…do absolutely nothing.
I won’t tell any of my friends about it.
I won’t share it online.
…and I certainly won’t buy a book full of similar images.
Not because I’ll hate it.
…because it won’t make me feel anything at all.
Today I begin a series filled with some of the toughest love I’ve ever posted here at ChrisOatley.com.
Each part reveals one of the three most common problems I’ve found in concept art portfolios from all over the world.
If you’re worried that your work is being ignored by potential employers and fans, brace yourself and read on…
Problem #1: Your Concept Art Portfolio Lacks Imagination:
Maybe wrecked spaceships aren’t your thing.
Maybe you’re into Sexy Sword Ladies, Post-Apocalyptic Cities or Elf Armies…
…but you get my point, right?
Over-textured spacewrecks are just one of a hundred concept art clichés.
…and clichés are ignored.
…or worse, they become the butt of an industry-wide inside joke.
Concept artists are purveyors of new ideas.
They are world builders.
They are inventors, engineers, architects, carpenters, biologists, botanists, geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, hair stylists, fashionistas and – most of all – entertainers.
What is a concept artist without a wild imagination?
If you want to prove that you have what it takes to do the dream job then stop painting the same clichés over and over and start contributing new ideas.
Concept Art = CONCEPT + Art
If your concept art portfolio is full of clichés then it isn’t a concept art portfolio at all.
How To Create New Ideas:
There are lots of ways to avoid concept art clichés, but here are three non-negotiables:
Feed your head with fact AND fiction.
Maintain a balanced mental diet.
Mind-numbing mediocrity might be fun sometimes but it doesn’t have the same effect as well-researched non-fiction or well-crafted fiction.
When you combine reading with consistent rest, physical activity and good conversation you’ll find your creative gears turning faster and smoother than ever.
Listen to my interview with Chris Campbell of Riot Games to learn why reading is vital for concept artists (and visual storytellers of every kind).
…and while you’re there, check out Chris’ list of 15 Non-Art Books That Every Artist Should Read.
2.) Research & Study:
“I believe in research. Each movie at Pixar involves research with college professors or taking trips to learn as much as we can about a particular subject matter.”
“You cannot do enough research; believability comes out of what’s real.”
-John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Pixar
Your creative ideas will improve drastically if you support them with research and observation.
Don’t believe me?
“But John Lasseter’s films take half a decade to make. Brian McDonald is a writer and Jon Schindehette is an ‘illustrator.’ I’m a CONCEPT ARTIST. I AM SPEED!”
3.) Take The Lead:
“You’re not a professional because somebody pays you to draw.”
-Justin Copeland, Story Artist for Marvel & WB, Visual Storytelling Instructor at The Oatley Academy
Many “aspiring artists” are just waiting around for an employer or client to tell them what to paint.
This is why the Internet is littered with a million generic Spacewrecks and Sexy-Sword Ladies.
This is where you will take the lead.
Professionalism is a decision that successful artists make long before their big break. True concept artists realize that a wild imagination is vital and that nobody pays for clichés.
For the true concept artist, imagination is life’s mission.
Aspiring concept artists write me all the time asking: “What do studios want to see in a concept art portfolio?”
Do you know why this question is so hard to answer?
…because what they want to see hasn’t been created yet.
As of today, it’s your job to show them.
That’s right, my friend.
You already have a concept art job.
You might not be working in-house (yet) on The Incredibles 2 (finally!) or the next Gears Of War installment but you still have a job to do.
…and it’s the exact same job you’ll be doing when you break-in.
Learn tons of inspiring concept art techniques in The Magic Box!
Check out The Concept Artist’s Career Guide and my article: Is Your Concept Art Portfolio Versatile Or Just Confusing?
The surreal images featured in this series were painted by René Magritte.
What Other Concept Art Clichés Should We Avoid?
I already mentioned Over-Textured Spacewrecks, Sexy Sword Ladies, Post-Apocalyptic Cities and Elf Armies…
What are some other cliché “concepts” that are holding us back?
How do you nourish your own imagination?
Move on to Part 2: Your Concept Art Portfolio Lacks Artistic Sophistication