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  1. #16
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    More on an Art Education Versus a Tools Education

    Darkwolfb87 asked me the following in PM, and (I hope you don’t mind, Darkwolf) I’m going to repeat the question here:

    “I am simply following advice I read from somewhere long ago that said to create the best opportunity for yourself in fine arts study and leave modeling and texturing for self-study. My "problem" is that I'm also full-time in college and I overwhelmed even thinking about learning modeling and texturing. I'd really appreciate hearing what you have to say.”

    It sounds like your only problem is that you are overwhelmed with what you are currently doing! Really, your situation is a good one.

    Being overwhelmed by your education happens now and then, and maybe this will help you to fight the panic:

    Remember that even though your school had requirements of you, that ultimately you are not beholden to them to meet those requirements. You are only beholden to yourself. Identify what you need to learn, and use your education to get those things.

    There are two good ways to approach getting a good game-art education from a fine-arts school. One is to march to their drums. Do everything that they tell you, jump through their hoops. Get your degree. And then spend another year or two at a school like Full Sail, so that you can learn the tools.

    That’s the expensive way. The shorter and cheaper and perhaps more difficult way is to amputate the frills from your fine arts education. Argue your way out of basket-weaving, and replace it with whatever games-relevant education you can squeeze in. If you have to write a paper for some irrelevant humanities course, then convince your professor that you need to either write about games or you need to drop out of his useless class. Take classes in other departments. Take classes at other schools. Don’t worry about transferring credits or about grades – just get the education. Do independent studies. Educate your professors on what concept art and game art and digital 3D art are. Above all, tell them loudly and clearly that you want to be making games, and remind them that it is their job to help you achieve that.

    Along with this, apply for internships every summer. And apply as an intern after you graduate, if you don’t yet have the skills to be hired as a regular staff artist.

    I’ll write more on internships later. . .
    Last edited by Seedling; October 7th, 2006 at 10:25 AM.


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  3. #17
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    really interesting. I will do the first assignment tomorrow.
    ▄▀▄▀▄▀■ - GORILLA ARTFARE - ■▀▄▀▄▀▄

  4. #18
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    2D Versus 3D

    I suppose it would be possible for someone to begin their art education not with pencils and crayons, but with a 3D modeling program. In theory, since it is just another tool, someone could go from novice to professional sculptor without ever touching 2D art.

    But, this does not take into account several things. In games, for one, you need to be able to texture as well as model, and texturing is a 2D art. You also can’t iterate on a model the way you can iterate on a drawing, because modeling takes longer. You can’t carry a 3d modeling program around the way that you can tote a sketchbook.

    Drawing teaches you to think in a hybrid of 2D and 3D – and I think this is the most important reason to learn how to draw while learning to model or, preferably, before you ever touch a 3D program.

    This assumes that you aren’t spinning your wheels by copying photographs. If you do that, then stop. Copying from photos is a shortcut for illustrators who already know the ins and outs of making the illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface. In someone just learning how to draw, copying photos is a crutch. You need to draw from life precisely because it is harder to do. It teaches you to take what you see in 3D and translate it into 2D. It teaches you to think in 3D without the need for expensive software. It teaches you to set up 2D compositions using 3D elements.

    But my ranting is no fun to listen to, so instead, here’s an assignment.

    *******Assignment #4 – Draw a Chair*******

    Got a chair and a sketchbook? Good. Put the chair in the middle of the room. Draw it. Turn it upside-down and draw it again. Spin it around and draw it from the other side. Break out the two-and three-point perspective. Get way up close and draw that chair like it’s a mile high. Get to know that chair so well that there is a perfect 3D model of it in your head.

    Now put away the chair and draw it again entirely from what is in your head. This time, make it a galactic space-going chair, or a predatory Amazonian chair, or a Muppet chair. Draw it rightside-up and upside-down and sideways, with all the same perspective love that you used on the last one.

    Do you see? With only pencil and paper, you can practice both concept art and 3D thinking at the same time.
    Last edited by Seedling; October 7th, 2006 at 10:26 AM.

  5. #19
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    Simplicity from Complexity

    What if your boss told you “we need a carousel, and we need it completely modeled and textured by Friday?” Rather intimidating, yes?

    *******Assignment #5 – Carousel********

    Yup, that’s right. Make a carousel. It has to be entirely populated with horses – each of a different color. It has to have a round base with some details around the edge, a column in the middle with a calliope, and it has to have an ornate canopy. It also has to be completed, finished, wrapped up, from soup to nuts, AND it has to be finished in a reasonably short time, so that you don’t get frustrated and abandon it halfway done.

    Okay, you can stop having a heart attack now. I’ll walk you through it.

    Step one: Your boss is leaving the style up to you. This is unlikely to happen in the games industry, but for the sake of the assignment, you get to pick. Since you want to be able to actually get this assignment done in a reasonable amount of time, I suggest you pick a style that is highly simplified and isn’t realistic. Low-poly is a really good idea. Sketch it out.

    Step two: Model and texture one horse. Do you remember the extra credit from the second assignment? That was where you made one monster and then fiddled around with the texture to make different varieties. You can use that same trick to generate a fleet of horses from only one horse model. You can even rig your horse and pose it into different positions if you want.

    Step three: the canopy, center column, and base. Think of it like slices of a cake. You only have to model and texture one slice, if you plan it right. Make sure to get it scaled so that all of your horses fit nicely on it. Throw together some test cylinders before you begin in order to gauge how many cake slices you will need.

    Step four: the calliope. After all of that, figuring out a strategy for this last bit shouldn’t be so intimidating. Be sure to give it character!
    Last edited by Seedling; October 7th, 2006 at 10:27 AM.

  6. #20
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    I see a lot of you looking at this thread, but not so many posting. Don't be afraid! Come introduce yourselves. :-) I'll do my best to answer your questions or concerns about the games industry. You don't have to do the assignments; I'm just putting them here so they are available to whomever wants 'em.
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

  7. #21
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    Hey Seedling,

    Thanks so much for answering my question, that is exactly the kind of prioritizing I'm failing to do right now. I'm eagerly awaiting your upcoming post on internships. I have no knowledge of 3d programs right now, and finding out what I should be capable of before applying for internships (and beyond) is something I haven't looked at seriously enough. Turbine is definitely a place I'd love to intern at so I'm very ready to address these issues and get prepared.

  8. #22
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    Having a Tough Time Getting Hired as a Concept Artist?

    Once a year I go review the portfolios of illustration seniors at my alma mater, and it never fails – ninety-five percent of them want to be concept artists. And of those, only a few even have an inkling that there are other types of jobs available to them with their shiny new illustration educations.

    Consider this: one concept art can keep a small fleet of modelers, texturers, animators, tech artists, effects artists, and level builders very busy.

    Consider this: in some companies, or within the teams of larger companies, the position of “concept artist” is not full time. Sometimes that role is filled by a freelance artist, and sometimes that role is filled by members of the team who spend the rest of the time modeling, texturing, animating, etc.

    Consider this: when you are applying for a job as a concept artist, your competition is not a bunch of kids who doodled in their notebooks during Chemistry. Your competition is illustrators who are well established in the field and who have some very serious fine-arts training.

    For these reasons, I advise you to look at what other jobs are available in the games industry before giving up and switching career objectives. Because if you would be happy in some other games industry job for a few years, your chances of moving into the role of concept artist within a company or at another company will be higher.

    Here are some other options for you to investigate.

    Low-Poly Modeler/texturer. This combination is the meat and potatoes of any art team. Some teams do have artists who do only one or the other, but it is the artist who can do both of these things who is the most likely to get a job. There are two basic subsets of this job:

    Low-Poly Modeler/texturer of Characters and Monsters – The competition is higher in this group.

    Low-Poly Modeler/texturer of Environments – These folks make architecture, landscapes, rocks, trees, furniture, even whole game levels. Because there is less glory in saying “I made a building” then “I made a three-headed dragon”, there is a need for good environment artists in the games industry. I will write more about this niche later.

    Tech Artist – I wrote a bit about tech artists a few posts back. Basically, these are the folks who rig models for animation, maintain the art pipeline, enforce technical discipline in the artists, and lots of other technical stuff that I barely understand. If you love and know the tools well, and aren’t so wild about making art, you might be a good candidate for this job. Tech artists are always in short supply.

    Effects or Sprite Artist – I know very little about this position, except that it can be technical enough in nature that several of the tech artists I have known have spent time in this role.

    UI Artist – Have you spent time as a graphic designer? This might be a job for you. The User Interface artists make every button, slider-bar, and pop-up window in a game. UI artists are always in short supply.

    I hope this helps in your quest to get the job you want. . .
    Last edited by Seedling; October 7th, 2006 at 10:28 AM.

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  10. #23
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    Michelle Clay, good job bring this issue up on CA. The advice you are giving is certainly informative to those looking into being a Concept Artist in the game industry.

    I am a full time Lead Concept Artist for Radical Entertainment, the makers of the Simpson's Hit & Run, Hulk Ultimate Destruction and soon to be release Scarface.

    For those who are interested I will be a guest lecture at The University of Louisiana, Lafayette on October 6th. My presentation is called "The Mind Behind Your Eye, an artistic guide to concept design". My talk will focus primarily on concept design in the gaming and film industry.

    I have been working as an illustrator and concept artist professionally since 1993 for games, film, TV and theme parks.

    Thanks again Michelle for starting this thread.

  11. #24
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    Oh cool, Hi Maurice! Feel free to add your perspective to this thread. The more points of view from people in the industry we can get in here, the better!

    [edit] My thread got stickied? Rawk!
    Last edited by Seedling; September 13th, 2006 at 09:24 PM.
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

  12. #25
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    Photo Realism – Where to Begin?

    *******Assignment #6 - Photorealism*******


    So, you’re on a team that’s making a game with a steampunk theme. The style is already established, and it’s a dark, grimy realism, full of rust and peeling paint and dirt-in-the-cracks. And your art director wants you to make an old junker robot that’s been rusting in an abandoned lot for the past several years. Since it is an old robot, it needs to have especially quirky bits that are made out of unusual materials, like for instance wood or leather. And, I don’t know, maybe it’s even grown some moss, or been graffitied, or something.

    This assignment assumes that you have three things: a 2D art program (with tablet – that always goes without saying), a 3D art program, and a camera. Yes, a camera. Digital is preferable, because if it’s analog you’ve got, you will also need a scanner.

    Step one: go forth and photograph textures. Yes! You must leave the safety of your womb, er, room, and you must go on a scavenger hunt. Look for the following:

    Tasty delicious metal! Try to find a minimum of at least a dozen samples of different metals, because, after all, metal is what robots are made of.

    Wood. Look for old, weather-beaten samples. You get bonus points if you can find an antique shop that displays its wares out on the sidewalk in sunny weather.

    Peeling paint. Mmmm, peeling paint! Don’t actually eat it.

    Dirt. Very useful stuff, that dirt.

    Anything else that strikes your fancy.

    By the way, the best time to photograph textures is on a bright but overcast day. Direct sunlight is no good, because all the little bumps and bits will cast shadows that become frustrating to work with. Make sure the resolution is set to high on those digital photos.

    So, you have your very own texture library. Pop ‘em into Photoshop or your Photoshop substitute, and see what worked out best. Then draw yourself a robot designed specifically to use these textures. You can even slap those textures right into you concept art, to test out how well they work together. But don’t fuss over it too much. It is, after all, just a sketch to help you figure out what the 3D version will look like.

    Next, build your robot! If you want to really practice for the games industry, then keep the poly count low. Say, 2000 or less. The less, the better. Only add geometry where it is needed.

    Lay out the Uvs in a 1024 x 1024 square, and then start adding textures from your brand new texture library. Always always always work in layers.

    I’m assuming for the time being that you have never made a photorealistic texture before. Using layer effects and photos and your drawing skills, you can make a fantastic array of textures from other textures. For instance, I took a picture of the ice on the Charles River from the top of the Hancock tower, and later found that it made a wonderful base for creating monster skin when color-changed and combined with a lot of hand-drawn wrinkles and things. But for now, just mess with the colors and brightness to get the different textures to look like old friends. Draw edges, draw cracks, draw bolts and weld-joints and jazz. Put dirt in the cracks.

    A long time ago I exchanged some e-mail with an artist at Cyan. I had just barely begun to make 3D work, and what I made was all glossy and plastic-looking. I stank, and this guy took the time to give me some feedback on my work. He told me to put dirt in the cracks, and by golly if that bit of advice didn’t make all the difference.

    If you are reading this, you whose name I have forgotten, here’s a big belated THANK YOU!
    Last edited by Seedling; October 7th, 2006 at 10:28 AM.

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  14. #26
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    Hi Michelle, great post! (I actually signed up for CA to reply to this one)...anyways, there's 1 question I'm itching to ask...well, 2 actually.

    Anyways, I was curious what's the stability of the job like and what kinda income levels do these jobs pay, roughly? Someone once told me it was roughly around $40k but it was never confirmed. I'm currently a college student and am very interested in joining the gaming industry but I'm kinda hesitant since I'm a bit worried about being able to support myself.

    Thank you greatly for the valuable information you've given so far!

  15. #27
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    Internships

    Doctors have internships as a required part of their training. The games industry has internships too, but they aren’t required, and they aren’t nearly so organized. Here’s the lowdown.

    Some companies offer formal internships that match up with college semesters or summer breaks. Other companies are too busy trying to get their product out the door to deal with the nuisance of having a novice underfoot. Many are in-between, with no formal program, but a desire to start training a noobie or two, and along with that, looking for someone to do some boring grunt-work, like making crates.

    The pay ranges from crap to squat. It’s minimum wage if you’re lucky, and nothing at all if you aren’t. However, it’s worth it. I’m not saying this because I would like another intern to take care of crate-level tasks for me; I’m saying it because I did it myself at LucasArts. They gave me some work to do that was challenging and not even particularly grunty, and I got three months of being right there in the middle of things, seeing how game production was done. Never once did I have to fetch coffee. At the end of it, they even asked me if I would like to stay. My parents would have killed me if I had skipped out on that last year of college, so I didn’t take them up on the offer, but I still got to put the name of a big company on my resume, which really helped when I was looking for work later.

    Internships aren’t just for students. Most of ours, in fact, have been recent graduates. This is because it is rare to see a fresh college graduate who is ready for a full-time artist position. Either they are weak on modeling skills, or they’ve learned one 3D program decently, but the company uses another, or the technical stuff specific to the company coupled with their inexperience just means they need some serious ramp-up time. Or the intern is a risky hire that the company wants to test out for a few months. Or some combination. In any of these cases, an internship fills the role that graduate school does in other industries. The pay is training and experience.

    And as you can probably guess, this leaves interns open to a bit of abuse. In the case of the risky hire, the company might intend to either hire the intern as a full-fledged employee at the end of a set period of time, such as three months; or say goodbye the intern who didn’t pan out and try again with another noobie artist. But a company can find itself undecided at the end of that period of time, and offer to continue the internship. . . and continue the internship. . . with the dangled carrot that there will be a real job eventually. . .

    This sort of thing can be an innocent mistake on the part of the company: somebody in charge thinks that they are helping you by not firing you. But it really, really stinks for the intern. If you ever are this intern, you have to cut your losses and leave, or proclaim loudly that you need them to make a decision, and kick people in the shins until they do. It’s scary to get back out there and do the job-hunt again, but once you’ve got that internship on your resume and those crates in your portfolio, finding a real job should be much easier.

    Finding an internship: they’re sort of like small bugs under rocks. You have to go looking for them. Some companies, like LucasArts*, have fancy internship programs that are publicized on their website or elsewhere. I found information about that internship through my college’s Career Counseling Services. But, I suspect, most internships are more ghetto. The company has a budget for about three and a half new hires, so after the three full-time hires are made, they start asking around the company if anyone knows anyone who would make a good intern, or if anyone has a connection to local art schools. Why local? Because there is no budget to help relocate the intern, and asking them to do it on their crappy pay is just mean.

    So look hard for local opportunities. But, what the hell. If you really want to work for a company on the other side of the country, call them up. Or e-mail. Ask if they have any openings for interns. Or go ahead and send a portfolio and resume and cover letter that states you are looking for a position as an intern. In fact, send several to different companies. The same rule applies for interns as for any other position: portfolios are tossed in to a drawer. When a position opens up, out comes the heap for review. A rejection letter one week can result in an unexpected phone call months later. And relocating yourself for a crap-paying job for three months is sometimes worth eating a lot of peanut-butter.



    *I don’t know if they still have an internship program. They did go through a rough spell not too long ago.
    Last edited by Seedling; October 7th, 2006 at 10:29 AM.

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  17. #28
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    Photographs! ooohhhhh nooo. I can barely hold a camera still!

    I started school in January of this year. I had actually gone to the school thinking that I just wanted to get the degree to learn 3D programs but they are teaching me some good stuff that I didn't know about, like speed drawing and animation techniques, as well as actual game design, which is interesting.

    They made me do a course that had nothing to do with art or gaming, but instead made you do research to decide what you might like to do in the game industry. I picked texture artist and 3D modeller as the most interesting. Do most texture artists use altered photography samples for textures instead of making them by hand?

    What about 3D programs, is it bad that Blender and Maya totally confuse me?

    (I mean, I can put a cube in Maya. I can load Blender. That's it.)
    ---- -
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    Low-Poly Modeler/texturer of Environments – These folks make architecture, landscapes, rocks, trees, furniture, even whole game levels. Because there is less glory in saying “I made a building” then “I made a three-headed dragon”, there is a need for good environment artists in the games industry. I will write more about this niche later.
    Hey, I think my 3 headed dragon looks cool.....Joey Jones, the instructor, told me so, he works here:
    http://www.shadedbox.com/

    Just because I don't have a passion for making map objects don't mean I can't do them.

    However, I realize the need for environmental design....which should not be neglected, just as much as drawing the human figure.
    My New Neglected Sketchbook
    You Ain't no Nina!.....

    "Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
    "My mind is made up. Don't confuse it with facts." -- Terence McKenna

  19. #30
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    Dang, you guys keep bringing up more and more good topics! I'm getting behind! :-) More later. . .
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

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