What Does A Successful Concept Art Portfolio Look Like?
What You Need
To be a Concept Artist for the games industry, you need the following:
* Imagination – if you don't have this as a foundation, you will never draw anything uniquely cool or interesting. We have seen plenty of great renderers with no imagination. Those portfolios are tough because the work looks good, but there is not an original idea in the bunch.
* Next would be the raw ability to draw. Draw, Draw, Draw, as they say. You have to draw more than the next guy to get the job.
* Ability to communicate your idea quickly, both verbally and through your drawings. You also must be able to receive and give constructive and balanced critiques. This is in the top 4 attributes. It is so important to work with the team and not be the lone gunman.
* Good color sense. A mastery of color and how it relates is essential.
* Ability to create mood with lighting and atmosphere. Most environment pieces are all about the moods they evoke. Composition is also very important.
* Ability to work in different styles. It's great to show off your style, but also show how you can mimic and adapt to other styles of rendering. This makes any concept artist more valuable.
* Ability to deliver something that is better than what was asked for, yet still meets all the criteria, on time, and the iterations well-communicated.
What do we look for in a portfolio?
We look to see if the concept artist has a range of subject matter. We look for as many of the following, as well-executed as possible:
* Characters – We like to see personality and "story" in the character. The drawing should answer many questions, but also invite the audience to ask even more, compelling them to want to learn more about the character. Have a sheet of facial expressions of the same character to show different moods and attitudes.
* Costumes – This is a chance to show off your sense of fashion. The costume is part of the character. Tell more of the story, showing the same character in different clothing as a good exercise. The clothing should have the right balance of form and function.
* Creatures – Must be believable, i.e., through the study of real animal/human musculature and skeletal structure, create a creature you believe can move, eat, fight, breed, and so on.
* Environments – Natural exterior environments that features organic structure and flora. Lighting, color and mood are essential.
* Environments – Exterior environments that feature architecture. These should be integrated into the landscapes that surround them. Must show a command of perspective, an understanding or architectural design, show the influences of various geographic and historical influences. We like to see this mixed with a bit of fantasy or sci-fi. A good split for "real" versus "imagined" architecture is about 70/30 - so a subtle approach to integrating fantasy into a concept.
* Environments – Interiors should have everything from the above point, but from the inside.
* Tech – We like to see how a concept artist understands technical things. How does a machine fit together? When you look at the drawing, can you imagine it working? This can be a fantastic catapult with gears and levers, or it can be a futuristic device. Both should look like they can work, have a sense of industrial design that reflects the culture and time they come from, and of course, look cool.
* Vehicles – Believe it or not, it is hard to find people who are really good at this, so it's one other thing we look for to help balance our team of concept artists. See tech above. Good vehicles can make or break a game (especially if the game play revolves around driving).
Keep in mind we don't expect a single person to excel at all the subject matter. Most people have their favourite thing they grew up drawing. But try to include as many of the above as possible. I remember we had someone apply who said they would like a job as a female character artist, and sure enough he was an expert at depicting the female form! However, for the size of our studio (and for the size of most game studios) this request is too specialized for us.
Please also include personal work, sketchbook material, and figure drawing studies.
Concept art is the most competitive space in video game art. So your submission has to look better than the competition. Select only the best pieces to feature in your portfolio. Visiting websites or forums that feature concept artists or concept art for critique and comment is a good sounding board. www.conceptart.org is an excellent resource for professionals and those seeking advice in this particular field.
Good skill and good luck!