Join Anthony Jones for an in-depth discussion in this video Working as a concept artist, part of Anthony Jones: Concept Artist.
- I think being a 3D concept artist, you'll have to be like, like for us we were really loose with what we were doing and people understood that we were going to a more tighter version. And I think that still remains. You still kind of stay loose. You can't put all of your effort into one design the first go, you have to spread it thin, say "This is kind of where we're going, "here's the general shapes." Same thing you would do in 2D, you don't just straight up paint a fully colored illustration and say, "This is my only design I ever did for you guys.
"Is it approved or not?" Almost always it's not approved, right? You still have to do varying of sketches, it's just now be in 3D. That's what we do, we do like varying of sketches, and then I actually threw them into Photoshop and paint over it, saying, "This is kind of where I'm going, though, "here's my ambitions with these very basic models." And then they look at them and say, "Ok great. "We like this one, that one." And then I would go back into 3D and model my concept to match my concept, right? (laughs) And then do that again and do another paint over of more details, and then eventually we'll get the point where we almost have the full 3D model in view and then also a more painted concept that's a little more glamor-fied, has all the Michael Bay effects and lens layers.
I mean, to me it's like, technically it still will be the same, you still need rough, you still need the sketch phase, you still need the finalizing. It just will look different. Because it's the same with any other medium before it. It just is better to have more options in the early stages so that way you can choose and kind of Frankenstein it until it becomes the final concept. I don't think any good design has really, I mean very few maybe in the history of good designs have been done once and it just was like, knocked it out of the park regardless of the tools.
And so I think technically, the only reason why people don't do it in 3D now or in the past is because it's just so hard to just even make something in 3D, let alone be just playing around in it and having fun (laughs) you know? Now that barrier is getting knocked down day by day. We're at SIGGRAPH, I'm sure there's some technology, some guy's like, "Hey actually, "now you can probably just draw a little line art "and it just makes a 3D replica. "Done, did, and then print it on your desk and show your..." You know what I mean? It's like as we speak, I'm sure people are on the frontier of some new tech that some kid in high school's going to have the fourth version of it where it's all tailored and perfect.
And they don't even know that there was a time where people probably used Photoshop to design. You know what I mean? Like my generation, we don't know that there was at time that Syd Mead existed with using markers. He's still around using markers, right? But for me, people were like, "I don't know if I want to use 3D." I'm like, "You're already using Photoshop!" Don't you understand that you're already, you're living, there's enough time that has passed that we can see that there was a time where people used (laughs) a lower technology and now we're on the frontier. Like 10, 11 years ago, there was no Youtube.
Isn't that crazy? I'm not an old person, man, I haven't lived that long! And I'm able to say, "Back in my day, "there was no Youtube." (laughs) Isn't that crazy? And so 10 years from now, I still won't be that old (laughs) and I'll be saying, "Back in my day, "they didn't have online tutorials "out of the butt, from every angle." You know what I mean? Right, so my first job I ever got was for a small indie company called Crazy Pixel. And yes, I was nervous. I didn't know what the job entailed and a lot of what I do now is kind of prepare people, because I wasn't prepared.
You go to these schools and they teach you how to do the work, they teach you the software, they teach you what's going on, but sometimes they don't teach you real work experience. They don't teach you about crunch, what that really feels like, they don't teach you about managing your finances. They don't teach you any of that stuff that I think should be even taught in early as high school. And for me, it was a really great experience, it was about a year and a half of just learning how the industry works from a very small scope, but it was good enough for me to be able to kind of foundationally build a better understanding of how to become a good artist.
So then when I went to, so the company was called Crazy Pixel, and then Crazy Pixel unfortunately went under and then I was laid off and I didn't have a job. And the work that I did for them I wasn't really proud of, so I had no portfolio, and so I had to work my butt off and then really kind of make a portfolio that I felt was my own work, but then I got my big industry job, which was at Sony Santa Monica. And again, I went there and I was more prepared. Working for the smaller company, understanding crunch, understanding deadlines, understanding that your job isn't permanent, these types of things made me way more prepared.
And one thing that I didn't, I always tell my students is that you should work on personal work. Something I didn't do when I worked at the small company. So even when I was working for big bad Sony, I still found time to work on my personal work. That way I could control my destiny, you know what I mean? Ever since then, I have literally been able to control where I can go and keep money coming in at a steady flow. And it's because of my personal work. Even right now, if you were to go to my website, there's very few commercial work and people ask me, "Why don't you put your commercial work up?" And I'm like, "Well because, "I'd rather just work on stuff that I do already for fun "and get paid for it." And I've already worked long enough to build a resume of industry, or companies that are well-known in the industry, so I don't think I need to prove myself kind of thing.
I think if you're first starting out, that's probably more important to show a lot of your commercial work, but now I'm at the point where I want to get work for what I do. And in fact the recent jobs, because of the stuff that I've been doing at Unreal and not too many are doing it. And we have one our students who got hired literally because of his personal work from Unreal. You know what I mean? And I always encourage my students to do personal work, get in the habit of doing personal work, because you'll be much happier because you'll get jobs doing that.
And don't just show work that you did professionally, because you might get that job again. Maybe you didn't like that job, right? (laughs) Like we have a student that does graphic design, and he has nothing but graphic design, and he's like, "I keep getting graphic design jobs." And I'm like, "Well... "That's all you have to show!" So you've got to hide that stuff away and then have the other stuff you want to do. It's really important to understand what you can control rather than the things you can't control. For instance, being laid off. You can't control that. We have a friend recently, their store closed.
It's not related to the industry, but this is a good example. It's like, their store closed, and now she doesn't have a job. And it's because the company and the higher ups, they made a lot of bad decisions, now nobody has jobs, right? And this happens all the time. And in the industry, Life of Pi is a really good example. They made Life of Pi with Rhythm and Hues, and Rhythm and Hues made all the effects and yet they shut down, right? So how could that happen? And I was like, "Well, you know, "it happens because we're living in an industry "where smaller companies are starting to take over overseas, "internet exists, all this stuff." So you want to not focus on these things, because one thing we can always count on is everything's changing.
We just talked about it earlier. Even in the tools, it's just changing. But what can you control? What can you focus on that will keep you in good standings and the two things that I focus on and the things that I think are probably the only things you really can control is the quality of your work, right? That the work you do is really good and professional and is of industry standards. And the people you know. So basically building a good group of friends and social network.
I always imagine it like if you were to have a beautiful art museum of all your works but there's a dirt road and the only way you get there is off-road golf cart or something like that, and it only can take two people at a time or something like that. And so that's like if you only have a website. But if you have a website, but then you build a highway, like Facebook, and then you use Instagram, then you go to events like SIGGRAPH to make friends, make friends with new people, so then they build small dirt paths to your place, and then eventually you build all these paths and then people will eventually find you and those highways will open up.
And then all of a sudden, traffic is coming in and out. And that's the best way to think about it. And for me, I have made hundreds, if not maybe thousands of friends, whether I know them in person or know them only online, through just social network. Like I said, I'm embracing the technologies that we have. And it's important, because I think if you feel like you're good enough, you probably are. And just as much as you think that nobody knows who you are, there's also small studios that don't know who you are that are looking for you and nobody knows about who they are either.
Like there's a small studio called Shield Breakers. I think that's they're called, Shield Breaker Studios, they're making this really cool game, it's called Bierzerkers. We met them at IndieCade, and they're making this really cool game and they're a small studio, I think like 10, maybe 15, maybe 20 now, and they're a legit game company that will probably become the next big thing. Like Blizzard wasn't always, originally it was just like four guys. So you never know. And the only way to know is to go these events, meet, and you'll be surprised, there's like, if you go to these, like PAX East, has hundreds, thousands of small game studios looking for fresh talent and fresh skilled people.
If only look at the big companies, you can count them on your fingers, then yeah, your changes are probably very slim. (laughs) But if you understand the very simple logic that there's not just ten game companies or ten film studios, that that's clearly not true, that there's hundreds, maybe thousands of game studios all around the world, you need to do yourself a favor and look for them just as much as they're trying to look for you. And then also put your stuff out there so that people will indirectly help you out. Like I always tell people, 90% of the jobs I've gotten is because people I know.
Like I'm doing this interview because I know you. Right? (laughs) Because I actually know who you are, we're friends outside of this conversation. And so I tell people, it's good to make friends and to communicate and talk with each other. You'll find that everybody's generally friendly. And it's a really good community, everybody's pretty supportive of one another.