ASK THE ARTIST Ep01: How To Become A Concept Artist
How to Become a Concept Artist
Concept artists are artists who create illustrations of ideas, whether it’s of characters, scenes, or machinery, for a project. They can work in a variety of fields, from animation to video games to advertisement.If you’re imaginative and enjoy drawing, you may want to consider becoming a concept artist. It will take time, but if you develop fundamental art skills, create a strong portfolio, and build your professional network, you’ll be on your way to working as a professional concept artist.
Developing Fundamental Art Skills
Obtain a bachelor’s degree in fine arts or a related field.It’s not necessary to have a bachelor’s degree to become a concept artist, but working with instructors can give you in-depth knowledge you may not gain on your own. Make sure you take classes on art basics such as anatomy, depth perception, and coloring.
- Even if a bachelor’s degree is not necessary to become a concept artist, positions that are higher than entry-level may require you have one, so it’s worthwhile to obtain a fine arts degree if you want to advance.
Get an art certificate through a post-secondary institution if you already have a bachelor's.Many post-secondary art institutions offer courses where you can study art and earn a certificate verifying your skills. Visit a website such as National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) to find and enroll in an accredited institution:
- While it’s not required to go to an accredited institution, accreditation assures that the school’s courses and curriculum meet national standards.
Take community college courses if you can't do a full course load.Community colleges may offer classes in art fundamentals, and completing these individual courses can be less intensive than a full bachelor’s course load. Enroll in classes that focus on things such as anatomy, depth perception, coloring, and the design of shapes and objects to develop the fundamental art skills necessary.
Take private lessons for individualized training.You can study one-on-one with an instructor through private lessons, which can give you a more personalized experience tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. Private lessons are often offered through an artist’s studio, but you can also find them offered through art centers, galleries, and museums.
Practice drawing every day to perfect your art.Practice makes perfect, so whether you’re completing a degree or taking private lessons, make time to draw every day. The only way to hone your skills is to do something over and over.
- Don’t worry about getting a tablet or computer painting program at the beginning. You can practice the fundamentals of art with just paper and pencil.
- Start by drawing objects and people around you to learn how to recreate what you see. This is an important skill to have, since concept artists are responsible for taking descriptions of something and turning them into a visual.
Creating a Strong Portfolio
Make a professional website for your artwork.Putting your artwork online is a convenient way for a wide range of people to quickly see your creativity and skills on display. Find a website-making service that has ready-made templates you can customize, or build your website from scratch.
- An art director or employer looking to hire you may only spend a short time on the website, so make sure that it is easy to navigate and that there are no flashing lights or other distractions. If you are unsure of how to design your website, look at other concept artists’ websites for inspiration.
- Be sure to display your email, phone number, or other contact information so potential employers can reach out to you.
Display art done in the medium you are most comfortable with.You want to show your best work and that will often be in the medium you are most comfortable with, whether it’s pen and paper, digital, or paint. The medium is not as important as showing that you are able to illustrate well.
Include art of characters in a variety of outfits.Whether it’s for video games or film, characters may appear in many different situations and outfits. Therefore, it’s important for concept artists to demonstrate that they can create drawings of the same character a variety of ways.
- For example, you can include art of the same character in casual versus formal clothing, or how the character's style changes with age.
Include illustrations of buildings or machines to demonstrate your ability to design objects.In addition to characters, concept artists must also be able to create accurate illustrations of objects. You can include illustrations of anything from cars to skyscrapers so long as they are detailed and accurate.
- Include diagrams and detailed shots of specific parts of your building or machine. For example, if you have a picture of a spaceship, include diagrams that focus on its wings or the cockpit. This will help you showcase your technical skill in more detail.
Include pictures of environments in different conditions.In a movie, video game, or other visual medium, the same setting may be shown at various times of the day or in different weather conditions. Including pictures of the same setting in different conditions demonstrates that you can create concept art to illustrate these changes.
- If you have a scene that covers a very large area, such as a vast desert, include smaller detailed shots of specific areas to highlight the details in it and demonstrate your creativity.
Write captions explaining the process behind each picture.Describe the picture and explain why you made certain choices with coloring, arrangement, or technique. Doing so will help potential employers understand how you approach art design and what your process is like.
Building a Professional Network
Follow concept artists on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites.Many concept artists and other people in the industry have social media accounts. Follow concept artists whose work you enjoy and comment on their posts to let them know what you like about their work. If you get to know people, they may be able to help you with job advice or even job referrals.
- If you are using your personal social media account, make sure that it looks professional. Spell check, use good grammar, and remove pictures which might make you look unprofessional, such as pictures of you inebriated or partying. You can also make separate social media accounts for your professional work.
Ask other concept artists to review your portfolio.Once you have met other concept artists, ask them if they can take a look at your portfolio. If you attended art school, ask your teachers to review your work. Ask them what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what you need to improve on.
- Try not to ask your family members or friends, even if they are familiar with concept art. People who are unfamiliar with you are more likely to provide objective feedback that will help you improve.
Email professional concept artists who work at the company you want to work for.In addition to asking other concept artists you have met to review your work, reach out to artists who work at the studios or companies you want to eventually work for. Ask them if they can take a quick look at your portfolio and give feedback.
- Look for feedback on what you can improve on to make yourself a better fit for the company. Every company has different styles and tastes, so be aware of what they are and whether you would be comfortable working with those styles.
- Professional concept artists are often busy, so keep your emails simple and short. If the professional doesn’t respond, don’t follow up or nag them. If they do respond, be sure to thank them for their time.
Introduce yourself to industry professionals at concept art conferences.Conferences, or conventions, are events where companies, studios, and industry professionals gather to display and promote their work. They’re an opportunity to network in person, so if you attend make sure to introduce yourself to company representatives at their booths and ask for their business cards so you can contact them later.
- When you are talking to people, you should introduce who you are, tell them what kind of concept art you specialize or are interested in, and direct them to your portfolio. Try to keep the introduction short, ideally no longer than 15 seconds.
Update your portfolio with newer work.With practice you will get better at drawing concept art, so make sure to always include newer artwork in your portfolio so prospective employers can see how you’ve improved. If possible, include the most recent professional work you’ve done for an employer.
Video: So You Want to be a CONCEPT ARTIST?
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