The Concept Artist’s Career Guide

Concept Artist jobs are few.

…and the competition is intense.

The competition is so intense, in fact, it gets overwhelming. …and sometimes even depressing.

You’re an artist. You’re inspired by a challenge, not intimidated. (Well, maybe a little intimidated, but aren’t we all?)

My point is that you aren’t afraid of hard work and you’re not looking for a quick solution…

You’re looking for the right solution.

But when you’re trying to cultivate a successful concept art career, what’s right is never clear.

…despite the never-ending supply of opinions out there.

You Don’t Need MORE Opinions…

You need fewer, simpler, more focused, more actionable information.

There’s just too much to think about when you’re trying to break in, stay in or get a new gig.

Sketchbooks, portfolios, websites, social media, follow-up, skill-building, student loans, “networking” (whatever the heck that is), shyness, professional experience, specialization, versatility, finding your style, adapting to different styles…

Overwhelming.

But there is simpler way.

Simplify Your Dream:

I’ve been working in the animation and games industries since 2006.

In that time, I’ve witnessed the effects of the 2 Secrets To Success In Animation (and games, and illustration etc.) in my own career and in the careers of the hundreds of talented people I work with.

These two goals have VERY little to do with most of what worries us.

Every investment of time, money and energy that you make as a professional artist should be in service of one or both of these goals.  So the next time you start to get overwhelmed or depressed, just ask yourself:

Is this (time, energy, emotional, financial) investment helping me to focus on one of the two principles for success in the industry?

When your answer is yes, take the one next step toward that goal and don’t worry about the next two or three or twenty… 

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Get Experience Before You Get The Job:

“Projects are the new resumes.” – Seth Godin

You don’t need permission or a paycheck to design a movie or game any more. And now you can easily find an audience for your personal projects. The line between “mainstream” and “indie” has almost completely dissolved.  They’re almost the same thing now.

In a world of infinite choice, attention is the greatest currency. If someone becomes a fan of you, it really means something. And the attention of fans will bring the attention of the studios.

So if you don’t have any job experience just Create Your Own Experience and pick one personal project that will showcase you talent. But make sure it’s something you can finish.  A finished project is a showcase for your talent.  An unfinished project is typical.

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How To Find Opportunities:

A lot of artists seem to think that there are no opportunities where they live.

But no matter where you are (artistically, geographically or emotionally) and no matter what kind of conceptual artist you are (character & prop designer, environment designer & animation layout artist, art director, matte painter etc.) there are opportunities everywhere.

If this wasn’t true before, it’s infinitely true now. Now that we all live in the same place… …the connected world.

So put on your “X-Ray Goggles” and seek the many opportunities around you.  This audio podcast might help: X-Ray Goggles & A Lunchtime Chat With Mike Greenholt.

How To Create Opportunities:

While you’re running after the two important goals, you’ll eventually break ahead of the pack.

Less and less people will be able to keep up with you and you’ll find it easy to spot the even-fewer runners ahead of you. Those folks are the runners you need to try to catch up to.

Don’t worry about the people in the lead.  You don’t need to catch up to Brad Bird or Steven Spielberg. If you try to do that you’ll probably just fall back into the heap of overwhelm.  You only need to catch up to the people who are one next step ahead of you.

The great part about this kind of race is that most of the runners are willing to help you catch up.

When you do have an opportunity to catch up to someone ahead of you, don’t get weird and don’t over-complicate it. I know what that’s like and it’s not pretty.  I wrote all about it here: How NOT To Arrange A Meeting With An Entertainment Industry Professional

And if you find yourself interacting with potential employers, don’t forget to just Ask For The Job.  It’s during these kinds of interactions that you create future opportunities by proving that you pursue the second important goal.

Which brings me full-circle.  If you don’t read any other article in this series, read 2 Secrets To Success In Animation and put full-focus on those two important goals.

I’m Here For You:

I might not be Brad Bird or Steven Spielberg but I am here for you.  One of the top priorities in my professional life is to answer your questions about the various concept artist jobs (plus the other stuff you and I used to get so worried about).

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So ask me anything and I’ll do everything I can to help you find answers. …through my blog, podcast or in direct response to your email.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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