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A picture of Kurt Komoda

Kurt Komoda

Freelance artist

in artist, game, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Kurt Komoda and I'm a freelance artist living in New Jersey. My clients range from commercial art studios and big corporations to someone trying to sell their self-published book on Amazon. The bulk of my work is illustrating tabletop RPGs and games. The TTRPG work never payed the most, but I love doing it. Some time back, I might get $15-25 for a quarter page illustration, but I stuck with it and as the gaming market grew, my clients' freelance budgets also increased. I'm not sure, but I think a lot of it has to do with the rise of crowdfunding. I'm very timid about increasing my rates, so I'm thankful that the business just evolved this way.

I pretty much owe my RPG-illustrating career to Luke Crane at Burning Wheel, whom I call "Client Zero." After working with him, he recommended me to other RPG authors and it just spread from there. I can honestly say that I haven't had a single problematic RPG client ever, and I've definitely had clients that were a huge waste of time.

What hardware do you use?

I currently use a Windows 10 Pro PC, i7-7700K CPU (4.2 GHz) with 16 GB RAM.

I have a Wacom Cintiq 21UX flatscreen monitor in a two-monitor set up. It's kind of a pain in the backside these days, as Wacom drops support for their products after only a few years. I'm using outdated drivers that get more and more problematic as my operating system and Adobe products move on. I have to check forums for suggestions on which driver to roll back to in order to get the most of the hardware. Also, the screen is showing signs of dead pixels along the top and bottom of the screen. It has served me well, but I'll eventually have to upgrade.

Digital cameras (currently a Canon 5D MkIV and a Sony FDR-AX33 HD video camera) and, of course, my iPhone are constantly being used for reference photos or footage. The resulting images and screen caps are horrible to look at, because they're just me, sometimes in various costumes or not much at all, in these ridiculous poses. The worst are when I'm posing for a female character. It's terrible - I already have bad posture and I obviously don't have a feminine physique. One time, I forgot to delete the reference layer for Evil Hat's Fate Core. It was a shot of two female characters facing off, and it's just two photos of me trying to be..."lithe." Eeccchhh. They sent back a comment commending my dedication.

And what software?

I primarily use Photoshop, but I often use Illustrator when the job calls for it, i.e. logos or icon graphic-based commercial storyboards. I have the Adobe subscription and it's definitely worth the monthly fee for what I do. I also use Google SketchUp (an outdated non-pro version) to create or download simple environments for settings that will be used over and over and seen from different angles. Say there's a commercial with a family in their kitchen. Set up the kitchen to match the creative director's thumbnails, move the camera around and export 2D images which I then trace for my backgrounds. It's cheating, but a long time ago my father told me that one way to give yourself a "raise" in freelance is to find easier methods of doing things. SketchUp is a career saver. I know a comic book artist who also uses Sketchup for the same purpose.

YouTube is also a boon for reference. Not just screencaps, but also information. Watching medieval historian Youtube channels like Skallagrim, Shadiversity, and Metatron makes me realize just how off I've been in my illustrations. I think I've drawn dozens of knights in full plate while carrying a shield, for example. I've definitely mashed up armor, clothing and weapons from entirely different cultures and time periods. I'm trying to get better, really.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, first off, a more powerful computer with a current video card would be nice, but what I have should work for a while longer. A 3-monitor set up would be great. When I'm working, I often have a video playing on the monitor to the right of the Wacom, which is also where I place any reference I'm working with. As you might imagine, the real estate on the second monitor gets used up rather quickly. It looks a lot like the clutter on my desk, and the room the desk is in, and the other rooms. Oh, I suppose I could stream videos to the TV, but that's behind me. What? Prop up my iPad Pro and use that to watch videos on the side? I mean, that would be practical but - no. I need 3 monitors.