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Hello. Wasn't sure of the best place to post this, so I chose this spot...
Straight to the point - the question I have is: What is the best way to go about creating a concept art portfolio from scratch?
I went to college for graphic design and am currently working as a graphic designer, but I feel the need for an immediate change... Deep down inside, what I would really love to do is work as a character designer/concept artist in the videogame industry. This is a change that cannot be immediately obtained because obviously, besides 2 recent projects and a handful of sketches and doodles, I do not have the appropriate type of work in my portfolio for those positions. Everything I have is either a logo, packaging, page layout, etc. I took many fine art and illustration classes while in school (there was a period where I was debating between becoming a graphic design/illustration major), but this was before the digital stuff became standard, and all the pieces I have from back then feel SO dated... ugh, I can't even stand looking @ them anymore...
I enrolled for a life drawing course this semester to get back into a creative mode (which is actually helping me to de-rust); I carry my sketchbook around with me and try to draw as much as I can... I can use a tablet fine with Photoshop, but making it past initial rough sketches becomes hard for me... I guess it just feels like I am so far from where I would like to be, especially when I come here and see all the amazing things that people are doing. I know I have to be patient, and I have to work at it and not get discouraged... but with losing interest in my current career due to a diminishing amount of projects and dealing with this nagging feeling that I am getting older and losing time as each day passes, I tend to get a little freaked out...
I guess I am looking for some kind of an outline, a skeleton to build on... maybe, a recommendation of certain types of pieces to include in my portfolio, and the best way to go about creating them. Do I just make things up? Do I take existing characters and elements from existing types forms of media and modify them? Is it essential to have a story/contextual explanation to accompany every piece I create? I kind of have a hunch to the answers, but this side of art is pretty new to me and I don't really have anyone around to discuss the topic with. Any thoughts or advice on the subject are GREATLY appreciated... thank you very much in advance.
I have some recent drawings and doodles posted here: chirpingbee.blogspot.com
Phase 1: Make sketchbook of concept art in the sketch book section and create/add concept art frequently.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: PROFIT.
It sounds like you already know exactly what you need to work on, what you need to start doing, and what you need to refine, so start there.
You could also check out the Activities of the Week if you want something like a topic to work with every week. Check those out in here.
As for assembling and presenting the portfolio, you as a graphic designer should be definitely alright in that aspect. From what I've learned, it doesn't matter how pretty the words and text in a portfolio are or even what the project was - if a beautiful drawing is truly beautiful, who cares what it was for? Still, a brief explanation: date, media used, the idea behind it are always better to have there and be overlooked, than not had at all.
Also check out the Art Registry part of the forum to see everyone else's portfolios.
The best way to create a concept art portfolio is to start literally from scratch. It will come to you as you go along - just like concept art.
Last edited by IanE; March 18th, 2009 at 06:09 PM.
Paint and draw characters. Thats... pretty much it.
It matters. Maybe it matters more than it should 'in a perfect world' but it definitely matters.From what I've learned, it doesn't matter how pretty the words and text in a portfolio are...
Chirpingbee, your story is so close to mine it's not even funny:
I went to college for graphic design. It was a 3 year course, and during the second and especially 3rd year I was becoming more and more interested in illustration and more convinced that I could actually make it somehow. I always excelled at the drawing classes but I still found the main design courses fun. During that second year I probably saw my most growth, because that's when I really took time out of my life to just draw and study.
I look at your blog and I see some life studies here and there, but this all seems like work that's done in school. I don't know how busy you are, but you're not going to make it far if the only studies you do are the ones for school. Do more anatomy (muscle diagram) drawings from home, draw your hands as much as possible etc.
As for getting into larger pieces, I finally started colouring my drawings just before 2nd year. I saw the crappy bland colours and inaccurate anatomy though, and I put it away for the better part of 6 months just to try to get my basic skills up to snuff. In 3rd year, I had my digital illustration course and I also joined in last man standing. In my digital illo course we had one project hinted at that we were to redesign a comic book character and create a new cover. I started the piece a month ahead of time, taking a few minutes out of my day to work on it. By the time I heard the project had changed, I didn't care: I brought it to finish anyway. That was what I consider my first successful digital image. After that, we had another major project that I put my balls to the wall for again (which I later completely redid) as well as another project that I used as a muscular study, and I also finished my last man standing first entry at the beginning of the final semester.
Right there, I had 5 completed digital pieces. I had also worked out my basic process. They could have been simple lined art that I coloured in photoshop and I probably would have still got over 90, but that's not the point: The point is I loved to create those images, and anything less than awesome (compared to my previous work) would have disappointed me.
Every excuse to illustrate something in ANY class, I took it. We had to write some skateboard ads for our copywriting class. I illustrated them both in a new type of style that I hadn't used yet. I completed an image in the style that I was writing about in an art history final project. The point is: if you're really stoked about illustration (and still in school) work it into everything possible, and have fun with it.
These days finished images come a lot easier and quicker to me, but even so there needs to be some sort of idea: I can't just sit down and think "Hey, what am I going to spend a lot of time on illustrating?" It has to come to me by other means. I saw some of Alex Ross' images and wondered "Hey, what would happen if I tried to make other subjects as 'serious' as he makes heroes?"
Draw what interests you. Draw something you know will be fun, but challenge yourself. Try new bold colours or a new perspective or something really intricate. That's how you evolve, by being new.
Anyways long post is long. I don't claim for my journey to be a 'blueprint' for anyone else (I'm not working so that should be enough to dissuade emulation) but check out my sketchbook in my sig if your interested. It starts as I was going into second year graphic design. Some of the exercises I did might help you think up some for yourself.
Thank you very much everyone, your feedback and advice were super helpful to me - I feel much better!! I'll be checking out the Activities of the Week and the Art Registry regularly, and will definitely be making it a point to draw more and get more involved with this site as it is such a great resource. Jason, thank you for sharing your experience (yeah it's totally a similar situation!) - it's nice to know I'm not the only one who's had to go through something like this. I will check out your sketchbook for sure, probably start one up myself sometime soon...
In my opinion, a good skeleton for a concept art portfolio or rather a good example is the book Skillful Huntsman. There obviously is much more to actually getting the skills to get one put together. If you just just want an idea of what to shoot for in terms of quality, format, and design process, then that book is great. Theres another very similar book by the same people too In the Future though i've always liked skillful huntsman better.
 also, to add to Jason Rainville's story, i wasn't a graphic designer but almost went into graphic design as well. I was literally calling the school, had my loan approved, and was enrolling in the graphic design degree when they said "wait, have you read about the other programs our school offers?" and i told them no i hadn't, but knew i wanted graphic design because i wanted an art job with steady pay. I didn't even know the game industry or concept art field existed until they mentioned a game design/art degree their school also offered, so i obviously ended up going with that. So i could almost be considered another graphic design transferee. I wonder how many more are out there...
By the way, Jason, thats a great post and a good story. Its almost like art found you.
Last edited by ArtZealot; March 18th, 2009 at 06:27 PM.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
--- Frank Herbert, Dune - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
Check out my Sketchbook! Critique and Criticism welcomed.
or my Deviantart!
· or check out my: Blog
Thanks ArtZealot for those references... I think I'll pick those up this week.
Here is some videos for making your portfolio by Feng Zhu, this is not the only way to make one, but for someone who has no idea (like me) its a great start!
That's the first one, there are like 6 there to prep you well and what to include and what not to include in his experience. Hope this helps because I was searching and now I shall create a sketchbook here! because we have to start somewhere right?
draw what you love and do it the best you can. Then you decide if it's worthy and reflect your skills well in your portfolio.
Character design positions in the industry are rare, and are usually reserved for those who already have experience.
Furthermore, you're unlikely to get a concept artist job with a portfolio of only characters. Why? Because in any production, character assets are in the minority (also another reason for this position being rare).
There's far more demand for prop, industrial and environment designs, and a demand for people who can do more than one.
EDIT: Replying in a necro'd thread. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
Its a nice thread!
Almost what I was also looking for(same condition; graphics design to concept art), thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences and thoughts.
I totally agree with HunterKiller.
What do you guys think of making mock portfolios at the end of the month? Taking what you've learned and applying it to like 5 - 7 finished pieces. Then examining them, finding the weaknesses and cracking down on them the following month. Repeat.