10 questions to ask before you apply for an art job
Even if you are just starting out in the CG industry, it’s never too early to start thinking about your career.
During your working life, you’re only going to be able to take part in a limited number of projects and work at a handful of studios. In addition, the projects you work on can directly affect your self-esteem and your level of happiness. Your time is precious, and you can’t afford to waste it on projects you don’t care about, or at studios you have no business working for. Navigating a successful career as an artist (I define ‘success’ as continued employment in the field of your choosing), will require ambition, laser focus and sometimes, bold action.
To help you on your journey, here are 10 questions you should ask yourself before you even apply for your first job. They’re tailored towards concept art, and particularly concept art for videogames, but the same basic principles apply to other art jobs, and to animation and visual effects as well as game development.
1. What are you really good at drawing?
Every artist has their favourite subject, but just because you draw something a lot doesn’t mean you can draw it professionally. You need an objective understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses as an artist. Get direct feedback from a trusted teacher or industry professional on what you still need to improve.
Similarly, athough the industry is booming, it is still relatively small. There are way more artists than jobs available, and as such, competition for these jobs is fierce. If you want to compete, you also need a firm understanding of what makes your work unique, and know the value you can bring to any project. This becomes your ‘mission statement’ that informs your decision-making process moving forward.
2. What are your long-term goals?
Once you understand who you are as an artist, figure out a long-term plan (what kind of studios you want to work for, which projects you want to work on, and so on). Create specific, tangible goals.
For example, tell yourself: “In five years, I want to become a senior character concept artist working at Blizzard studios on games like Warcraft.” Let your dream job be the target that you aspire to. Write the goal on a piece of paper, then hang it somewhere you can see it every day, as a constant reminder.
If you don’t know with 100% certainty what your dream job is, base your goal on your areas of interest. If you find that you are really passionate at drawing creatures, incorporate that into your long-term goals.
3. What’s your plan to achieve those goals?
With your goals identified, you need a plan to make them a reality. You will have to audit your career, assess how close you are to actually achieving your goals, then correct your course as needed. This can mean a shift in your thinking, trying a new tactic when looking for work, or changing your job search parameters all together. It may also mean you have to go back to the proverbial drawing board and rebuild your portfolio.
Take the time to write out your plan (break it down into practical steps) on the same piece of paper as your goals so you can refer to it regularly.
Specialist or generalist? Larger studios often need artists who specialise in a specific area of art, such as vehicle design, whereas smaller studios often prefer more rounded skill sets. Tailor your portfolio to reflect this.
4. Are you a specialist or a generalist?
You should be aware that when reviewing potential candidates, bigger videogame companies with larger teams tend to look for artists who specialise in one or two specific areas of concept art (characters, vehicles, and so on). On the other hand, smaller companies with limited staff may be more attracted to a generalist candidate who is well-rounded and can dabble in a bit of everything.
This is a bit of an over-generalisation, but the fact remains that to be attractive to a studio, your skill set must line up with their needs. Your portfolio content should convey that skill set so clearly that any studio can see both how your talents will benefit their project and how they would implement you into their production pipeline.
5. Does your portfolio mirror your plan?
At the end of your time at school, you will have amassed a large collection of class assignments – but putting them all into one book does not make it a portfolio.
Your portfolio should support your mission statement and your career goals. It should contain enough images to demonstrate what you want to be hired for, but nothing that you wouldn’t gladly do again. Play up your strengths and downplay your weaknesses and remember: you’re only as good as your worst image.
Don’t put all of your school assignments into your portfolio: ditch anything that doesn’t support your career goals. Eliott’s book, The Big Bad World of Concept Art For Video Games has more advice on how to do this.
6. Can you compete with the competition?
Evaluate established artists who do the same things you want to. Examine samples of their work side-by-side with your own, then honestly asses how yours holds up. Is the quality of your portfolio on the same level?
If the answer is “yes”, then you’ve passed the litmus test. Now that you’ve familiarised yourself with the competition, you can forget them. While you may be competing for the same jobs, there is no such thing as the “best artist”: everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. The only person you should be in competition with is yourself – to be the best artist that you can be.
If the answer is “no”, then you aren’t ready for the industry – yet. Practise some more and try again in three to six months. By then you will have generated new, and hopefully improved, portfolio images.
7. Are your job-hunting expectations realistic?
A common mistake made by artists (especially ones with mediocre portfolios) is to set the bar too high. Wanting to go straight to the top of the industry, they often apply to the biggest and best studios, not realising that when you’re fresh out of school, with little to no experience, these studios might not even send you a rejection letter.
That’s not to say that you can’t get a job right out of college working at an AAA studio… but it’s uncommon. Everyone in the industry wants to work for them, and with so much talent to select from, they rarely choose recent graduates. Instead, consider applying to lesser-known and/or smaller studios first, to build up your experience.
8. What are your priorities when choosing a studio?
9. Will the studio you’ve chosen benefit your career?
10. The bottom line: what is important to you?
About the author: Eliott Lilly
Article by Eliott Lilly.
Article Source from cgsociety (http://www.cgchannel.com/2016/01/10-questions-to-ask-before-you-apply-for-your-first-art-job/)