Tomáš is a self-taught illustrator and concept artist who comes from Bratislava, Slovakia. Although he describes himself as a beginner to the freelance world, he already has great advice for those new to the world of freelance illustration.
Hi Tomáš, we are delighted to have you in our Insides series! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Thanks for having me! My name is Tomáš Olekšák, I am 25 years old and I live in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. I am self-taught illustrator and concept artist with a background in the video game and marketing industries. Before I started freelancing, I worked full-time as a graphic designer for commercial agencies and as an illustrator for a video game studio.
What made you want to become an Illustrator? How long have you been freelancing?
I believe it all started with my first video game; it was The Lost Vikings on my father’s DOS computer. It was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. I also really liked the old animated Disney series like Ducktales and TaleSpin, and I liked to draw at that time, so illustration and concept art job was like a return to these child times for me. It’s always challenging but I really like what I do and I want to get better at it every day. Video games are my favorite form of entertainment; therefore, I am happy I can be a part of production with the skillset I have.
I started freelancing a few years back on small-scale projects while working my full-time job, and this year I decided it is the right time to give it a go.
Was it difficult for you to start freelancing? Did you face many problems? Could you share with our readers the most important lessons you learned on the way?
It was hard to leave the safety and comfort of a full-time job, but I know it was the right choice for me. It’s a big motivation to get better, and I can work on projects I choose and really like. I still consider myself as a beginner in this sphere, but I would really recommend beginning illustrators to start working on their own projects, even if they are working full-time in some company. It’s hard and you are often tired after long day at work, but this will help you with clients when you decide to try freelancing someday. It is possible. You just need to be disciplined.
“I would really recommend beginning illustrators to start working on their own projects, even if they are working full-time in some company”
What do you love most about your work? Is there one particular project that you are especially proud of?
I really like when someone wants to work with me based on my personal work. It tells me that I am going the right way and people are interested in things I also like. Also, it’s great when someone wants to pay for you to draw the whole day. I can’t imagine the job I would rather do right now. I don’t have a project to be able to show right now, but I will be happy if you look at my personal portfolio.
If you would search for your profile on Google, which are the three keywords you would type in the search bar?
Illustration, Concept Art, Character Design
What does your working routine look like and how do you manage the pressure of meeting deadlines?
It’s important for me to get “in the zone” during the day, where I just listen to music, draw and don’t think about anything else. That’s when I am most productive.
I try to work like that at least twice a day for a few hours and take breaks to look at the artwork with a fresh mind. You just need to be disciplined. After a day like that I try to relax with my girlfriend or play some video games.
“[…] the better portfolio you have, the fewer emails you have to write. […] Every time I am working on a new illustration I am trying to make it better than my last one, so my portfolio could speak by itself.”
How do you find new clients? Are there any tips you could give to fellow freelancers?
My buddy from the industry once told me that the better portfolio you have, the fewer emails you have to write. I am trying to stick with it. Every time I am working on a new illustration I am trying to make it better than my last one, so my portfolio could speak by itself.
When I am working on my personal illustrations I also try to choose an interesting theme or to draw fan art of popular characters from games or movies I like. If people like the artwork they will help by sharing it over social media faster and a potential client can see it too and contact you. I also recommend doing personal projects.
Besides your work, what are you passionate about?
I like to play single player video games with a good story. It is a great way to relax for me. I often read comics, books and watch Netflix series with my girlfriend. I also collect action figures. My last one was Venom Snake from the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
What tools are essential to your life?
Wacom tablet and Adobe Photoshop are my most important tools. I also recommend Spotify if you are a lazy person like me. Just hit the play button and you can listen to good music all day while you are working. Ultra-wide monitors are also great for doing graphic work. I can’t imagine working on something smaller now.
“Sometimes we forget why we started doing what we like. Try to think about it often, as it will help you with your decisions in the future.”
Last chance! Is there anything more you would like to tell our readers?
Sometimes we forget why we started doing what we like. Try to think about it often, as it will help you with your decisions in the future.
Where to find Tomáš Olekšák
Would you like to be introduced in our “freelancer insides”? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “freelancer insides” and shortly describe your services, experiences, and status!