Category Archives: Portfolio

RAID! Pirate’s Plunder on KICKSTARTER!

The board game I’ve recently been hired to illustrate is called “Raid! Pirate’s Plunder” and it is currently being funded on Kickstarter!


The game and its first expansion pack (combat) is finished, but for it to come to fruition and go into manufacturing it has to reach its funding goal of $11,000 by the middle of May.

Each player takes on the role of a pirate captain in Black Bart’s armada and the object of the game is to carry off the biggest sum of loot while avoiding the Navy, even if it means coming to blows with your fellow pirates!

By contributing your money to the fundraiser at the $25.00 level you are guaranteed a copy of the game if it reaches it goal – and the cool thing about Kickstarter is that if a project fails to meet its goal *no one* is charged for their support.

At higher backer levels you can get one-of-a-kind rewards like original pirate-themed pieces of artwork by yours truly!

I’ve playtested the game with the folks at Boulder Board Game Company and I honestly think its a fun, elegant game that is easy to pick up and play while still having the strategy elements to keep it fun over time.

In short, if RAID! meets its goal the supporters’ money will go to make it a reality (and they get their games) and there is no risk if the goal isn’t met.

Ken Kokoszka Illustration on Facebook
Boulder Board Games Website


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 1

A little over one year ago I created an Orc Shaman illustration for an Art Order challenge.

Orc Shaman

This is a good measurement of my skill level at the time. While I was proud of the finished product it wasn’t long before my skill level advanced past the level of finish that this piece shows off.

Since I’ve recently graduated from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and I now have a plethora of free time to devote to personal work I decided to go back and re-paint this illustration to bring it up to the level of other pieces in my portfolio such as my recent Troll Hunter.

I still feel that the initial sketch and line art are strong and hold up when compared to the rest of my work so I’m happy to use the same chassis.

One of the elements that I’m less satisfied with in the original is the over-exaggerated value contrast. As I moved into developing the lights and darks I tried to include more graceful transitions in the light .


As I developed the underpainting I tried to restrain my level of saturation – I can always pump up the vividness of the colors as I paint in the later stages. Here the colors are added in thin transparent layers so all of the initial line drawing is still visible throughout.


Now we are caught up to the piece as it stands currently. I have just begun to paint directly on top of the image with opaque colors. The original drawing gets covered up in most ares but there will be some places where it still shows through, even in the finished product. As I painted I toned down some of the more rapid value shifts even further and I am concentrating on keeping a matte finish in some areas. One of my nitpicks about the version from last year is that the colors in the entirety of the image seemed too glossy.


Next Time: more direct painting and some subtle glazes to get a rich variety of tones and hues throughout the image.

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:

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



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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