Tag Archives: Sara Casen

Eagle Owl


Here’s an owl I painted tonight in Photoshop, from the ground an up. I looked at some refs to get the pattern right, but it’s made totally by me. I use the mixer brush to get the shattering effect. This is an Eurasian eagle-owl, one of the biggest owls in the world.  I really, really love birds, always have. I think they are super fascinating. As a kid I used to draw tons of them an literally fill the walls of my bedroom with them. I collected feathers and sewed them onto clothes to create the best bird costume ever!

Right now I only want to paint fun stuff, no studies. If you feel like hanging this guardian on your wall and support my art career, feel free to check out my premium prints here.

Last Chance

Last Chance

Last chance.

Click to enlarge. Spent 6-7 hours in Photoshop today, painting this. The perspective was so hard to get right, had to relay heavily on some refs for that part.

I wanted to create something that tell a story, perhaps sets a mood, not just another study. This image is partly based on some reference photos I shot trough the window when going home from Karlshamn by train last week. I just keep snapping all these low quality images with my phone, there’s something beautiful about the cold Swedish landscapes. I never liked the winter before so not quite sure what’s going on. I blame Simon Stålenhag.

I hope you enjoy this. If you feel like owning it, click here to view my high quality prints.

The Fitness Project


I’ve been totally swamped with work the last two weeks, but got a batch of new drawings in the pipe for this blog. It’s hard to maintain the same level of art practice, run your own little business AND have the time to hang out with your friends and other social obligations.

On top of that I’ve been running another project of my own since April this year; The Fitness Project! This is something I haven’t posted about earlier, mostly because I have felt like keeping it to myself, and partly because I don’t think anyone is really that interested in my workouts or what I do at the gym, haha! However, since we’re already on the topic I’m happy to share this photo from my gym.

I’ve always been very active and growing up I participated in all kinds of sports like karate, ballet and track & field to mention a few. PE was always my favorite class (next to drawing) when going to school. I’ve spent countless hours of my free time paddling kayak, diving and playing hockey with my friends. To me a strong body is very important, a body that is fit enough to fight the currents when you are diving, or strong enough to climb high trees with your friends when you are on an adventure. Stuff like body weight or what it looks like has never really concerned me. Numbers on a scale doesn’t really tell you how much you lift or how deep you are able to dive, haha! Since I’m very tall I’m used to being the heaviest of my girlfriends, and I’m lucky enough to have a body type that responds well to building muscle.

One of my biggest problems with working so much in front of the computer is the fact that you are moving too little on a daily basis. It makes me very restless and lowers your basic cardio. And it certainly does not help that I spend a lot of my free time drawing. So earlier this year I created The Fitness Project to make sure I was taking care of my body and preparing for next summer’s surf and diving.  I’ve also constructed my own standing desk at work, which is awesome! Visiting the gym three times a week has so far helped me to get rid of all my neck and back problems(!), it has lowered the number of sick days and I just feel happier.

If you are working a lot with computers, how are you taking care of your body? Watching BroScience, loading my phone with great work out music or eating healthy foods are sure fire ways to get me inspired to work out. Great tips are always welcome! : )

In The News

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So…this journalist from a local newspaper in Finland gave me a call a month ago. She was curious about me and what I was up to. I agreed to an interview and we had a very nice Skype chat. Honestly I thought the text would be one of those “personal portrait” pieces at the back of Sunday’s extra magazines, so when I got this in the mail two weeks ago I must say I was a bit chocked, haha! I did not expect three full pages about me and my stuff. Well, it was fun, and perhaps this inspires someone else from my old hoods to become a video game developer!


Speaking about publicity, I held a lecture at my old university: Högskolan i Skövde, three weeks ago. It was mega fun to be back to the scene of the crime where I started my journey into the mad world of game development back in the days! After my lecture a young man from Finland came up to me and just wanted to thank me for lecturing about video games as a career four years ago when I returned to my old school in Finland. They guy had attended that 20 min talk four years ago and was now studying his first year at Skövde Högskola. So sweet ^_^

I met with some local game companies and had coffee with the studio managed for Paradox South’s office. Paradox has grown quite a bit since I left them in May 2013. They are now over 160 employees. When I signed my contract in Stockholm I was employee #94 (I think). It’s very nice to hear they are growing and keep pushing out plenty of exciting titles!

Skövde will always hold a very special place in my heart. It was a town filled with adventures, misery, happiness and so much confusion for me at the time. It was a completely new place, a new country and my first time living all by myself. I had just turned 19 the month before I packed all my stuff in suitcases and moved there to study. I can truly say I had the time of my life there, I met people who changed me forever, some that left a very deep mark on me, and developers who made me realize I really wanted to dig deeper into making games. But at the same time I’m very happy that time is over, that I was able to move on. Today it’s a bit like a ghost town to me. It looks all the same as when I lived there, but (almost) all my friends and hard core party crew are gone. Their memories are kinda like ghosts and for a second I always think that by visiting Skövde I will also travel backwards in time. Visiting the town always has my brain a bit confused at first.

As you can hear I got quite a vivid imagination, hehe. Maybe, one day, I’ll write a post where I discuss my imagination. I sometimes feel like I got all these “portals” in my head that keeps memories extremely alive and colorful, long after they’ve faded for most other people. Like I can reach into a memory and pull it all back again, whenever I want to. And sometimes I even get randomly inspired by things, like a movie or a book or just the color of the clouds, in such a way it feels almost like real memories, like I was able to catch a sneak peek into a portal showing other people’s memories. Perhaps I’ll write about that some day. Am I the only one experiencing this kind of feeling?


What I’ve Learned From Two Years Of Painting!

So here’s to another year of drawing and painting! The end of August marks two years since I sat down and decided to start painting and drawing on a regular basis to level up my artistic skills. It has been a bumpy road so far, and I’m very happy and thankful to be able to add yet another year to my project (and life, hehe)!

Last year I wrote a post titled “What Painting For 365 Days Taught Me (So Far)“. I tried to summarize what I’ve learned (so far), and include some of the images I had made that meant a lot to me or symbolized some kind of epiphany. Many of the things I listed last year still holds true one year later. I still subscribe to the idea that you essentially are the sum of your habits. Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% about how you deal with it!

Inspiration come and go (and it’s super awesome when you have it), but you can’t trust inspiration to be there all the time (or at least I can’t). Some creators run on a mix of coffee and inspiration, but I need some nice habits in place to keep on creating. I then try to use those skills I’ve honored by practicing whenever inspiration strikes and I feel like painting and drawing something cool! That’s how I work, whatever floats the boat, right?

So first, let’s see where we left of last year. Here’s a comparison of what one year of practice did to my skills between August 2012 and August 2013:


Left: a study of a girl done in 2012 (I cringe so much when watching this, but hey, everybody start somewhere). Right; a study of a frame from the movie “Pacific Rim” done one year later.

I’m now going to list some areas where I feel like I learned a lot this past year, between August of 2013 and August of 2014. If you got any comments or feedback I encourage you to share it by making a comment at the end of this post. Please consider all of this work in progress. I don’t claim to know the answers to how one becomes a great artist, and some things I say in this post is probably wrong by some standards : ) Coming up: an extremely long blog post featuring a bunch of images and some rambling text. I put this together to summarize my own learning process and keep track of the important things!


Masks And Selections

This year I feel like I’ve started to understand the technical side of painting in Photoshop so much better! I’ve finally started to feel comfortable including masks, selections and brush settings into my workflow. The first year was a lot about how to even get brush settings and pressure sensibility on my Wacom to work, to make sure I had the right tools and understood the very basics behind image making.

The above three images were created with a lot of masks and selections. I finally started to understand how to use these tools to my advantage. Before I used to paint everything directly onto the canvas, which made it all look too smooth and smudgy. I really recommend this 10$ video on Dynamic Brushflow from CTRL Paint to learn about masks and selections! Below are a comparison of working with and without masks:


As you can tell the image to the left is very flat and all the edges are just too soft, everything floating into each other. On the right I have used some masks to make sure I’m only working on a specific detail at a time, so I don’t have to worry about paint bleeding out on other stuff in the image.

So getting the hang of masks and selection in my workflow was a very nice thing I did this painting year!

Standing Characters

Another area where I feel like I made some progress is the standing pose of humans and humanoids! Below is an example of standing characters, the left one’s drawn in December 2013 and the right ones are from June 2014. It was such a big revelation to me when I understood that legs are almost never on the same plane, one foot is almost always further down than the other due to the fact of perspective. I know how simple this sounds, but to me it was just mind-blowing, haha!




Moving forward I’ve done a lot of studies these past 365 days. Something that’s changed is the amount of time I’ve dedicated to my studies. Over all I have been able to push more time into the drawing, not rushing things trough. I’ve notice that great looking images are not made in a hurry. Rome is not build on a day, and your image is not perfected in 20 minutes. Investing some time in the image usually pays off greatly. So no rushing, take your time!

Here’s some color studies. I’ve invested a lot more time in them than I usually do, and  think I learned a lot both about color and the way I paint by doing them. I practiced a lot of different tools when making these; both the color picker, the mixer brush and masks, which is great!

Not Too Much Special Effects

Something else I used to do previously but I’ve tried to correct is when it comes to using waaaay to much special effects and contrast in my images. I used to throw a lot of fancy layers on top of my images, looking for some cool effects. Lately I’ve come to learn that if I’m trying to add a lot of effects to an image it’s usually a sign that something basic in the image is not working. Instead of adding fancy glaceing to my images I need the foundation to be rock solid. If the basics are great, then it’s OK to add cool layers, but using them wisely, just to add one extra touch or some small details. Here’s an example to show what I mean:


Some artists are able to use a lot of special effects in their images, but they are able to do so because have super solid foundations in their images. To break or bend the rules you need to know the rules. The image to the left has way too much “cool” effects while the newer one to the right is more careful (and looks better imo).

Use The Right Brushes

Something that you are told over and over when learning to paint in Photoshop is that the brushes are not that important, that you need to know the basics of image making before you can actually use a nice brush to bring a nice painting to the next level. In other words, if you can’t paint it won’t matter how awesome brushes you are using, it simply won’t look nice. Most digital artists seem to use between 3-7 regular brushes. The standard brushes included in Photoshop are not that good in my opinion, but I continued to use them for a very long time before downloading some other artist’s brushes. The thing is, it does matter what brushes you are using! Here’s a comparison of when I was using the totally wrong brushes vs when I had collected some very nice brushes from other artists:


Left: some studies made without elections and using waaaaay to soft brushes. Everything just blend together and looks too soft. Right: cloud study using the right brushes and the mixer brush tool!

As you can tell the difference is quite big. Of course I had improved my overall painting skills as well, so it’s not ALL about what brushes I was using, but I’ve learned how much the right brushes affect your work and limitations. If you are looking for some nice brushes to try I recommend Algenpfleger’s or Zedig’s. I’ve gone trough a lot of brush packs and throwing away 90% of it. Find the stuff that works for you and use it to your advantage!


Rendering Images To Make Them Look More Finished

The last thing I want to show you is that I kinda feel like I’m starting to understand what It takes to make a piece look more “finished”. I used to be able to paint in the very basics, but then I had no clue to how to make the image look “done”. It was like I knew how to cook the potatoes but had no idea on how to fry the meat, if you get what I’m saying. It’s still a great mystery, but I think I’m on the right path. It seems to be a lot about time. If you invest more time in an image it will look more finished, but it’s also about something as basic as image size. finish

I used to paint on a very small canvas in Photoshop. Small canvases are nice if you want to be able to work fast since big canvases, big brushes and many layers slow my computer down. But on the other hand, if you canvas is too small you can’t zoom in on the image and work with the details and add more visual information to the image. To size up my canvases and be able to actually add details has helped me a lot. Such a simple thing but something i didn’t think of previously! Haha!



Overall I have not invested the same amount of time into painting and drawing this year as compared to the last. I have been quite busy with getting my own company up and running, and I simply haven’t felt like I wanna spend too much time in front of the computer (partly due to medical reasons). If I sit 8 hours in front of the computer at my office I just feel it becomes too much to spend the rest of the night sitting on my butt and painting as well. I’m that kind of annoying person who values physical exercise in my free time ; ) I think that my next big challenge will be to find out what I want to do with my skills, to find out where I’m going. As of now I feel like I don’t really have a clear goal anymore. We’ll see!


I want to close this extremely long blog post with a comparison between a study I did in July 2013, and one done in August 2014. The bottom study kinda includes all the things I’ve learned the bast year; using selections, planning my images, invest plenty of time and use the proper brushes.


Painted in the summer of 2013. Unfortunately I can’t find the original photo on my laptop.


Study of Alxendria’s amazing illustration! Follow her artwork over at: http://alexneonakis.tumblr.com/



P.S If you want something more to read, feel free to check out the “What Painting For 365 Days Taught Me“, written a year ago!


Lecture At The Game Assembly School


Hello there selfie! I snapped a photo of my oh so serious outfit today, before giving a lecture at The Game Assembly school here in Malmö. I was invited to share my humble knowledge about how to work with metrics guided game development. The event lasted for about one hour, and I had prepared a slideshow with different case studies where we used data to help make successful decisions about the development of MilMo (the MMO made by Junebud, where I worked a few years ago). I talked a bit about the metrics system at Paradox that I helped put in place, and answered some questions from the students. It was so nice to meet with both the students and the teachers, very inspiring! The slideshow I showed contained a lot of images from MilMo, and I got a bit nostalgic. Working with MilMo was my first “real” employment in the industry, and I got to know so many interesting and awesome people. It was a shame really that the game never got as big as it deserved to be, but I’m super happy that it’s still around for the players who really loved it! Maybe it still have a shot at becoming something more? I will always hope so!


monopoly_milmo_by_1100ross-d5jfnhaGoogling for images of MilMo to fill my presentation with I stumbled across these lovely fan-made collages of images from MilMo. The first one is a deck of cards, the other one the MilMo version of monopoly. How cute! Creativity like this always makes me smile! The creator of these are a gut who calls himself 1100Ross.

I haven’t drawn that much this week, mostly went shopping for new furniture to the apartment, hunting for a new job and hanging out with friends. Tomorrow I’ll be traveling by train to Stockholm to meet up with my friend C who has just returned from 1,5 years abroad in Japan and Australia! She now works as a programmer in Stockholm, and we’re gonna spend the weekend together just relaxing and having fun. She is a wonderful person, one of my closest and best friends. We get to know each other six years ago in Skövde, and since the first time we spoke I knew I had found a person I wanted to hang out with and experience adventures together with <3 I’ll end this blog post by showing something I made this week. It’s a perspective drawing. Not too cool or fancy, but I. AM. MAKING. PROGRESS. I still struggle a lot, but I seem to understand how to use a grid and the concepts of vanishing points. But yeah, it looks like poop : D



Sketch Book Pages





Some sketchbook pages. I almost never do any storytelling with my images, so while I was riding the train last weekend I decided to dream up some childhood scenarios and try to draw them. Storytelling is so hard! It’s much easier to just do studies of fruit or draw some cool monsters or pretty faces, haha! But I think that in the end I need to learn how to apply all the stuff I learn. My project should also be about learning to put together what I learn, not only grind for the sake of grinding.


Image by Andreas, one of the skilled people who work at Tariser. I really like the feeling and atmosphere in this one!

If you got a few extra minutes, go check out the blog/portfolio by one of my colleagues. He made three amazing pieces using a lot of masks and selections. I really like this style!

Some Color Studies




Latest stuff, practicing colors. It’s not easy to see what color an object really has. Its surrounding colors pretty much affect how we perceive the color of anything. Hard, but fun! Did some thinking today and I realize I’ve spent too much energy focusing on bad stiff lately. I read all kinds of shit online and get all angry about the world and all the misery in it. Yesterday I decided to stop doing that. It’s not like I’m gonna turn into some kinda cold hearted bitch, but I feel like I want to focus on my own opportunities and all good stuff. I can’t change the world, only try, and reading all kinds of crap about horrible stuff won’t make me happy in the long run. It just makes me feel like I’m in the midle of a war or something. Like the world is fucked up and it’s up to me to save it. Draining, huh? So from now on I will focus more on my art and my friends, and get as much time as possible off screen. I don’t feel bad about sitting in front of a computer while I’m at work, but when I get home I want to do other things. I want to do things that are meaningful and don’t involve to much misery or isolation, haha!


Images belong to http://zoonoid.cghub.com/. Go check out his stuff!

Speaking of color, I’m totally in love with Konstantin Maystrenko’s works! He uses color, character design and forms in a way that just blows my mind. I loooove it!

Attended Malmö Sketch Jam this week. A lot of fun was had. It’s like speed dating, but when I say dating I mean “befriending”. To sad the weekly croquis is over for 2013 and will continue in January next year : /

LTD 53: Character Of the Week Event!





I’m participating in the “character of the week” contest over at ConceptArt.org! The brief asks us to design a character that travels in time to make sure the evil, opposing group of scientists don’t get the chance to destroy the line of time. The brief said nothing about where the “time enforcer” might travel, but the game/movie is set in the future. So at first I was going to do something light and filled with bright colors, something a bit more light. But it looks like I ended up doing something a bit more dark. It’s still work in progress. Need to think of a nice pose for my badass heroine.

This week my artsy friend Kage gave me a call, and so we went to live croquis together! One and a half hour of drawing quick poses of this beautiful woman posing for us. I felt oh so rusty, haven’t drawn nudes in years, but man did it help my anatomy already. Hopefully me and Kage will be going there each Wednesday! I absolutely know I need to do this to develop further ^_^