Another great information-dump, this time about the process behind concept art for video games, animation, movies, you name it. To be precise, what the job actually entails, and to dispel the misconceptions/myths surrounding this somewhat over-glamorized field.
So many aspiring students and hopefuls have come up to me and my peers, asking how to break into the video game industry as a concept artist. The shining hope in their eyes makes breaking the truth all the more harder, as only the truly demented would enjoy dropping the heavy dose of reality onto them. Let me be clear: It is totally great to have a goal to become a concept artist for your dream studio… BUT, and this is a big “but” here, this is a very competitive position with few openings. A typical medium-sized company will make use of a few concept artists, and that will meet the needs of a number of on-going projects. There will be proportionally far more art positions as an environment artist, character artist, props, VFX, UI, and so on. Being a concept artist does not mean you can sit there and come up with your own ideas all day long. 99% of the time, the project is tasking you to lay down the look & design of specific things. As you’ll see in the link above, “things” can be as ‘dull’ as different varieties of door knobs. Someone has to define what the 3D artists are going to create! Every single thing you see in an animated movie or video game has had some design and thought put into it. Including all those “boring” mundane objects cluttering the corners of the environments.
Also, breaking into the industry and starting as a concept artist right out of school is practically mythical. I’ve known a couple truly stellar artists that were already amazing artists before they entered art school that were able to secure positions as concept artists. For every other concept artist I’ve known, they all started from other areas of the industry. Modellers, VFX and UI, animators even, they all kept cranking on that art and seized any opportunity that arose to prove they can be successful as a concept artist.
This comes across as trying to discourage aspiring artists, and I’m sorry for that – what I am trying to say is that it is a very difficult thing to achieve, and you have to be prepared to be rejected often, and never ever stop creating art. Never stop looking at other art, reference, photos, seeing art shows & museums, never stop exposing yourself to new ideas and new material.
You can make it! Be prepared to work your butt off for it, and do not turn your nose up at working in a more broader field like 3D modelling! The skills you develop in different fields will give you greater legitimacy to your concept art!