Want to be a game artist?

Hi everyone! I’m Kirsty, the designer/producer at FuturLab. As we’re a small team I also deal with all the admin and HR etc.

You may or may not know that we’ve been recruiting recently, culminating in the hire of our two new kick-ass artists Chris and Jack! We were absolutely staggered by the amount of interest in the art roles, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give some pointers on how to get your first role as an artist!

MAKE THE GRADE?

Minimum education qualifications for an artist are generally good GCSE grades in Maths and English (art wouldn’t hurt too ;) ). Qualifications demonstrate to employers that you can focus and work hard on a specific task, so having a good set of GCSE’s is important. A-levels and further can only help.

If you are looking to go to college or university, try to resist automatically going for a games specific course. Game development courses can sometimes be looked down upon because you are taught a very particular skill set, usually by someone who is no longer in the industry and therefore not necessarily in the loop (things change fast!). You’re best doing a more general course where you’ll gain a wider variety of skills which will make you more versatile and therefore easier to hire.

PORTFOLIO

A strong online portfolio and good work ethic will get you further than any qualifications though. When creating a portfolio it’s better to only have a few really outstanding pieces of work in your portfolio rather than swamping it with everything and anything.

Employers aren’t going to spend ages sifting through lots of artwork, they will make their minds up in the first few pieces that they see – so make them good!

It’s also imperative that your portfolio is easy to use and navigate through. Split your work into a few simple pages, e.g. 2D Work, 3D Work, Animation. Or if you’re more specialised, for example a 3D artist, then Vehicles, Characters, Props etc. Employers will know what they’re looking for and if you can help them find it easily then you win bonus points! It’s also worth creating a blog where you can explain your approach and technique to each piece.

Here’s an example of a great online portfolio (linked with Damian’s permission):

http://www.buzugbe.com/ – look at this image of his:

Eight versions of the same character, all done in a different style – this a fantastic idea as it clearly demonstrates his flexibility, and flexibility is key. Damian has around 20 years of experience, so don’t be deflated – but it is a good example of a strong portfolio.

And remember when applying for an art role, it’s crucial to attach a link to your portfolio! You’d be surprised how many people don’t bother and therefore get automatically rejected.

GET SOME EXPERIENCE

There are a number of events and projects that will help you gain experience. Anything that you can put on your CV which demonstrates a passion for games will really help. Check out the following:

  • The Bafta website, they often have special events and projects aimed at those still in education who want to work in games.
  • Dare to be Digital run by Abertay University where small groups of students get together to create a game in a few weeks, these groups are mentored by companies in the industry (who usually end up offering the best students jobs). You don’t have to be part of the University to participate in this, they take students from anywhere.

WORK YOUR WAY UP

It’s also worth thinking about getting a job in QA (games tester) if you have trouble finding an art role immediately. It’s really the only position in the industry that doesn’t require any previous experience, and a fantastic place to learn about the production of games.

Most people I know (myself included) started in QA, as it is unusual to land your dream job as your first job. QA is a great place to show that you can work hard and are reliable, it also provides you access to experienced artists who can help give you advice on your own artwork. Companies often prefer to promote from within to fill new vacancies, so be proactive, work hard, be nice and it could be you!