What type of Portfolio should I have?
The type of Art Portfolio have should reflect the Industry or Job Role you want to adopt.
For example, an Illustrator will show mostly Illustrations but also work that will demonstrate a variety of art skills such as Traditional paintings, portraits, life drawings; basically work that tells your future employees that you’re skilled, competent and versatile with a thorough grasp on fundamental Art principles such as Light, Colour, Perspective, Composition etc.
A Concept Artist would be similar in showcasing a solid understanding of Art fundamentals, but the breadth of the Portfolio would feature Concept Designs for Characters, Environments etc. These designs don’t need to be highly polished or rendered unless called for, but they should be painted well enough to communicate the overall design idea. A Concept Artist will churn out lots and lots of paintings so speed and efficiency is highly valued in a production pipeline. So sometimes, overly rendered stuff might count against you.
Your portfolio should demonstrate works as if it were already part of a production. In any case, the most important thing is taking your time to get the basics right. When quality meets speed than you will be ready for business.
What is your career Focus?
There’s many role types within Entertainment Art based industries, so again, you should consider what you actually want to do on a day to day basis!
Is it specifically Character Design? Or perhaps you want to be a generalist and do Environment Design too. Are you a 2D artist, a 3D artist or perhaps even both? Maybe you want to be a Storyboard Artist, or an Animator. Each role is very different so make sure you love what you do before you pursue a career in it.
Ultimately, your portfolio needs to reflect your skill set, and indicate why your personal style is suited to the particular job role or line of work you want to do. What can you bring to their table that they haven't already got? How can you stand out against the competition?
Typically, the larger the studio the more specialized you will need to be. For example, job roles at Riot Games are very niche, either you’re a Character Concept Artist, Illustrator, Environment Artist and so on. It’s the smaller studios that tend to rely on generalists (Artists that do a variety of roles) because they require a more diverse set of skills spread over fewer amount of employees.
What do I show in my Portfolio?
So, considering all of the above a good Portfolio would typically deliver on the following:
- Solid understanding of Art Fundamentals
- Color and Light
- Design Principles
- Original Ideas and Concepts
- Good Storytelling
The above is a typical checklist and may differ for each job role, for example a specialist Environment Artist wouldn’t be required to showcase understanding of Anatomy as much as a Character Artist would.
You get the idea, but Art fundamentals are absolutely key. You can’t wing your way into the industry without these. Once you understand these, you can begin to apply your own personal style and approach over the top which will eventually lend to a portfolio that makes you unique.
How do I get a Unique Art Style
If you asked most professional artists how they got their style, most would agree and say that it wasn't intentional.
It usually develops over time through a series of personal habits, influences and time spent painting and picking up shortcuts and tricks. All of these factors blended together will eventually give you a signature style that makes your artwork recognizable, this is usually what separates you and makes you sought after, so long as your style is commercially viable you'll most likely be commissioned eventually.
You might be of the mindset where you don't actually want to adhere to commercial values, which is perfectly acceptable and admirable. Painting solely for self expression is what most Artists strive for, but it will likely take more time and effort if you want to make a living out if it. Someone who tailors there Art Portfolio to suit a specific industry is more likely to get hired quicker, and get paid more money.
Ideas, Ideas, ideas!
You’re not just an Artist, you are a ‘Concept’ Artist or even as an Illustrator or Fine Artist.
You need to make key design choices that are rooted in communicating your ideas, so get inspired by anything and everything! Always be mindful of what you're trying to visually communicate. Read books, study science, nature programs, technology, other forms of design such as architecture. Anything that can influence your art and get your mind ticking is something you should actively pursue.
To take an interest in many things would say to many, that you are interesting. This will reflect in your work, so get inspired!
What can I do to improve my Art and Portfolio?
It’s no surprise, but practice, practice, practice painting and drawing, with some learning thrown in of course.
You should seek out online courses and learn from active industry professionals. Schoolism.com is a personal favorite because it has a large variety taught from some of the best in the industry. Every Art fundamental is pretty much covered there, and it’s extremely affordable.
Now here’s the hard sell, this website has been designed specifically for Concept Artists and Illustrators in mind. Each brief is geared towards getting you to think about the objective and the criteria in play such where the character is from, what’s the motive, personality, what’s the mood of the piece and so on. When you get into a habit of considering these keywords as criteria for your overall idea, it will shape your thinking to always consider some of the fundamental traits that lend to a highly engaging piece of artwork or design.
You can access a broad range of briefs. They’re essentially just starting points or dots to give you a flash of inspiration for you to connect in your own way. Whether you want to create a portfolio full of Characters Designs, Creatures Designs, Mechs or automotive designs, there’s a brief just a click away from inspiring your next portfolio concept. Every artist will of course have their own ideas, but these ideas can be disposable or highly treasured. There's no real value to them until you bring them to life. At the very least they make for great practice.