two opposing notions at once. The foreign vs familiar dichotomy that is the hallmark of the uncanny being but one of these binary oppositions.  Coincidentally the group that Festinger used as a case study “When Prophecy Fails” for his cognitive dissonance exploration was a UFO cult whose members had predicted a specific date for the end of the world. When that date came and went with no event, he observed the effects of the opposing concepts at work; their faith and devotion of resources to their cult vs the realization that the world is continuing as normal. Festinger identified fatigue, anxiety, hunger, anger, depression, and frustration among the symptoms of cognitive dissonance.  All of the pieces in my series are loaded with binary oppositions which evoke a state of cognitive dissonance. The negative space of each image is an abstract field which can equally represent debris in the water with the animal or distant stars and nebulae (inner earth vs outer space), the process is both traditional and digital, the materials are synthetic (manufactured printer inks) and organic (ink from the squids) the drawing process is an exercise in tight control (ballpoint pen) and random chance (the chemical reaction of ink and alcohol).


Several artists were especially influential to me as I created these pieces, notably for my ambiguous negative space I looked to Vija Celmins a printmaker who creates a series of woodcut prints made of a black field with pinpoints of white which simultaneously exist as representational images of the night sky and purely formal explorations of shape and value. In developing my process of printing and adding hand-drawn elements I was inspired by John Bonath, a Denver photographer creates large canvas prints that he paints over with subtle pigment and gel medium to re-imbue the work with the artist’s hand. Finally discovering Alice Shirley, a London-based artist who used squid ink to draw a life-size giant squid carcass on paper drove me  to use material associated with the subject to explore the binary opposition of the representation vs the thing-in-itself.

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