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Dear CA forum - I have a bit of a problem and I really need your advice.
Yesterday afternoon I had a tutorial at college that turned into a two hour long argument which left me aggravated and not sure of what to do next. The weakness of my position is undoubtedly down to my own ignorance. I don't know if I was being unreasonable, or if I should have been even more forceful. I thought you might be able to shed some light on the matter, and I'd really appreciate your insights.
I'm currently on the third year of an Illustration degree course in London, UK. The aim of yesterday's tutorial session was to show the tutor my work to date, for them to get an idea of how and what I can and do produce, and for me to re-evaluate what I've done and where I'm going. The tutor would then set me some individually tailored projects for this semester (before Christmas) based on their assessment of where I'm at.
I went into the tutorial with a clear idea of what I wanted to get from it; I wanted to be set projects where the objectives would be technical improvement in certain key areas I'm weak in, and to develop my portfolio. I would like to be employable as an artist, somewhere near the standards I aspire, when I finish my degree next May. Concept art is the area that particularly excites me. These are, I think, ambitious and worthy goals.
I suspect I came unstuck in the tutorial partly because the tutor in question doesn't know anything about concept art and wasn't prepared to entertain the idea of it, but mostly because I wasn't able to present a clear and present set of reasons for how and what exactly I should be doing. The projects I ended up being set were as follows;
a) A 20 minute self portrait every day for 3 weeks, at the same time of day each day. I'm to do this regardless of where I am, I have to stop and do a self portrait.
< Personal Thoughts > Hmm, ok, nice project, the kind of thing I'd do anyway. I regularly draw portraits in weird circumstances, so why is she setting this to me as a project as though it's going to drastically alter my artistic development? I dont thinks she paid attention to my sketch pads.
b) Re-make a storyboard I drew for a 10 minute film last autumn as a graphic novel, screen printed.
< Personal thoughts > Yeah, ok, another nice project, again the kind of thing I'd take on as a personal task. I just think it's a bit of a tangent to the direction I should be stretching myself towards.
c) To go into weird and 'unreal' places to do drawings - places such as abattoirs and back stage of theatres, producing 'reportage' illustrations of the scenes, with the ultimate aim of producing a set of posters for macabre films.
< Personal thoughts > Ok, right up to the film posters bit which I have little interest in producing, this could be really interesting. I love the idea of blagging my way into crazy unusual places and capturing the atmosphere – this is totally something I'd be interested in doing and can see the point in. But why the set of macabre film posters for the National Film Theatre?
d) To be decided.
< Personal thoughts > There's potential but somehow I've become pessimistic about how useful this is going to be.
I started to form the impression that she was setting me projects she wanted to see in the end of year show, that would fit in with the overall course portfolio for the year. She kept saying "you could do this" or "you could do that" to which I could only reply "well yeah, I could do pretty much anything, but what do I *NEED* to be doing to develop as an artist?" to which I never recieved a satisfactory answer. In fact I dont think it entered into her reasoning at all. She did say that my drawing ability is "very good", as though it were an optional bonus. That irked me beyond measure - there's a gulf of room for improvement.
Industry pro 'Merekat' (K. Perry - http://www.merekatcreations.com/ ) has been wonderfully helpful in giving me crits, advice and encouragement over the last few years, and her view is that I should should be studying in several key areas, namely concept design, anatomy, rendering materials, observational drawing of a variety of things such as machines and buildings to expand my repertory, and so on. I can only agree with her that I need to be stronger in the areas she suggests, and would like to do projects to improve, however I'm finding myself frustrated by my tutors at university.
The only problem with having Mere advise me is partly that we're already on exactly the same wavelength so while I appreciate her knowledge and experience, talking to her doesn't provide me with any insight into the workings of the minds of my college tutors. The main problem is that she lives and works a quarter of the way around the world away, and that's just a little far for me to confidently base an accurate view of the concept art industry and 'market' closer to home, in the UK. I dont mind the idea of moving in the future, but right now the issue is presenting the tutors at college with a reasonable proposition of how I intend to proceed.
I need to find out more about the Concept art Industry in London and the UK by meeting professional artists and going into studios to talk to artists and directors. Having found out a few things this way I think I'll be in a better position to confront my tutors. As it is I must appear to them as too much of an unknown quantity to meet half way. Next semester I get to do one big project on something to be decided closer to the time – I'd like it to be relevant to concept art.
So what do you think? Should I go ahead with the eclectic projects my college tutor has set me to stop making waves and allow my degree go smoothly, or should I go on the war path and demand to do projects that address my weaknesses as outlined by Merekat? If so, how do I make my case?
Last edited by MarkDN; October 19th, 2006 at 11:48 AM.
This is a difficult issue, I'm sure sketchling can relate better to this as he's done the forbidden illus course as well (har har).
All I can say is, the concept art stuff develps whatever time of day, whether it be during a degree course or in private time. To be able to focus on issues related to concept art during a degree is great, but perhaps not what the degree's purpose can afford (depending on where you study at)
In the last statement, what I'm trying to hint at is, the degree although under the broad term umbrella illustration course, is so variable across the country in terms of its curricula that sometimes, you might have to just go with the flow of what is given you.
BUT , university is also the time to experiment in fields that you might not necesarrily follow or pursuit in the future, and yet, somehow it adds up to a larger grand total. A more solid artist (be it in concept design, industiral design, matte painting ,etc.)
My take on it, if I were to be in your shoes is to perhaps persent a creative university course within some of the narrow restraints offerd by the university.
But to also concentrate on becoming a solid all rounder related to concept art
Thanks Koshime, that helps, I think. I was wondering if the problem may have been party due to my attitude – perhaps I'm taking it all a bit too seriously and need to take a step back.
I totally see what you mean however I suppose I'd just like to feel that college is helping in that direction."concept art stuff develps whatever time of day"
The thing is, I haven't done any of that at college - it's all print making with the odd bit of painting and drawing for posters, children's books and eclectic little side projects. I'd hoped that with the opertunity to negotiate my own projects I'd have the freedom to persue something like the things you mention.A more solid artist (be it in concept design, industiral design, matte painting ,etc.)
Still, there's always life drawing - can't go too far wrong with that.
I don’t think you and your tutor are as much as odds as you think. I suppose this all hinges on what you consider to be “concept design” to be. Everything else is applicable, because concept art is illustration. The only difference is that with concept art, your audience is other artists, who will then be using your work as blueprints.
Your tutor is in a tough spot: a lot of young artists manage to get most of the way through college and still need someone to make them stop playing around gluing doilies to canvasses, and start doing some rigorous basics. He’s not used to the students who understand better than he does what they need to be doing. You need to find a combination of following his rules and doing what you need, and the less you follow his rules, the more you will need to demonstrate to him that you are working your ass off.
So, what you said you need to practice are concept design, anatomy, rendering materials, observational drawing of a variety of things. Great. And what your tutor wants you to do are self portraits; life drawings of real places, with perhaps the additional step of turning them into posters for movies; turning a set of storyboards into a finished graphic novel; and a product of your choosing.
The product of your choosing: do figure drawings here. No frills, just nudes, assuming you have an open drawing class you can use. If you want to shoehorn concept art in, then after each drawing session, do another session where you redraw each nude wearing a different costume.
The movie posters: this is a GREAT opportunity to practice concept art! For each location, do not one, but two drawings. The first drawing will be a straight-up drawing from life. You could focus on rendering materials. Then take that drawing back to your dorm and figure out some major fantastic element you could add to it. . . say, a monster. Or, the view down the street could now be a view along the surface of an alien planet. Or a city-scape could now be overgrown by a jungle. After all, if book-stores and video rental places can’t tell the difference between fantasy and sci-fi and horror, then you don’t need to draw a distinction, either. Push the limits as far as you feel you need to go. Either don’t do the final version with type (unless you are also interested in graphic design), or, if your tutor is an ass about it, do a mere thumbnail mock-up and tell him point-blank that you aren’t going to waste your time doing more graphic design than that.
The storyboards: what you get out of this depends in large part what you have already drawn. I would caution you to either figure out how to make this project relevant to where you want to be, OR minimize it as much as possible. One approach might be to treat it as a second draft of a storyboard. Use this draft to focus on tightening up compositions, using a minimum of markmaking to communicate your stories, and practice color. Don’t get caught up in the composition of whole pages or finicky refinement of facial features, etc.; instead, continue to focus on the composition within each rectangle, and keep everything loose and fast. Focus on communication, not a pretty final product.
And the self-portraits: again, as well as just drawing from life, try adding elements to each drawing that are from you imagination – crazy hats, costumes, props, monster looking over your shoulder. See if you can get the quality of the invented element to match that of the observed portion. If you’re having a grumpy day and don’t want to draw yourself at all, then sketch your head for five minutes and then draw a fully-closed helmet on top of it. If your tutor objects, give him the middle finger.
In addition to this, be prepared to get a reaction of total disappointment from your tutor. Cultivate an attitude of “I can do this with or without your support”, set your goals high, and work like mad to reach those goals.
Best of luck to you!
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.
Thats a tricky one... I went through hell at uni as the entire point for them was the concept or idea rather than the execution.... but I have tot say... relax. dont get too worked up about it.
For starters, conceptart.org and the people on it are a FAR BETTER technical skill resource than 90% of the learning places in the world... but as much as I love it, it often lacks what you DO learn in such a place... the concept. Learning to think outside the box... learning to make something BETTER than just another beautiful image. Iv seen badly rendered images that left a bigger impression on me than a million beautifully rendered tits-nearly-in-armour images.
So my advice to you is to adopt a way of thinking that will take you a long way... accept that your current situation and your tasks are not ideal for what you want to learn, nor can you get your teacher to think like you do... so find a creative way to MAKE them fit.
Horror posters based on visits to strange places... Design some creatures/characters for a 'film' then put these into a series of posters. VERY applicable skill.
Re-make a storyboard... That is VERY applicable! for a graphic novel you have to have characters and environments... so DESIGN THEM, make them look GOOD. then your graphic novel will have a solid sence of a world that works. Then include the concept art at the back as an extra....my fave part of any graphic novel.
dude, these projects are as cool as any..and will challenge you to be origional. And far more fun than what you will getmost of the time in the industry. If you want something more games based, maybe make D into something like the game spin off of the horror movie you did the posters for. you would need to do exactly the same character design etc that would be needed in the industry.
Take what you got, run with it and make it kick ass... dont look for a more 'suited' brief The ability to turn every crap brief into something fun is key and the only thing that can keep ya sane!
Enjoy n please show me what you do... gettin into the horror movie poster idea
Actually I think you've managed to get me enthusiastic about some of these projects - I definitely needed to change my attitude towards them and, between you, you've really helped me do that.Originally Posted by sketchling
Ok, I'm gonna run with what I've got and see how far I can take it. I'll just have to keep up the technical training in my own time. I'll report back when I've got stuff to show.
It's also what defines a successful commercial artist.Originally Posted by sketchling
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To me, the situation you're in now is very indicative of what's wrong with schools being taught by professional instructors. These people give you all sorts of valid advice and yet everything that you do is not truly applicable to the portfolio in the real world. While it's very worthwhile information and the assignments are challenging, are they relevant to the job you plan on shooting for? Can they bridge that gap between what you're doing for assignments to the real world?
Prime example is the self portrait- while it may prove valid artistic ability, how many companies are going to hire you based upon that? I completely understand the study on tone, volume, light & shadow and all of the things you can gain from doing it, but a portfolio piece to send out as a concept artist?? Possibly not the strongest piece I'd say.
Screen printed storyboards?? That in of itself seems like a concept and one that again, would not be practical in a real world setting. Think about the purpose of a storyboard and why it seems so bizarre to me to actually spend the time to silkscreen it. Storyboards are to help carry along the conversation in film or video. Silk screening them seems like overkill and not at all practical.
Doing the drawings of backstages could be interesting though. Can you see how having the ability to draw environments can get you work in the concept field here? Out of all of the assignments you're working on so far, this one seems closest to it being applicable to your portfolio for work.
Look at the field you want to go into and gear your studies in that direction. If given freedom go that route. Colleges & universities are only platforms to take you to the next level. Get the skills there and then develop a portfolio worthy enough to get hired. But again, the pieces in the portfolio should be of value to a prospective employer.
Play role reversal and think about what an employer at a gaming company would be looking for. As gorgeous as your macrame or pottery project might be- it's NOT going to get you anywhere within that company because quite frankly, that creative director has no use for it in his workplace.
My best advice is to study the field you want to go into and gear your studies towards that realm. And it may not happen until sometime after you're out of school and you can finally develop your own unified voice.
This is what particuarly bothered me in the tutorial session, and something Merekat keeps pointing out. The fact is that the university tutors just don't know about concept art, so building up a portfolio related to it doesnt occur to them.Originally Posted by Storyboard Dave
Again, relevance to my portfolo did simply not figure in the criteria. It's the kind of project I'd do anyway so it's not exactly getting in my way, and I can only improve from it, although I'm more than a little perplexed as to why I'd be set something this minor as an actual project. My sketchpads are full of portraits.Prime example is the self portrait- while it may prove valid artistic ability, how many companies are going to hire you based upon that? I completely understand the study on tone, volume, light & shadow and all of the things you can gain from doing it, but a portfolio piece to send out as a concept artist?? Possibly not the strongest piece I'd say.
The brief is actually to make a two colour graphic novel based on a script of a short film for which I have already drawn the storyboard (the film was made last autumn and premiers in Nov). The tutor said the objective here is to re-consider the flow of the story-telling, and the composition and layout of the pages and re-drawing the characters in more depth while producing 'a nice object'. I'm starting to quite like this project, to be honest. In any case I'm going to do it and i'd rather be possitive than wonder what the point is.Screen printed storyboards?? That in of itself seems like a concept and one that again, would not be practical in a real world setting. Think about the purpose of a storyboard and why it seems so bizarre to me to actually spend the time to silkscreen it. Storyboards are to help carry along the conversation in film or video. Silk screening them seems like overkill and not at all practical.q
Yeah, totally, I'm quite excited about this.Doing the drawings of backstages could be interesting though. Can you see how having the ability to draw environments can get you work in the concept field here? Out of all of the assignments you're working on so far, this one seems closest to it being applicable to your portfolio for work.
I'm already pretty much resigned to the fact that If I'm going to get anywhere it'll be from doing all the leg work myself. There's a limit to how far I can gear my studies at this stage, so it'll just have to be a matter of going into over drive.My best advice is to study the field you want to go into and gear your studies towards that realm. And it may not happen until sometime after you're out of school and you can finally develop your own unified voice.