I've been getting a lot of questions and emails about applying to jobs in the animation industry, and how to get better at art. In order to address these questions, I created a short FAQ to point out some important fundamentals to know and general job searching advice.
Hope this can help you, and good luck on your art journey!
"Don't set your goals based on what you think you could achieve. Set your goals on what you wish you could achieve, and then believe you can" - Lorne Lanning
Q: What do companies look for in a visual development portfolio?
A solid portfolio consists of being able to tell a clear story with your art while at the same time demonstrating your drawing/painting skills. Some shows look for proficiency in both painting and drawing, and sometimes others look for only one of the two. It does help to have several pieces that support a single story- such as a prop design, bg design, character design, or even an environment painting that are all for the same story. Presentation is also key- don't cramp too many works into one page, and make sure your pieces have breathing room.
Connections can also be an important factor in landing a gig. An up-to-date social media presence is also helpful with networking and meeting people in the industry. So is taking classes at Concept Design Academy (CDA), one of the best and most affordable art schools in LA (http://conceptdesignacad.com/).
Q: Do you have any advice for applying to jobs?
Be persistent, keep contacting recruiters, and ask industry people to look over your portfolio. Everyone has a different perspective and opinion, so it's important to ask multiple people. It is also all about timing- shows will only be hiring when they start up, or when someone leaves their position. So don't feel down if you don't hear back from job applications- that is common. Keep improving your portfolio and applying to jobs.
Q: What is it like working in the animation industry?
It can be really fun! A studio job provides me with a stable income and a network of peers, which is invaluable. But on the other hand, a studio job is not the end all be all. Some of my favorite artists in fact don't work at big animation companies! They either freelance with multiple companies or are in multiple industries such as advertising, motion graphic, and/or illustration.
Q: How much do artists make and can you tell me more about healthcare, insurance, etc.?
Not all animation studios are union, but for those that are they adhere to the regulations and wage minimums set by the guild/union: https://animationguild.org/contracts-wages/. Through our union we are also able to get health insurance from Motion Pictures Insurance (MPI), set up 401 K plans (no matching), and other perks (browse the website and find out)!
Q: What types of classes would you recommend?
I really loved taking classes at Concept Design Academy: http://conceptdesignacad.com/. Overall the teachers were smart, knew what they were talking about, and gave decent critiques most of the time. Out of all the places I've taken classes at, they had the best options. LAAFA is another great place for classes: http://laafa.org/classes/. I took one with Vadim Zanginan and Ramon Hutardo and learned so much from both of them! For online classes, Schoolism and CGMA are great options. Also, I'm seeing more and more artists I admire offering mentorships and classes- so look around for those as well! (Kalen Chock has a great mentorship if you're interested in concept art: http://www.robotpencil.net/mentorship/#mentorship-page)
Also, please be wary about classes that you enroll in. Just because it is an accredited institution (college, for example) and the class costs $$ does not mean the teacher knows what they are talking about. It could be damaging to have instruction from a teacher who will lead you in the wrong direction. Do research on teachers- where they have worked and more importantly what their portfolio looks like- that will be the extent that they can teach you.
With that being said, there is also a lot of free information on the internet! I've linked some below :)
Knowing the basics of perspective is a fundamental skill that can help you create backgrounds, props, and environments. It is also essential to drawing characters and posing them out in a realistic space. Perspective is easily learned through repetition- sketching architectural environments around you and making sure everything goes back to a vanishing point, and making environments up from your imagination. You can also trace over images with red lines (as seen above) to study how other artists creative perspective grids.
- Thomas Romain's perspective tutorial: http://imgur.com/gallery/V5Prm
- James Gurney's blog: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/search/label/Perspective
- For a more in-depth lesson, check out Scott Robertson's How to Draw book: https://designstudiopress.com/product/how-to-draw/
- Search Google for "perspective tutorial"
- Search Pinterest for "perspective tutorial"
Getting a solid foundation in figure drawing will help you learn how to draw objects and environments better as well. Figure drawing involves a flowing gesture and solid construction of spheres, boxes, and cylinders over that gesture. You have to be able to draw through the form in your head. Studying from a combination of a real life model, photographs, and timed online photo drawing sites like pixel lovely (https://line-of-action.com/practice-tools/figure-drawing/) will help improve this skill.
- Kirk Shinmoto's analytical figure drawing tutorial on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUWGev9z7dg
- Griz and Norm's Tuesday Tips: http://grizandnorm.tumblr.com/
- Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing for All it's Worth (pdf online for free): http://www.alexhays.com/loomis/
- Kevin Chen's CDA class: http://conceptdesignacad.com/
- Ramon Hutardo's figure drawing class: http://laafa.org/classes/ or his website: http://www.ramonhurtado.com/classes/
- Will Weston has free tips and tricks on his facebook: https://www.facebook.com/willwestonstudio/ and his instagram: https://www.instagram.com/willwestonstudio/
- One of the great masters/instructors of figure drawing, Glenn Vilippu offers an online class here: http://www.newmastersacademy.org/figure-drawing-glenn-vilppu-part-1-gesture/
- Online workshops by storyboard artists are great too - Rad Sechrist, Steve Ahn, etc.
Painting (Color and Light)
Color and light can help you describe form, and add real emotion to a drawing. Put in the wrong places, however, color will negate all the hard work that you did in your drawing. I've noticed most artists have different ways of using color, and specific palettes that they like. What is consistent through all their art, though, is their attention to values. A good black and white scheme will lead our eye to the focal point in a drawing, and on top of that you can build a solid color painting. You can color pick from photos if you don't know where to start, but painting from real life will help you get a good sense of color so you don't have to rely on color picking. Painting from life can be done with traditional media or even a laptop, ipad or cellphone!
- Shaddy Safadi's amazing youtube tutorial (pay attention to his edge control!!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NygkJEc3yu4
- Amazingly thorough free tutorial by Arne Niklas Jansson: http://www.androidarts.com/art_tut.htm
- Dice Tstumi Schoolism class: https://www.schoolism.com/school.php?id=30
- James Gurney's book: https://www.amazon.com/Color-Light-Realist-Painter-Gurney/dp/0740797719 (he also frequently gives away lots of free tips on his website and facebook!)
- From a technical perspective, Scott Robertson's How to Render book is great: https://designstudiopress.com/product/how-to-render/ (focuses on hard-surface objects such as cars)
- Schoolism interviews: https://www.schoolism.com/interviews.php
I've learned so much from listening to Bobby Chiu talk to other artists in the industry! It's so helpful while you're drawing to hear how another artist has achieved the goals that you aspire to.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM39qhXle4g
A really great interview with creator of BlenderGuru.com on trying to learn 2D skills for a month. He brings up some really great points of work ethic and effective work habits.
- Stephen Silver classes: https://www.silvertoons.com/classes/
Such a genuinely nice guy who has given back so much to the art community. I haven't taken his character design classes but I've heard so much good things about them!
The fun part after learning these fundamentals is being able to create any story, and tell it however you want! Have fun!
Check out my gumroad for more!
Shoutout to all my teachers who have helped me along my art journey and taken the time to answer my questions:
Eugene Huang (Duke of Flies), Chong Suk Lee, Leighton Hickman, Ernest Chan, Kalen Chock, Kirk Shinmoto, Kevin Chen, Liz Kressin, Steve Hirt, Joel Fajnor, Ramon Hutardo, Phalline Hoang, Andrea Favilli, and so many more. And a special thank you to Carter Malouf and Bridget Ore who helped me get my foot in the industry door <3 Thank you all!