Character Art Career Advice .001

22 December 2017

This is from a tweetstorm I wrote recently. It seemed to go over well on Twitter, so I'm copying it here in the hope that can help more people. There is no silver bullet way to break in and be successful character artist, but there are some things you can do to improve your chances.

  1. When you need experience, focusing solely on the Blizzards and Naughty Dogs of the world is foolish; competition is fierce. Beggars can't be choosers. Get experience however you can. I got my start doing medical animations.

  2. Location discrimination is a real thing; don't underestimate it. Studios typically aren't willing to pay to relocate you if they have comparable local talent available. The higher your skill and experience levels are, the more likely you’ll get a relocation offer.

  3. When you're starting out, try to squirrel away some relocation money so when an opportunity arises, you're in a position to take advantage of it. Clearly communicate to any studio you apply for that you're ready and able to relocate yourself so they don't disregard you.

  4. Formal education in our field has a lot of problems and I'm generally not a fan, but one benefit is that you can take advantage of internships that are often only open to students of accredited schools. It's something to consider.

  5. There are two primary and equally valid approaches to portfolio content. The first is focusing on a style that targets the art directions and studios you're most interested in. This has the additional benefit that you can become well-known for working in that style.

  6. The second approach is going style agnostic. It's a longer, harder path IMO and you probably won't trend as much in social media since people will have a harder time recognizing your work by style, but I feel this way leaves more doors open than closed career-wise.

  7. If you're applying for a game art job, have game-ready art in your portfolio, not just ZBrush sculpts. ZBrush is only a fraction of the job, and with Substance quickly becoming a pipeline standard, teams are leaning less and less on ZBrush for detail work anyway.

  8. Resist the temptation to get sidetracked by new projects and get in the habit of finishing your current ones, and you'll be ahead of the pack. Most people don't have that self-discipline.

  9. Design your personal projects around the goal of tackling your weaknesses head-on.

  10. Learn human anatomy. Learn how to sculpt cloth AND learn Marvelous Designer - they work in tandem in production. Learn how to make and style realtime hair cards. Learn the various approaches to hardsurface modeling (control edges, crease edges, booleans, etc).

  11. Expose yourself to the technical side of production, including Substance Designer, rigging, and UE4/Unity. It will round out your knowledge nicely and enable to you speak more intelligently with your peers in a studio environment, making you more valuable as a team member.

  12. Once you're part of a team, work on tamping down your ego. The moment you stop thinking of production assets as future portfolio content, and start thinking of them more holistically in context of the game is the moment you shrug a lot of BS ego off your shoulders.

  13. Real talk, it can be hard to see a teammate working on something really cool that you wish you could work on. Rather than feeling salty, flip the script in your mind and be happy for them. If your Lead is doing it right you’ll get to work on cool stuff too.

  14. In general, avoid thinking of your teammates as competition. There is nothing wrong with being driven and having career goals, but nobody wants to work with a self-centered, backstabbing asshole.

  15. Find opportunities to take ownership of needs/challenges when appropriate.

  16. Finally, listen to the advice of people like @GavinGoulden and @XCK3D when it comes to portfolios and all kinds of other great professional tips. Those guys know their stuff way more than me.