3d artist Warren Marshall (Epic Games, Legend Entertainment), who worked on a number of great projects (Wheel of Time, Gears of War, Fortnite), has recently published a couple of recommendations, which could potentially help young artists to get a job in the games industry. This is the original article. Reprint is approved by Warren himself. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel.
This advice is primarily aimed at those who are trying to break into the games industry as a prop/environment artist after getting out of school, or maybe transitioning from a previous career, or having been laid off (which happens way too often), or whatever the reason may be.
This is in response to the common question that every veteran game developer gets thrown at them at parties or in a private Facebook message or random emails: “How do I get into the games industry?” Or “How do I get into (insert company name here)?”
Part of the answer is that you need to be visible.
What does that mean?
Being visible solves the issue of companies not hiring what they can’t see or don’t know about. If they don’t know who you are, you don’t stand a chance. Sending in cold resumes in response to job openings isn’t the best path forward.
It’s fairly common knowledge that most jobs are landed through personal relationships or recommendations. Your job, as a game artist looking for work, is to make sure that when the art director asks their team if they know anyone who they would want to hire that YOUR name is the one that pops up in their minds.
You do that by being visible.
Your first order of business is obviously your portfolio. Get it up to date and put it on ArtStation. Just do it. ArtStation has figured out the presentation format for you and everyone knows how to navigate it. Having a separate portfolio site that you designed yourself is often unproductive (unless you’re, you know, a web designer).
Plus, ArtStation is free. Why WOULDN’T you use it?
Polycount is my “go to” reference for this point but apply this to any artist based community you can think of. Posting WIP threads on a site like this and asking for feedback is a fantastic way to both grow as an artist, and give other artists a chance to get to know you.
So act professional. You’re being watched by the very people you want to work alongside eventually.
Explicitly ask for feedback, take that feedback on board, post updates, give OTHER people feedback, etc. Basically, participate!
This builds name recognition and if your work is good (or, at least, getting better each time) you’re moving in the right direction.
In today’s world, overwhelmingly, being visible means social media.
I know, I know you’re introverted. I am too. I think a lot of game artists are. But the truth is that you are going to have a very hard time making this job hunt work hiding in your apartment and not interacting with people.
That’s not to say introverts don’t have options. There’s no substitute for Instagram. It allows you to post pictures with appropriate tagging (I recommend #gameart and #gamedev to get started) and include a link in your bio to whatever you want to drive people towards be it your portfolio or blog or whatever else.
Facebook and Twitter are also solid choices. Facebook more than Twitter, but they both have their uses for an artist looking to be visible. Join some of the groups on Facebook that are geared towards your style of art and apps you use.
What I like to do with Facebook is add a lot of artists to my friends list. That way my feed is filled with art every day AND when they post in various groups, I can often see that and join in or request membership.
For the more outgoing, there are options like YouTube or SnapChat.
YouTube is fantastic for building up a subscriber list and doing tutorials and/or vlogs or whatever else floats your boat. As long as it’s related to the job you want to land, it can only benefit you.
SnapChat is more informal than YouTube and it’s easy to record and upload. I’ve seen artists use this to great effect in showing behind the scenes work, or filming themselves working on a piece, or whatever else might interest their followers.
SnapChat has no public facing wall so that means only your followers will see your videos. To get followers, you need to use the other platforms to generate interest in your SnapChat videos. It’s extra leg work but it could be worth it for you!
What do you do, if you hate social media?
All’s not lost. I would ask that you, at the very least, take the advice on using ArtStation.
If you don’t want to use the other things I’ve suggested, one option for you might be to do small write ups about what you’re doing or HOW you do things. How do you UV a rock? How do you handle a specific type of detail in a normal map?
You may think you have nothing to offer (especially if you’re young and looking for your first job) but you absolutely do. There is an artist out there who doesn’t know about the thing you’re going to write about, I promise you. Those types of articles and tips, if they’re presented well, tend to get shared a lot and that can help your name to stick in the right brain.
Great speed level design video from JackX570.
Another option for you would be to enter any challenges or contests you see that relate to game art. Even if you don’t win, and even if you don’t PLACE, just being in the contest and showing your work and participating is a win. Just don’t become the guy who enters every contest and then drops out halfway through. That’s not such a great idea and may give people the wrong impression of you.
Go Forth And Be Visible
So I hope this gives you the nudge you need to start putting yourself out there and get in front of the right people. You never know what kind of doors will open. If you’re interested in these types of tips or just game art in general, subscribe to my YouTube channel.