The relevance of a 'real' story for your portfolio pieces
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Thread: The relevance of a 'real' story for your portfolio pieces

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    The relevance of a 'real' story for your portfolio pieces

    I want to work on my portfolio and create more and better, relevant, work.
    However, I feel like I've been creating 'hollow' paintings for a long time and feel like it would work better if I would be doing (concept) art for something more real.
    My paintings up to now were just single paintings, you could see them as fine art, they weren't illustrations of an existing story/game/movie/comic.

    I guess it would work better, and make more sense, if my work would be for something like a real story/game/movie/comic.
    So I concluded and started thinking of a story, but I'm not the best writer to be honest.
    My skills lie in the visual parts and I find it difficult to start somewhere, though I have ideas and all (I feel like they aren't very original at all).

    But my question is...is that even true? Do you need to have work in your portfolio that was created because of a(n existing) story/scene/whatever?
    Would that help or am I just making this up?

    The thing is, I do need more concept-art-like work in my portfolio, but can I 'mock up' something, like just making a story up and base my art on that, or is it 'not done' or something? Is there even a 'better' choice?

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    One of the basic principles of an illustration is to tell a story
    without words. The viewer may not know what exactly
    that story is, but the picture, if successful, should engage them
    in such a way they can start to draw their own conclusions as to
    what is happening, now, or just before or what may happen next.

    I don't really get your question at all to be honest. But I am a bit
    thick. Almost all my favourite illustrations have been based on
    the pure imagination of the artist. Imagination, -your own-
    imagination is an important thing to develop. The stories have to
    come from somewhere after all.

    Not sure if that has answered your question.

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    Ah, no that's not really my question, but thanks nonetheless.

    Simply speaking I want to know if it makes more sense for my concept art (not my illustration-industry!) portfolio, to have more pieces in it that are actually made because of an existing concept (or client, if that makes it easier to understand), or is it okay to just make something up.

    Like, I have several environmental paintings, but there is no story or 'world' behind them, they're not made because of a client, I made them because I like to paint environments. They are just 'loose' pieces.
    It would help if there would be a story or concept behind them, hence I started to think of a story myself to 'hang' my art up on.

    (aww, communication isn't my strongest point either )

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    If you think it'd be beneficial I say do it. There are always the challenges on this site you could use as practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaria View Post
    It would help if there would be a story or concept behind them, hence I started to think of a story myself to 'hang' my art up on.
    Well if it helps you, then by all means do it. Though honestly I don't think anyone will care that much, the actual quality of the piece is likely to be more important in a portfolio.

    Though I don't get this part:
    to have more pieces in it that are actually made because of an existing concept (or client, if that makes it easier to understand), or is it okay to just make something up
    With "existing concept" do you mean like... doing fan art? Because even if you create a story behind your art, it's still something you made up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaria View Post
    Ah, no that's not really my question, but thanks nonetheless.

    Simply speaking I want to know if it makes more sense for my concept art (not my illustration-industry!) portfolio, to have more pieces in it that are actually made because of an existing concept (or client, if that makes it easier to understand), or is it okay to just make something up.

    Like, I have several environmental paintings, but there is no story or 'world' behind them, they're not made because of a client, I made them because I like to paint environments. They are just 'loose' pieces.
    It would help if there would be a story or concept behind them, hence I started to think of a story myself to 'hang' my art up on.

    (aww, communication isn't my strongest point either )
    Ah ok, understood. Well, I'd say both really, but of course to have
    concept art for a project that was successful and has turned some kind
    of profit will always be a boon for your portfolio/resume.

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    Thanks everyone!
    Yeah, when I read it like someone else it might sound just really silly, because it is very logical after all... but I always feel a bit insecure when I upload something new and just have to tell it's just "personal work" instead of an awesome story (and a client) that I can present.

    ... Actually I think my question goes further than that and is: would it look/work better if I started a whole project, with within that project several pieces of character design, environmental design, storyboards etc.. instead of just 'single' pieces that aren't related to a project/concept ?

    Sorry for not asking the right questions :/ .

    Last edited by Tomaria; May 12th, 2012 at 07:44 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaria View Post
    would it look/work better if I started a whole project, with within that project several pieces of character design, environmental design, storyboards etc.. instead of just 'single' pieces that aren't related to a project/concept ?
    If you make it look good, I'd say. I mean if you start a project like this and some stuff that you do for it doesn't look good then it wouldn't look good (the "your portfolio is as strong as the weakest image" thing) and I personally wouldn't build my whole portfolio of this one project, but if design/concept stuff like that is what you want work on then it would definitely make a nice project piece in your portfolio. Or at least good practice.

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    Well, the client probably won't be interested in hearing the whole backstory behind a piece, so as long as the piece is good by itself, it doesn't matter whether it's a one-shot deal or part of a big project...

    Though if doing a project helps you generate more interesting or more relevant work, go for it.

    Or if you manage to do a project that is impressive as a whole, go for it. But if it's just half-assed or padded out with filler, you're better off showing your best individual pieces.

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    Thanks, that helps a lot !

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    I actually think having a concept or story will hurt you if your work isn't quite up to pro level. People can see how much you've missed the mark. Better to have your work judged solely on its craft especially when you are starting out.

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    Haven't read all the responses so maybe this has been said, but even when working for a client on an existing property you are only as valuable, and paid, for bringing something fresh and interesting to the project...from your imagination.

    Edit: Ok..after reading the direction of the thread...for concept work you will be judged on two very different things: strength of the work (execution) and strength of the concepts (imagination, interpretation, interesting ideas, etc.). A well executed bunch of work that is not exciting doesn't cut it...nor does great ideas that are poorly executed. So you need to work on both things together...yin and yang.

    Last edited by JeffX99; May 12th, 2012 at 07:54 PM.
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    I think my question didn't hit the mark well enough, I understand the importance of how good of quality and the imagination must be, but that wasn't my point. Anyway, thanks though..

    I know I still need to work lots on that. It's just that I thought that bringing a set of images instead of one, that was linked to a more professionally set up project, would work better. Because...a reaction to my application to a 2D artist job some weeks ago was: "we like your work, but we need to have someone with more experience in the game industry". And while I can't just make a game all by myself, I can set up a whole idea, with all the concepts worked out...hence my question.

    And next to that, yes, I think it would make me more productive, because at least I know what 'the idea' behind it is instead of just a loose painting and I can at least make more paintings that show that idea/concept. For me, I think, that would work better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaria View Post
    I think my question didn't hit the mark well enough, I understand the importance of how good of quality and the imagination must be, but that wasn't my point. Anyway, thanks though..

    I know I still need to work lots on that. It's just that I thought that bringing a set of images instead of one, that was linked to a more professionally set up project, would work better. Because...a reaction to my application to a 2D artist job some weeks ago was: "we like your work, but we need to have someone with more experience in the game industry". And while I can't just make a game all by myself, I can set up a whole idea, with all the concepts worked out...hence my question.

    And next to that, yes, I think it would make me more productive, because at least I know what 'the idea' behind it is instead of just a loose painting and I can at least make more paintings that show that idea/concept. For me, I think, that would work better.
    No, you are missing what they are telling you. You don't have enough experience usually is a polite way of saying your work doesn't look professional enough . A story or project won't help that getting your work to look better or more professional will.

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    Er, when they say "more experience in the game industry", they mean actual experience in the game industry... I'm afraid there's no way to get that without actual experience. Doing art for a faux game for your portfolio isn't exactly the same thing...

    (Though it may still be good practice.)

    EDIT: unless they mean what Dpaint said, there's that too. Though in situations where I've looked for freelancers, one of the deciding factors was often "have they done work on these kinds of projects before or will I have to hold their hand all the time?" And by working on similar projects, that usually means working within a certain kind of production pipeline, being able to follow directions and stick to technical specifications, etc. For that, we usually wanted people with real life experience on similar projects.

    (Though if their portfolio was really good, we'd take a risk anyway.)

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; May 13th, 2012 at 09:41 AM.
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    I don't want to go and discuss about interpretations dPaint, because that's not what this topic is about.

    And yes, I know I need more game industry experience if I want to work there, the thing is...you have to start somewhere right? At the moment I'm working together with some guys to produce some games, in our 'free' time and unpaid, but I hope that will help. I just hope there is any other way to accelerate that process, other than drawingdrawingdrawing.

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    Okay, so you seem to be stubbornly ignorant of the situation. Why do you think they would hire you because you made some fake game art but the level of your ability didn't change? The answer is they wouldn't, your work has to get better, period. Making a fake game with no real world deadlines, no Art director telling you to redo it and holding you to a higher standard while making you stick to the set deadline and no one else with real game experience is almost useless. But hey, knock yourself out what do I know, I've only been in the industry 22 years.

    Last edited by dpaint; May 13th, 2012 at 11:56 AM.
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    Do some instantly recognisable classic book cover type art in your own way. Keep away from any film adaptations though.


    I didn't think it was possible to be called an artist when you have nothing to say. It's like being a writer who publishes individual words as books and expects to be praised for it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaria View Post
    I don't want to go and discuss about interpretations dPaint, because that's not what this topic is about.
    Without wanting to kiss too much ass, dpaint is one of the best people
    to get -any- advice from on this particular topic. Don't be quick to dismiss
    what he says, even if you yourself feel its not pertinent to your question.
    He's spot on with what he's saying now and you would be doing yourself
    a disfavor by burning that bridge.

    Shortcuts don't work if you want to succeed in these industries.

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    I know that, Star Eater, and I do agree that I still have a lot to learn in art, it's just that I don't find it relevant to talk about that certain e-mail in this particular topic, and I certainly don't want to start a discussion about it.

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    I think you'd be better off working with or adapting an existing "story" rather than coming up with something completely on your own. Any real concept or illustration work you do will most likely be working with an established text/property of some sort, so the more practice you have with that, the better. Learning how to interpret a brief is as much a part of the illustrator's skill set as making pretty pictures.


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    Elwell's advice is excellent here, and maybe is your real answer. Taking an existing property, that has strong archetypes and everyone is familiar with, then putting your spin on it gives ADs a good idea of your skill, your interpretation/imagination and a look into what you can do. It is often referred to as "re-imagining", re-interpretatione, re-design, re-boot, etc.

    Some kickstarters: How would you design the following:
    Wizard of Oz
    War of the Worlds
    Metropolis
    The monolith from 2001
    Forbidden Planet
    And so on...

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    Thanks you both, that was indeed exactly what I was wondering about thanks for the advice!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Elwell's advice is excellent here, and maybe is your real answer. Taking an existing property, that has strong archetypes and everyone is familiar with, then putting your spin on it gives ADs a good idea of your skill, your interpretation/imagination and a look into what you can do. It is often referred to as "re-imagining", re-interpretatione, re-design, re-boot, etc.
    Some kickstarters: How would you design the following:
    Wizard of Oz
    War of the Worlds
    Metropolis
    The monolith from 2001
    Forbidden Planet
    And so on...
    Does that mean that for people starting out, they should just take an existing story (fairy tales etc.) and do an entire portfolio based on those?

    This is the first time in my life I hear advice like this, so it's kinda shocking to know. As part of our school art projects, I've always been told to create my own world, own story etc., and I wonder if it's a bit weird if your portfolio consist of adaptations of other people's stories, and you show your portfolio to someone and they say, "Where's your originality? Why are you taking other people's stories and making fan art based on theirs? Where's YOUR story?!"

    But if Elwell's advice is what most beginners out there are doing, then I think I'm gonna go down that path one day. Maybe someone could clarify it further. It sounds so interesting and intriguing that it keeps ringing in my head.

    Thanks a lot!
    Xeon

    Last edited by Xeon_OND; May 14th, 2012 at 03:44 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    This is the first time in my life I hear advice like this, so it's kinda shocking to know. As part of our school art projects, I've always been told to create my own world, own story etc., and I wonder if it's a bit weird if your portfolio consist of adaptations of other people's stories, and you show your portfolio to someone and they say, "Where's your originality? Why are you taking other people's stories and making fan art based on theirs? Where's YOUR story?!"
    Well, that's still relevant to illustration and design. I mean people don't generally employ illustrators to come up with their own world, but illustrate an existing one (the one that designers and writers came up with), and taking a story not done by you means that you can't unconsciously skimp on stuff that you might dislike or go overboard with stuff you like (like say, you like drawing busty barbarian women with chainmail bikinis and then you notice that your story is all about busty barbarian women with chainmail bikinis).
    And you're still allowed, or more like required to come up with a new and original design and look to your image (or you're just copying someone else's designs).
    Actually I got my illustration gig based on another story I had illustrated that the publisher saw.

    I don't think anyone meant that people should necessarily base their whole portfolio solely on that, especially depending on who they are showing the portfolio to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    I don't think anyone meant that people should necessarily base their whole portfolio solely on that, especially depending on who they are showing the portfolio to.
    I agree with that !

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    As part of our school art projects, I've always been told to create my own world, own story etc., and I wonder if it's a bit weird if your portfolio consist of adaptations of other people's stories, and you show your portfolio to someone and they say, "Where's your originality? Why are you taking other people's stories and making fan art based on theirs? Where's YOUR story?!"
    To me "fan art" is done when you take existing visual piece of art like movie, comic book, computer game and draw using that established design. When illustrating a book you have to design everything yourself from scratch so you can be as original as you want to within story's constraints.

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    I'm enlightened now, TinyBird! That makes sense!
    (as a matter of fact, I kinda find it a chore to come up with original stories LOL)

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