Several of you have emailed me and asked how to get the most out of CTN Animation Expo.
One great way to begin building a relationship with another artist at CTN-X is through a portfolio review.
It gives you both something to talk about and there’s a bit of emotional security in this familiar ritual.
Plus, even just one thoughtful remark or question from an experienced artist who can communicate clearly will work wonders.
So today, I’ll shine the spotlight on eight of my favorite artists who give mind-blowing portfolio feedback.
I honestly believe that if all you do is find these eight artists at CTN-X and have a conversation about your portfolio, your entire trip will be worth it.
One Thoughtful Question:
In advance of your meeting, just think of one thoughtful question for each of them, ask it and then just listen, receive and encourage them.
You can ask the same question to most of them.
And that’s all you’ll need to do to get the most out of CTN-X.
Artists who are trying to break in often psych themselves out because they think they need to “impress people.”
…but that’s a losing battle because you have no idea what will or won’t impress anyone.
Forget about “impressing” people and just focus on building relationships.
All you need to do is get the conversation started.
…and all you need to get the conversation started is one thoughtful question.
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My Thought Process:
I only included artists who I’ve actually seen or heard give portfolio feedback.
…and who will actually be at CTN-X this year.
Because I can’t honestly speak from first-hand experience about their portfolio reviewing skills, I didn’t include them on this list.
Sherm is one of the most generous and inspiring people I have met during my time working in the animation industry.
Scratch that. Sherm is one of the most generous and inspiring people I have ever met.
Sherm is a great cartoonist and, as his IMDB page proves, a versatile visual storyteller. Sherm is also a director and teacher who really knows how to communicate.
He’s one of the fathers of SpongeBob and he also worked on Ren & Stimpy, Kick Buttowski, Phineas & Ferb and he’s currently working on FishHooks.
Sherm gives thorough, actionable portfolio feedback that will make you want to leave the Expo immediately and just draw for the rest of the weekend.
If you drop by his booth, you’ll likely get to meet his wife Doris. She’s so precious I want to hug her until her head pops off.
If you’re a Character Designer or Story Artist and you want to experience baptism by inspiration, drop by and meet The Sherm.
John and I worked together on Tinker Bell back in 2007, before he got his current gig as a concept artist at Pixar.
There I was, this fanboy who had just become a Visual Development Artist by accident and John, one of the best draftsmen I’ve ever met, treating me like a peer – a fellow fanboy.
His kindness and humility are legendary.
Save your John Nevarez meeting for when you’re feeling overwhelmed because talking to John will just make everything better.
He’s one of the artists who taught me about the idea of gestural environments which my long-time podcast listeners will probably remember. His drawings are like nothing you’ll ever see. …and his portfolio reviews are enlightening.
I think the awesome photo of Jose Lopez (left) and John Nevarez (right) was taken by Louie Del Carmen.
(Find Jose’s photo in the section about John Nevarez above.)
I don’t actually know Jose very well but every time I talk to him I feel like we’ve worked together for decades.
Jose is the Character Art Director on Transformers Prime and his advice about how to succeed in animation will transform your career.
Eh? See what I did there?! Clever, I know.
Puns aside, I’m totally serious. Jose’s advice on how to break in and stay in will challenge and inspire you.
Jose and I are doing our CTN-X Character Design Portfolio Review Panel for the second year in a row. The CTN team has selected several portfolios for Jose and I to review during a panel discussion on Sunday afternoon.
You gotta join us for that. We had a buh-LAAAAST last year.
Florian Satzinger will join Jose and I this time around. I’m super-jazzed to meet him and ask him about the MacGuffin of every Character Designer’s artistic pursuit – Appeal – because his work is all about appeal.
I’m hoping to drop that question on him during the portfolio review panel so everyone can hear his response. Florian is the artist who drew the crazy CTNX birds at the top of this post.
Most of you know that Lora is my co-host on The Paper Wings Podcast and for the first time in the history of Paper Wings, we are attending a convention together.
Drop by Booth #T75 and meet Lora, me and a gaggle of Oatley Academy students.
One of the reasons I asked Lora to host the Paper Wings Podcast with me was because she intellectualizes her process which is rare among artists. Also, she’s basically my sister. …so that played into it.
But her awareness of her own process and her stellar communicatio ability means that a portfolio review from her is a CTN-X-must-have.
Lora’s draftsmanship is simultaneously elegant and powerful. I highly recommend that Story Artists, Character Designers (and obviously anyone who is making comics) connect with Lora for some gentle-but-fearlessly-intense portfolio feedback.
(Also, I’ll have tracing paper at the booth so I can draw over your work. But I’ll tell you right now, you’ll want Lora to do the same.)
Justin is one of my best friends so if you play the “Oatley” card when you meet him you might get a hug. Bonus!
Seriously, he’s a Story Artist on the new Avengers cartoon for Disney XD. I’ve seen his storyboards for the show. They are uhMAYzing.
The action in his story sequences is visceral. His boards - they just pound with energy.
Justin understands film grammar like no other story artist I know. He thinks (and boards) like a DP.
By the way, every layout artist, concept artist and aspiring art director reading this should study the work of those guys. Let the work of the great DP’s inform your design just as much as the current, hot concept art does.
You’ll have to get Justin to recommend some of his other DP-heroes because I can’t keep up with him when it comes to cinematography.
My point is, if you want to get feedback on your story portfolio that will get you thinking cinematically, you need to meet Justin. He’ll be dropping by the Paper Wings booth throughout the weekend.
Dude can drAAAAAAW!
Jeff is a Character Designer on the new Avengers cartoon for Disney XD. I’ve seen his concept work for the show. It is uhMAYzing. (I see a pattern developing: Avengers = uhMAYzing.)
Character Designers, Story Artists and anyone who draws comics need to get portfolio reviews from Jeff.
Don’t let his hypnotically-edgy drawing style fool you. Jeff’s work goes way deeper than cool style. His work is beautifully composed. Beautifully structured. Poetic, in fact.
Jeff will be at the Con-Artists booth and while you’re over there looking for Jeff, you might find Justin Copeland’s also-amazing brother Chris Copeland.
While I’ve never actually heard Chris give portfolio feedback, I bet it’s flippin’ fantastic. Just like I said about Pascal and Louie, I can tell just by talking to him about art.
(Photo of Jeff Wamester by $makepictures.)
If you wonder why I gush so much about the people in the animation industry, Stephen Silver and John Nevarez are two of the main reasons why.
They were some of the first people I got to know when I first moved out here and so their positivity influenced my perspective on the entire industry.
Silver and I were working in the same building on the lot (The Frank G. Wells building to get specific for you super-geeks out there) when I started at Disney.
During my first couple of weeks working at Disney, Silver took me out for coffee (he paid) and talked to me for four hours about Character Design and pitching animated TV shows and about the industry in general.
Just as John Nevarez did, Silver treated me like a peer despite the fact that I had no clue what I was doing. Silver, like me, loves to talk so we would bump into each other in the hallways and just go on and on about art or technology or storytelling…
I tell you this, not just to name-drop, but to make several points. 1.) You need to just reach out to people even if they are famous because many of them will blow you away with generosity. 2.) Do the same for others. and 3.) When you’re at CTN-X, you must go visit Silver at his booth. If there’s a huge line, wait in line.
Ask him your one thoughtful question then just listen and take notes.
Christophe Vacher is a FRACKING-AMAZING PAINTER.
We shared an office at Disney for a while and it was probably the most awesome office-sharing experience of my career. Love this dude.
By now, he’s won like a hundred Emmy awards for his Art Direction on Transformers Prime.
Long-time listeners of my podcast will remember my interview with Christophe. After you’re done reading this article, go give that episode a listen. Needless to say, it’s super-inspiring.
Every time I’ve heard him answer a question about painting (mine or someone else’s), he has a mind-blowing, in-depth answer. I know that by writing that I’m raising the bar super-high but considering that he’s also a gravity-defying martial artist, he’ll clear it.
Seriously though, you painters and aspiring Art Directors gotta meet Christophe. Play the “Oatley” card and tell him you listened to his interview so he knows he can just dive right in with the intense stuff.
Ask him about painting skies, atmosphere and painting color scripts.
Write it all down. You do not want to forget what he will have to tell you.
Be very specific with your question. Don’t just ask him “How do I paint skies better?” Show him one of your paintings or be more specific so he can give you the best answer possible.
Important Note: Christophe’s name is French so his last name is pronounced “Vash-ay.”
More Portfolio Help:
Here are a few more articles to help you with your concept art and illustration portfolios…
Submit Your Work For My LIVE Online Portfolio Critique Session On November 10th [EXPIRED]
Will YOU Be At CTN-X?
Share your name and website here so I can look out for you and your work!