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Concept Artists: A Blog Tangent

Today’s entry is not a press release, it’s not a review or top ten list, it’s not even game assets. Today’s entry is a rant, a tangent, a bit of inspiration, and a chance to open this discussion to other artists, gamers, and readers.

Read at your own risk! ¬†ūüėȬ†

As some of you are probably aware, I have been working as a freelance illustrator (with varying degrees of success) since 2002, after¬†graduation¬†from Sheridan College’s Illustration program. During my time freelancing (and working for corporations) I have had the great pleasure to acquire work as a sculptor, a graphic designer, a graphic artist for print and web, a children’s book illustrator, and an atelierista.

Over the past few years I have managed to have two children’s books published and a third is about a stone’s throw away from publication. While this is all very exciting it is also a very shaky way to make a living. There are a lot of very talented people out there all trying to make a name for themselves and carve out a career as professional artists. These are peers that I need to not only learn from, but compete with. Because of the stiff competition, and my desire to continually improve, I have taken to continuing education throughout the course of my career. My professional development has lead me to local classes in storyboarding, online classes in creative writing, and most recently online tutorials for concept art (environment and character design).

Whether you are learning new or looking to refresh, there is a vast amount of teaching tools online if you take the time to explore. 

part of an environment study I am creating based on posts at cghub

Unlike many of my peers I have no aspirations to marry my love of art with my love of gaming. I have no delusions of large company employment or desire to ‘break into’ that industry. My goal, rather, is one that betters my skill and provides me with the opportunity to provide for myself financially.

My recent dabbling in concept art tutorials has lead me to a plethora (yes i said plethora) of digital painting techniques that are helping me get closer to effectively creating, digitally, what I have been creating with traditional media for years. There are a lot of concepts, ideas, techniques, and principals that go into every piece of concept art and it is something worth noting.

A WIP, or, Work-In-Progress for the "vector art" portion of my portfolio.

Which brings me to the long winded point of this blog tangent. 

After some recent discussion with fellow artists about whether or not video games should be considered an art form, I ask you to consider, if you will, the amount of creativity that goes into all stages of this craft. Within the ideas of concept art alone, it is difficult to dispute that games are art. A concept artist may be required for nothing more than preliminary artwork, or may be required to be part of a creative team until a project reaches fruition. While it is necessary to have the skills of a fine artist, a concept artist must also be able to work to strict deadlines in the capacity of a graphic designer.*

Character Sketch based on my creative writing

As an artist who has considered herself “just starting out” for almost a decade now, it’s time to get real about it. It’s easy to get into the trap of doing work for friends or family, or even colleagues, for free because you are ‘just starting’ or because ‘it will be good for [your] portfolio’, but the harsh truth I’ve learned is that this practice weakens the freelance market for everyone (and is never worth the¬†inevitable¬†trouble it will become). ¬†My artistic goals in 2012 will include defining/developing my skills further, publishing my 4th illustrated children’s book, obtaining steady ongoing work to help me with the financial realities of life, continuing to work only with teams who are passionate about their projects, continued¬†implementation¬†of ¬†work agreement contracts, and finally (and most importantly) no more working for free.

Artists are a valuable creative force in entertainment and communication. Concept artists are helping others communicate ideas into the entertainment vehicle we all enjoy so much. This is why, when we enjoy games, movies, music, comics, magazines, or even television (in some cases), that a lot of artistic talent is working side by side with the technical talent to communicate, to you, the idea as a whole.

And so ends my blog tangent for today. Appreciate the work, the talent, and the dedication that goes into all of your forms of entertainment kids, for every successful artist out there, there are a slew of struggling ones who may or may not ever accomplish their goals. And if you are someone who is passionate about your work, remain so! Set goals, be tenacious, seek the help and guidance of others, and always continue to learn.

Self Portrait

Best wishes to all of my artist friends!