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Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer: Advice from Industry Artists in 2017

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This 2017 GDC panel, which contains the talents of Greg Foertsch, Alison Kelly, Wyeth Johnson, Lisette Titre-Montgomery, Shawn Robertson and Gavin Goulden, exposes portfolio pitfalls and how to avoid them, as well as providing real world examples of how to succeed in getting and holding an art director's attention. Register for GDC: http://ubm.io/2gk5KTU Join the GDC mailing list: http://www.gdconf.com/subscribe Follow GDC on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Official_GDC GDC talks cover a range of developmental topics including game design, programming, audio, visual arts, business management, production, online games, and much more. We post a fresh GDC video every day. Subscribe to the channel to stay on top of regular updates, and check out GDC Vault for thousands of more in-depth talks from our archives.
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Text Comments (27)
Ty Carton (6 months ago)
Something something something (your college portfolio is garbage) something something something (artstation) something something something (kiss ass for a good salary)
Cristian Guzmàn (6 months ago)
Thank you for every one of this advices !! :)
MaximumCHROM3 (7 months ago)
I feel like that epic guy seems very friendly on the first, but on an actual interview he would crush me and break me with his questions.
ViRiX Dreamcore (7 months ago)
It'd be great to hear some advice for audio artists.
raiden58237 (8 months ago)
Wait 1 second. There are actually rejection letters / emails!? I normally just get no response back at all!
Abirafdi Raditya Putra (5 months ago)
Yeah I've got some, but it's a minority
D.Cipher (9 months ago)
isn't this the same points they talk in GDC16?
drei (10 months ago)
Excellent panel!
Krispy Art (10 months ago)
Hmm so basically all I need to be good at is my design and concept ability and how beautiful I can deliver it whatever the format. That's a relief because I just draw in procreate.
EasterlyArt (10 months ago)
I second Anderi's point. Procreate allows people more than enough chances to render something out completely. Though if you're focusing on concept illustration, it's a matter of getting use to your tools so you can effectively communicate an idea fast and make it look presentable. Think it as convincing scribbles that tell a story. Having a strong foundation in design also helps.
Andrei Despinoiu (10 months ago)
The software you draw in doesn't matter. The computer is a tool.
Snick (10 months ago)
This was awesome, Lisette in particular gave some great in-depth feedback.
Vontadeh (10 months ago)
This was so helpful. Thank you!
Gabriel Barbosa (10 months ago)
I loved this but I'm not primarily an artist. Could we have one of this for programmers?
Austin Herrington (8 months ago)
I feel like both of these talks are mostly applicable to designers. Design gigs are just hard to land. I'd say use the info here (clean, work-focused portfolio filled with industry-standard content) and start applying. GDC is coming up. You can get interviews there, or just network with other developers. A lot of times just knowing someone at a studio can be a foot in the door, assuming you have a resume/portfolio to warrant your employment. Just my experience though. I'm a relatively new developer (first game job) so take all that with a grain of salt. Most of what I know I've gotten as advice from more experienced designers. If you're having trouble entering the industry, have you considered just releasing a game as an indie? It's a lot of work, but shipped games are the currency of this business. If you can get something out, even if it's small in scope, you can showcase your talents to prospective employers. Just a thought! Good luck with your career!
D.Cipher (9 months ago)
also one for game designers, seriously how the heck i enter the industry as a game designer?
ToggleAI (10 months ago)
Seconded. I watched this whole thing as well as the previous portfolio talk. It would be amazing to have a similar talk aimed at programmers, especially now over the X-mas break when I'm trying to determine which projects to work on.
Adrian Birkeland (10 months ago)
I enjoyed that, Great insight into everything especially the Concept part of Concept art!
Pixel Bat (10 months ago)
This is great advice. One question though: Is it important to first learn how to draw photo realistically before you work on your own portfolio pieces?
Pixel Bat (9 months ago)
EasterlyArt Wow, you've got a really cool portfolio website. I especially like the style you used for the create&deliver illustration. I'll definitely work on my observational drawing abilities. I'm currently in university studying business engineering (for a stable future and such). I always liked drawing classes in middle/high school but they weren't very useful for improving my skill. Maybe I will get a chance to do a minor in art or writing.
EasterlyArt (10 months ago)
PixelBat Studio for the sake of saying it, if you happen to be in college by all means go all over the map in terms of what you want to draw and build on your skill level. If you're in high school then by all means keep practicing the fundamentals and Foundation of Art and illustration. Once you're in college, hopefully you've gotten to a level we are more than capable of illustrating some relatively realistic images. This is by no means to suggest that you shouldn't learn from other styles. Something that you can do to help along with that is building a collection of references by artist that you really admire, and on the flip side always trying to find something new to illustrate. One of the greatest assets you can have at your disposal at any time is the ability to do observational drawing. In other words, being able to draw anything you see in front of you no matter where you are. This was probably one of the most important classes I took in my first year college and translating that into my work has been a huge help. Granted in high school we were doing the same thing but this was a dedicated class in college. If you ever get the chance by all means visit my website and you can see a good variety of work that isn't constrained to one style or method of illustration.
Pixel Bat (10 months ago)
Thanks for the reply man. I found out a while ago that it's best to first learn how to draw realistically, and then go from there with my own art style to really improve my art skills. Learning perspective, shading, coloring, proportions, etc is absolutely essential to making great art. I just need to put in way more deliberate practice to be able to make drawings the way I picture them inside my mind. I got tired/bored of practicing and wanted to start working on some portfolio pieces before I was truly ready, but now I realize that I should put in way more time. So you're right, It's very difficult, but realism really is the best way to improve my own art. Lastly, I know it's not an excuse but I've been busy with school for the last couple of months so I haven't been drawing much at all lately. Not only that but I'm also torn on whether I should work on my writing or my drawing since I like both equally. Getting home tired and with so much more homework to do makes it more difficult to sit down and focus on completing challenging photo realistic drawings. I want to improve though. So I'll just have to press on. Again, Thanks for taking the time to reply. :)
EasterlyArt (10 months ago)
If what you're asking is more along the lines of the skills it takes to draw a photo, I would answer by saying you should have the foundational skills to be able to draw a photo realistically more so than having a bunch of photograph renders. I think a lot of people look at things like artstation as see walls of photorealism and think "crap, I need to do that, but no way I can do that today or tomorrow..." get discouraged and stop drawing. I think it's important to have a strong foundation in illustration before exploring outward. Art teachers in high schools and some in college suck at explaining this, but there is a reason (for example) why everyone shouldn't draw only a bunch of manga and anime art. If you look at manga or comics, ones with amazing illustrators, they also have great backgrounds. Manga ticks people with the faces, everything around them is far more detailed. So again, having the foundations in being able to understand how and why something can be drawn photorealistic work is more important than a bunch of those kinds of drawings. In other words, understand the skills, have the foundations, practice the fundamentals, and apply that to your work no matter what kind of work you make. On the flip side, and looking at this question another way, NO. You should put together a portfolio together of what ever work you have an use that as a means to gauge yourself. Artist do this all the time where they take old pieces out to put new ones in. Pick the best of the best pieces you have. If it's 10, you have a 10 piece portfolio. If it's 15, it's 15. If it's three... well... you have three. Keep pushing yourself to make better art to replace those. Before you know it, you'll have a well polished portfolio. Also, keep what you do for your process. Too many people miss that point, but showing how you got to your end drawing sometimes is more important than the end product because it communicates you have the skill to develop an idea. Hopefully this helps.
Pixel Bat (10 months ago)
Thanks for the replies everyone :)

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