If you want to be a successful concept artist, don’t follow their example.
It’s far too risky.
If they knew anything about concept art, they would stop producing such ground-breaking/ mind-blowing/ industry-defining work and just stick to slight variations of the familiar…
Of course, I’m being facetious.
In part one of this series, I challenged aspiring concept artists to consider the “concept” part of “concept art.”
As expected, some of them got defensive (some got mean) and insisted that the only way to succeed is to play it safe and propagate clichés.
These argumentative artists are half-right.
Some clients will pay for clichés.
But clichés are a race to the bottom.
…the boring, low-paying, highly-competitive bottom.
(Please understand that you can create relevant work without being cliché. The three artists I mentioned in my intro are ideal examples.)
But the truth is, your wild ideas float far above the big-fat-bottom.
Last week we talked about the “concept” part…
This week we’ll talk about the “art” part.
If you’re eager to take your surprising, new ideas and begin visualizing them with surprising, new designs, read on…
Problem #2: Your Concept Art Portfolio Lacks Artistic Sophistication:
Concept art serves a functional purpose: It is a visualization of the potential for a film or a game.
For the crew, concept art is the ideal version of the film or game to which they’ll devote the next 2-5 years of their lives!
Inspiring concept art elevates the work of the entire crew.
For the audience, concept art is the “big bang” at the beginning of the world of the story.
…whether they ever actually see it, inspiring concept art is an invitation to the audience.
Beautiful concept art helps to inspire the studio to produce the project.
So how do you create inspiring concept art that helps to green-light the project, unify the crew and draw a crowd?
To make inspiring concept art, you must become an inspiring concept artist…
What Is An Inspiring Concept Artist?
1.) Inspiring Concept Artists Have Good Taste:
My friend Alex is a famous bartender.
He travels all over the country – and the world – training other bartenders, running high-profile events and opening new businesses.
He recently had to take a really difficult test involving whiskey…
A series of drinks were poured for him and by taste alone, he had to correctly identify the brand, age, country/ region of origin and other esoteric details like the kind of barrel it came from.
Alex learned how to translate what he was tasting in that expensive whiskey through studying and sampling.
Great concept art is a sophisticated blend of art history, archaeology, anthropology and so on…
If you’re studying and sampling the same thing every day, you’ll never develop sophisticated taste.
I know it can be overwhelming to begin researching the entire history of art.
But you have to start somewhere.
Just go to ArtRenewal.org (or better yet – your nearest art museum) and discover your new favorite painter. Then learn everything you can about that one artist.
The next time you’re creating a personal work for your concept art portfolio, try to flavor it with something you love about your new favorite painter.
I guarantee that you’ll create something unlike any of your previous work.
2.) Inspiring Concept Artists Love A Good Mash-Up:
Check out my Top 10 Essential Concept Art Books (as well as the many great recommendations in the comments section).
Consider the distinct design of each of the films and games they represent.
…these projects have vastly different looks but the concept art is even more distinct.
If you look closely enough, you’ll often discover that the design is basically a mash-up or a remix.
The design of the royal star ship in Star Wars: Episode 1 was designed after the chrome hood ornaments common to vehicles of the 1950’s.
I remember reading somewhere that Neville Page finds inspiration for his movie monsters in photos of bugs, reptiles and other real-world creatures that freak him out.
He used a completely unorthodox approach when he based some of Avatar’s dragon designs on cars.
Try a few concept designs where you don’t trust your instincts.
Take a trip to the thrift store and find some inspiration for the weirdest mash-up you can think of.
I’d love to see what you come up with.
Send it to me via Twitter if you want to. (Public “at” replies only, please. I don’t check DM’s because they’re so spammy.)
Expect The Unexpected:
Take an honest look at your concept art portfolio.
Are you offering your potential fans and employers something they already have?
“Typical” is the concept artist’s worst enemy.
Make it your mission to take us all by surprise.
Move On To Part 3:
Check out the epic conclusion to this series! Inspiring art-gurus Noah Bradley, Matt Kohr and Darren Yeow join me for a mega-podcast-rant about the vitality of fundamentals!
How dead artists can help you bring your concept art to life:
Share Your Thoughts:
What’s the most unexpected concept design you’ve ever seen?
What about it did you find surprising?