Category Archives: Artist Career Tips

Portfolio Tip #3: Don’t write long emails in a job app.

I hate long emails in a job application. Resumes mean nothing to me. Include it but don’t expect me to read it, because your artwork says more about you than anything you put in a resume.

I also hate cover letters, although that’s more of a personal preference.

My time is valuable, so keep it short and keep it relevant and don’t waste my time trying to act more intelligent than you are, or trumpeting your accomplishments, or faking a self-confidence you don’t feel. All I want to do is 1) form a quick mental impression of you that separates you from other job applicants, and 2) see your art. Let’s stick to that.

If you’re applying for a job, keep it to two paragraphs or less. Don’t rattle on and on about your experience, the school you went to, or how great you are. Keep it as short as possible. Find the best way to differentiate yourself through words while using as few words as possible. Custom-write every job application email you can and include pertinent links (not attachments) to images that are similar to the art style of the company you’re applying for.

Sell yourself as the perfect fit for the position I’m looking to fill, in as few words as possible. Every word matters. Especially if there are too many. Make each one count and try to be as unique and relevant as possible without seeming annoying or desperate.

Custom tailoring a job application or faux art test is an unbelievably strong statement that puts you ahead of everyone else. Make it look like you’re already doing what you could do for me and try and prevent me from needing to use my imagination to decide if I can art direct you into doing what I want or not.

Yeah, that’s a tall order, but if you can come close to hitting the mark you’ll be in good shape and people like me will be more likely to give you a few extra moments of consideration. Respect me and my time and get to the point and make it simple for me to see your art and assess your skills and whether or not you’re appropriate for my project. Showing the slightest bit of understanding of the value of my time might make a difference.

Portfolio Tip #4: Don’t show works in progress.

Unless you have a lot of content of the same quality level, don’t show works in progress. Especially not front and center. The implication is that it’s the best you’ve done yet and that you’re desperate for content. It makes me think that you don’t think any of your other work is as good as this unfinished piece, and that you don’t have time enough to finish it before putting it on your portfolio. It comes off as unconfident and desperate, and that’s really not something you want to telegraph to a potential employer. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I think having an area for works in progress is just fine, but they should be separate from a portfolio and not placed front and center. It’s also fine (and often cool) to see work in progress images leading up to the final piece. But your portfolio shouldn’t be focused on unfinished crap if you can help it.

The way I see it is this: Professionals’ portfolios contain a healthy amount of finished work that’s of a consistent quality level. The finished work is the focus. They don’t put works in progress in the middle of the rest of their finished work.

Sell people on your ideas for awesome results!

I was giving a friend of mine advice on how to really capture the imagination and interest of a contractor and (hopefully) negotiate a lower rate, and I broke it down in a way that may be helpful to selling your ideas to someone. I’ve broken my method down into a simple three-step process.

Let’s say you have a painting you want to have made, and you have a basic idea of what you want in it and where, but there are other elements you’re not so clear on. You want to bring in an artist that’s smart and effective and will leave his mark on your work and make it better. If you didn’t want to give someone room to use their skill, you’d do it yourself. 🙂 The first step is

1) Infect them with your passion.

So far the best way I’ve found to bring someone on board something and get the best results is to really sell them on the concept. Get a sense of the work they have in their portfolio and how it’s similar to what you want. Give them a basic idea of your project book story character whatever, and make it sound gripping, captivating and exciting, and show the passion you have for it.

Don’t go into meaningless detail on this or that, and avoid being clinical at all costs. You can be specific while still leaving things artfully open-ended, and tap into common and easily communicated themes and concepts that tend to get people amped up and excited. Make it sound totally unique and different from anything they ever could have worked on before.

Passion is highly contagious. Creative people are especially prone to contracting it. 🙂

Once they’re hooked, I move onto the next step, which is

2) Define what you want.

Now that they’re excited about it, explain exactly what it is you want them to do. Take what solid, concrete ideas you have, and communicate the essence of the concept as simply as you can. This should be in fairly broad strokes, so leave out the number of wrinkles in the face or the color of his clothes if it’s not vitally important.

Paint a reasonably detailed mental picture that still has blanks to be filled in. But when you explain it, make it clear that your ideas are fairly well developed and that there is a particular look that you’re going for, and that he shouldn’t stray too much.

But it’s important to leave some parts of the image deliberately fuzzy, to give them some extra room to work with. Which leads me to the final step:

3) Give them a playground.

Once you have them really psyched up about the idea and the work, and you’ve laid down the ground rules and let them know where to tread lightly, take what fuzzy and undefined parts of the concept you want created and talk them up even more. Take an example of some of their other work, or something you think (or know) they love that suits your purposes, show it to them and say something like “I REALLY like what you did in [url to image] and [url to image], and I think it’d be really cool if you could go in a direction like that with the background. I trust your judgment for cool stuff like that, so go crazy! I’m really excited to see what you come up with! :)”

The point is not to lay down so many creative constraints that they feel choked off or stifled. And, conversely, to take the areas that you KNOW are undeveloped and make them sound mysterious and exciting, and make them WANT to fill them out and infuse them with their creativity.

I find that if I don’t make the areas I haven’t got a clear idea of sound interesting, it ends up sounding boring and undefined and I’ve essentially given them no incentive to even try to make it interesting. And, naturally, their creativity finds an outlet in areas I don’t want them to get too creative on.

If I give them a very clearly defined area in which to be creative, they’ll go nuts with that and make something really fun and interesting, and deliver on the core concept I gave them.

That’s one of the more interesting lessons I’ve learned in the past few months. If you just give someone a sense of your passion and excitement about the work you’re giving them, lay down a few ground rules and then give them a little playground to play in, you can get some pretty tremendous results that you wouldn’t have gotten if you’d been too specific or too vague.

By doing it this way, I’ve had phenomenal luck negotiating lower rates and longer contracts out of some mindblowingly talented and hard-to-get artists simply because I got them to care about what they did and let them have fun doing it. 🙂

Portfolio Tip #1: Don’t include art tests in your portfolio

This one should be pretty obvious, but most people don’t think about it. I see this a LOT. I’ve even done this one before. 🙂

Think about it: If you’re applying for a job and include an art test in your portfolio, that means you failed it! The result is that YOU look like a failure.

Avoid the appearance of failure! Look like a winner!

Secondly, realize that you’re not the first person that’s done that particular art test. You’re also not the first person to put it in your portfolio. That means that the company you’re applying at has probably seen this exact art test already, done by someone else, and possibly done better. So, not only does the person reviewing your portfolio see something you failed at, but he might also think “Man, that other guy did a better job.”

Ideally, your portfolio should be full of unique content that can’t be directly compared to other peoples’ work. That’s why that, although it’s tempting to model the coolest characters or enemies from every popular new movie or TV show, that’s what EVERYONE else will be doing, too. Be unique and set yourself apart.

Avoid comparisons! Be incomparable!

Finally, if you received proprietary materials for the test and you include that in the material you show in your portfolio, that’s very bad form. Even if you’re not under a non-disclosure, be respectful.

Portfolio Tip #2: Name and watermark your images.

This is a really important one that I only touched on briefly in my Your Portfolio Repels Jobs article.

If you’re emailing your portfolio around, or even if it’s just on your website, name and watermark your images. Put your name, site URL and email address in the corner of every image so it’s noticeable but not annoying. NEVER cover up what’s in the image.

Also name it something helpful like Jon_Jones_Character_Artist_ManWithAxe.jpg. Keep your name in it, and on it.

This is the way to think about it: If this image were removed from my website and sent around at random and was removed from ALL context, how would someone that looked at it be able to find me?

Make it as easy as possible, and don’t assume that people will want to try very hard to find you. Even if they WERE willing to try really hard to find you, make it easy anyway. Take any advantage you can get, no matter how small.

Be accessible!

How to ensure response to your email

I found this over on LifeHacker today and thought it was pretty sweet.

Here’s the direct article link: A Primer on Electronic Communication

Basically it’s a guide on how to guarantee responses to your emails. It’s a pretty good read and applies directly to the game industry and applying for jobs or contract work. It’s a good read.

Here’s a couple useful snippets:

Write a clear and descriptive subject line. The reason for carefully crafting the subject line is two-fold. First, you want to make sure your message is not filtered out by a program as spam. Second, you want to make sure the recipient does not delete your note manually, assuming it is unwanted junk mail.

and

State your reason for contact. Start out by explaining why you are contacting the person. If you have a more elaborate question, first just state the general motivation in a sentence and proceed with more details further down in the message. You want to get your point across quickly, before the recipient loses interest or thinks this is spam.

There’s a lot more in the article… go check it out!

Your portfolio repels jobs

I look at game artists’ portfolios on a regular basis. These websites are usually designed so poorly that I close my browser out of disgust. They’re even bad enough to turn away potential employers, regardless of the quality of the artwork. Tragic!

Most artists make mistakes like these, but fortunately, they’re very simple to understand and correct. I’ve come up with a quick and easy way to help artists think about how to improve their chances of employment by building a better website.

The core truth here is this:

Usability is just as important as content.

A portfolio website should be a simple, effective, uncluttered experience from start to finish that leaves a lasting impression on the visitor. An incredible number of websites fail to do this. And it’s always for silly, completely avoidable reasons.

Your website should be focused on one purpose, be easy to use, and offer a clear line of action. Here are three simple questions to ask yourself:

1) What’s my website’s focus?

Your website exists to get you a job. Its only purpose is to showcase your art and present your contact information for potential employers. You should make your art and contact information so fantastically easy to see that someone find it accidentally. If someone wants to talk to you about a job, don’t be hard to find.

Include your name and contact information at the top of every page of your site.

For example, any visitor should understand clearly that you are an environment artist and you intend to get a job as an environment artist. Anything else is confusing. Silly MS Paint drawings, photos from trips you’ve taken or a blog about your daily life have nothing to do with that, and should be removed. These things are not added value. A portfolio is not a personality test! That’s what an interview is for.

The second common mistake is making a website that’s difficult to navigate. So ask yourself this:

2) Is my website easy to use?

You might be thinking “but I’m an artist, not a web designer!” This is a poor but common excuse for making a bad website. On the other side of the coin, many artists that are web designers make their website so flamboyantly artsy that it’s practically impossible to use.

The first thing a visitor should see on your website is your art. First impressions are formed in an instant. Attention spans can be shut off in an instant. Your top priority should be to make that first instant be compelling enough to keep the viewer looking and to give them what they’re looking for. Don’t tease… satisfy.

After all, did I go to your website to look at a splash page, or art? The faster I can see your content, the better.

Forget splash pages and news pages or any other starting page that isn’t putting art directly in my face.

Your portfolio’s highest purpose is to show off your art quickly, easily, and with the minimum of hassle. A good portfolio should be so easy to navigate that someone could view your work accidentally.

Anything that doesn’t support that basic goal breaks your focus and should be removed or relocated. Make another website for your personal stuff if you have to, but keep your portfolio clean and relevant. More isn’t better.

If it doesn’t help show your art faster or sell you as an artist, it shouldn’t be there.

Here’s a quick list of aggravating features that are common in portfolio websites:

  • No image branding – Every image on the entire website should have your name, email address and website URL on it. People save images off of portfolios and forget where they got them. If one of your pieces of art finds its way to a studio, how will they find you? Make each image stand on its own, removed from context.
  • Vague thumbnails – A thumbnail exists to offer a relevant preview of a larger image. Yet I see thumbnails of random parts of a model that give me no indication of what I’m about to see. If I’m looking for medieval characters, how does a grainy thumbnail of the bottom of his foot help me find it?
  • Multiple layers – It’s as if bad portfolios follow a common navigation pattern:Splash page -> News page -> Portfolio page -> 3D Art -> Characters -> Man with Axe thumbnail -> Man with Axe enlarged.

    Do you expect me not to hate clicking through seven pages just to see your art? Flatten your site. Put the art in my face and show me the quickest, simplest possible way of navigating. One page full of art is better than any of the multiple layers shown above.

  • Multiple popups – A splash page shouldn’t even exist, much less stay open when you click on it to enter the website. Neither should a thumbnail opening an image in a new window that I have to manually close. I’ve been to websites that open as many as FIVE WINDOWS. That’s inconvenient, wasteful, and downright hostile toward the visitor. Be a courteous host.
  • Poor navigation – Every page should offer buttons to go to the next image, to the previous image, and to return to the main page. They don’t pop up new windows unless it’s for an enlarged image, which should be extremely easy to close to return to the thumbnails. It’s convenient, it’s considerate, and it’s easy to implement. It also encourages them to keep looking forward at more art instead of accidentally closing your site altogether. Keep guiding them along a path.
  • Small images – Small images convey nothing. Keep it large enough to be easily seen and understood. Also keep in mind that the average screen resolution is usually around 1024×768, so make it reasonable from that standpoint. Also, remove as much dead space as possible. Nothing irritates me more than loading an enormous image that you only used ten percent of.
  • Bad lighting – Why would I hire you if your work is so badly lit for me that I can’t even see it?
  • Obscure web plugins – Don’t make someone download a plugin to view your website. This will ruffle some feathers but I find Flash websites to be obnoxious and unnecessary, and most aren’t worth the time to navigate. There are a lot of people that don’t even have Flash. Do you want to risk losing a great job opportunity over that? Just keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler.Hiring managers look through dozens of portfolios every day. All the portfolios they see blend together. It’s just a job. You are either on the “Portfolios To Review” list, or you’re not. A poorly designed website makes this poor hiring manager’s job a little more annoying. Accordingly, he is less likely to invest the time into looking at your entire portfolio. And he certainly won’t read your blog. Is he hiring a Metallica fan or a level designer?

    Imagine that your target visitor is a tired, indifferent hiring manager whose only desire is to find the shortest path possible to looking at your art. Nothing else matters. So design your website for him. Give him what he wants. Remove what he doesn’t care about. The clearer your message, the better.

    For example: “I am Phineas Fogbottom, environment artist. This is my art. Email me at mastapimp420@yahoo.com”

    That’s all he needs to know. Keep it simple.

    3) Do I provide a clear line of action?

    This is also important. Sadly, good art doesn’t sell itself. It’s one thing to present art, and it’s quite another to funnel them toward offering you a job. First you serve up the art, and then you show them that they should offer you a job, and here’s how to contact you. The easier this is, the better.

    Here are two huge mistakes people often make along these lines:

  • No stated desired position – The desired position usually isn’t obvious. Most artists feel the need to put all their 2D art, 3D art, animation, illustration, paintings and even poetry on their website. That makes it impossible to divine what kind of position you’re looking for! Be specific. Companies do not set out to hire generalists, they hire specialists. (Whether or not they ultimately USE them as specialists is another matter entirely.)If they’re hiring a character artist, seeing you say “I do everything!” isn’t going to make them think of you for the job. It’s easy: Be the guy they’re looking for by being specific. If they’re looking for a character artist, the more ways you can match the pattern they’re looking for, the better. A good place to start is by saying “Hey, I’m a character artist.” 🙂
  • No contact information – If I like your work, how am I supposed to contact you? Keep it visible at all times and don’t make them hunt for it. If you’re concerned about spambots farming your favorite email address to add to spam lists, make a new email address solely for job solicitations and just deal with the spam.That’s all there is to it, really. It’s simple enough if you think about it, but that’s the problem: Most people don’t. If you start thinking about it, you’re already ahead of the game!

You’ll never have time.

I had an interesting realization at work yesterday, one that applies to a lot of things.

At Ready At Dawn we’re all kept very, very busy and we’re all given a flattering amount of responsibility. We’re constructing an all-new game with a new team with a new engine on a new platform from the ground up. It’s extremely intense, challenging, and fun.

There’s a running joke about having enough time to do something. When someone comes to me asking me to do something for them, they ask me if I have enough time to do it. And that’s the joke. Technically, none of us have “time” to do anything because of the enormous implications of what we’re accomplishing. But if I always accepted tasks on the basis of what I did and didn’t have time for, nothing but the bare minimum would get done, and I’d have a hard time being proud of what I’ve done.

My glowing little insight was this:

It’s not a matter of having time, it’s making time. Making time to do something you know is right is what separates the good from the great.

Anytime something new comes to me, instead of stressing, I simply keep that in mind, and do it. Everything feels so much better now, and I can’t get the smile off my face.

Smart people are dumb. Failure is awesome.

Been thinking about this lately and felt like committing it to paper… so to speak.

Smart people are dumb. Failure is awesome.

Let me explain.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to woefully inept people that end up rich, having great jobs, are in positions of power, get all the girls, etc. I wonder how they do it, even though they clearly lack much. By all rights, given what they’re working with, they should fail miserably. But they don’t.

People complain all the time about how the most mediocre people imaginable achieve things that we can’t reach. They can’t understand how. I mean, come on, I have everything that guy doesn’t, but why does he get what he wants and I don’t?

Why? He tries and you don’t.

I said before in my Marketing for Artists article that 90% of success is showing up. And that’s what these crappy people have that “smart” people don’t. The will to keep showing up.

If you’re running a race and everyone else gives up before it’s over, you win by default.

Let’s abstract that for a second: If they’re the ONLY person that keeps trying, who’s there to compete against? Who’s to stop him from winning by default, by being the only player?

It’s like a curve over time. At practically any endeavor, as time passes, people will start dropping out and giving up, slowly at first but then faster and faster. They’re only willing to go so far before throwing in the towel. The playing field narrows itself. Keep showing up. Keep trying. Be patient, give it time, and you’ll win because you were willing to do what they weren’t to succeed.

Sure. You’ll fail a lot on the way. You’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are when weak people give up and hand the trophy over to someone else. Persisting through the mistakes, embracing failure, and determining to keep moving forward is how you win. Every failure is an opportunity to learn, and improve future performance.

The end of the race, with the only other determined contender, is where quality, skill and intelligence come into play. Just doggedly ‘tard your way through the rest up until that point.

It’s all a game. Beyond quality, beyond intelligence, beyond any other factor, all you have to do most of the time is keep showing up, no matter what, and you’ll go places. Opportunities will start coming to you in ways you’d never imagined.

Here’s one real-world application for you: Applying for a job. Most people SUCK at this, and that’s why they don’t get jobs. Most people I know have given up after ONE EMAIL sent to a company they’re applying for. They quit before the race even starts.

After working in sales at Liquid Development, I learned that the follow-up call after initial solicitation is the most important communication you can make. Most people I would email, whether currently clients or people I was soliciting to, would never respond to the first email. Ever. It’s as if they never received it at all. I’d say I got one reply out of a hundred to the first email, if that.

After that, I’d sit on it a week, and send a follow-up to make sure they got the first one. At this point, usually within the next business day, I’d have a reply almost every single time. The response rate here was perhaps one in four. Whether or not it was a positive or negative response, it still got responses, and opportunities were either created or dismissed.

This fascinated me. Most people give up after only one communication, when the second one works almost every single time. You’d think that it would annoy people, but mostly, people are cool about it. They know they’re terrible about responding to email, and as long as you’re polite, everything is fine.

When I was applying for a job on my own, I sent out my resume and portfolio to probably 30 or 40 companies. I kept track of what I sent to who and what date, and followed up like clockwork after one week. The second email was always a quoted copy of the first, starting with a “Hi, my name is Jon Jones and I applied for such-and-such position at your company a week ago. I hadn’t heard back yet and I wanted to make sure that you received my email. I’ve quoted it below. Thanks!”

Then the floodgates opened.

Week one: 40 emails. Zero responses.

Week two: 40 follow-up emails. 35 responses within three days.

And you know what the best part was? The really, really funny thing? Every single response began with an apology for not responding sooner. Every single one, without ONE exception.

See, I was scared that I would annoy these companies by emailing more than once. Not so. Quite the contrary, in fact. It showed that I was serious about working with them. Giving them seven to ten days to respond is about right, in my opinion. Then comes the follow-up, which is the clincher.

Just keep trying politely, in an appropriate timeframe, until you get a solid YES or NO answer. In the game industry, most people will never even THINK of doing this! They’ll send out one feeble email and give up. Just one more email could have gotten them a job. Isn’t that tragic?

All it takes is showing up, again and again, until you get someone’s attention. THEN, and only then, do your skills come into play. They see your work, decide they like you, and it just gets better from there.

Some companies I had to follow up with three times or more. When I was applying at Ready At Dawn I sent something like ten or fifteen follow-ups because I’d caught our poor art director in the middle of a crunch. I kept trying. And it resulted in a job so fantastic I still can’t believe I have it.

Yeah. I got a lot of rejections. Almost everything I got back was a rejection. Oh, we’re not hiring right now. Oh, we’re just wrapping up this project. Oh, we’re not a game company and would you please quit emailing us. Blah, blah, blah. But I also got a handful of interviews out of that, and one of those interviews got me a fantastic job.

Why? I didn’t let failure bother me. I kept trying anyway. Failure is a part of life. The more you try, the more potential chances to succeed you have. If I apply to 100 companies and you apply to 5, who’s more likely to succeed? If ONE of your companies says no, they’ve reduced your chances of getting a job by 20%! But if one of mine says no, my chances are only reduced by 1%. Who’s trying smarter?

Let’s make the playing field bigger. If ten people are applying for companies and I’m the only one that applied at 100, my chances of contacting a company that has received NO other job applications is pretty high. See what I mean? Most people won’t even try that hard, and they make me win.

If I’m firing a shotgun at a guy, most of the shotgun pellets will miss. But all I really need is one to hit. The more pellets there are, the better my chances of succeeding. It just comes down to that, really.

Yeah, it’s messy, and a lot of failure is involved. But every failure is a chance to learn. Every time I fail and keep moving forward,

And again, it all comes down to showing up. The more you try, the longer you persist, the better your chances of winning get. It’s so simple that people overlook it. It’s so obvious that it’s instantly dismissed.

This is the way the world works, and this is why seemingly unfit people succeed. They just don’t give up and eventually they get what you want. And it probably annoys you because for some reason or another, you never even started. No gold star for you. 🙂

And that’s why I say smart people are dumb. “But I’m BETTER than him.” “But I want this MORE than him.” “But he’s so STUPID.” “But he’s ugly!”

But he still wins. Because you create excuses for yourself not to try. Because you’re “too smart” to bother trying, because of X, Y or Z reason.

If you were really smart, wouldn’t you be winning? 🙂

Marketing for Artists

[2014-12-04 UPDATE!] Post resurrection! I’ve updated the material in this post for a rapid-fire 13 minute long speech for the IGDA MicroTalks in Austin. While the information below is still relevant, the material in this video is much better and more current. Here it is:


[/UPDATE!]

I find myself in a lot of conversations with budding young artists seeking to get ahead in the world asking me advice on just how to go about that. I’ve examined a lot of individual cases and I’ve noticed a few common mistakes artists make that destroy their chances of getting ahead, and most of them stem from a lack of understanding of marketing themselves. I’ve noticed a few techniques that artist hopefuls can use to get ahead in the art field.

First, DIFFERENTIATE.

99% of artists I’ve seen make the same four models: Space marine, naked man, naked woman, and character from a recently released movie. If everyone’s making the same model, how is anyone going to stand out? Being an artist that creates high quality assets is important, but quality should not be the only differentiator between you and another artist.

Consider this: If a potential employer is looking for a new artist, in a “market” where there are hundreds of space marines, how likely is it that your space marine is going to be the very best out of all of them? Not very. 🙂

The most obvious (and most overlooked) solution for this is to choose subject matter that no one else is doing. If you create a “market” for a certain type of art by choosing something unique, who is there to compare and contrast against? Who’s the competition? It also makes it that much easier to be remembered as “the guy that paints amazing metal” or “the guy that makes incredible fantasy creatures.”

Let’s face it; managers hiring artists are going to look through dozens of portfolios to find a worthy artist. If you’re making exactly the same art as anyone else, what reason does this guy have to remember you?

Look at what other people aren’t making, and make it well. Find a niche, an untapped potential market for a new or different type of art, and become the undisputed master of that art. If you do it right, you’ll be seen as the originator, and everyone else will be a copycat. That’s the benefit of being first. If you can’t be the leader of something, find something you can be the leader of.

Let your portfolio reflect your personality, your uniqueness, your inner fire. You’re the only one that cares about you, so try to communicate why other people should care and remember you, too, through your artwork. That’s all they’ll care about.

Second, BE OMNIPRESENT.

Were you the kid in high school who sat alone in a corner, ignored everyone and filled his sketchbook with his drawings? Keep the art focus, but lose the antisocial behavior. Keeping to yourself is the fastest possible way to failure and ruin. Period.

Woody Allen once said, eighty percent of success is showing up. That’s one of the single most profound statements I’ve ever taken to heart.

Find a message board or website that focuses on art and start posting. Comment on other peoples’ work, give helpful advice, be friendly, and make friends. Build a network of friends and acquaintances and surround yourself with them all the time. Be social. Network. Thrive.

To put this in perspective, every contract and every job I’ve ever gotten was the result of having known a guy that knows a guy. No cold calls, no internships, no open assault of job applications. My career was created entirely through networking. This can work for anyone, because the more people you talk to, the more likely it is that opportunities will literally come to you.

So get out there, make friends, and create a presence. Always be there. Always have a voice. Always have a personality. Be yourself.

Never make enemies, because the guy you just said stank mightily of elderberries could be the art director of a company you desperately want to work for in the future. I’ve actually heard of this happening many times, so don’t shoot off at the mouth and hit yourself in the foot.

I’ll say it again: If you think you can succeed by being antisocial, get comfortable mopping floors. 🙂

Third, VALUATE.

Learn to qualify peoples’ opinions. Not every opinion is equal. Anyone that tells you otherwise is absolutely, one-hundred-percent wrong. They may be nice and cool and seem sincere, but if you keep listening to them, they will destroy your ability to tell good advice from bad. You’ll never know who’s trying to help you grow and who’s trying not to hurt your feelings. You’ll consider the opinion of the tried and true professional to be equal to the worthless fanboy that thinks Leonardo da Vinci was the Ninja Turtle with the orange mask. (That was Michelangelo. Duh.)

Does “Hey, that looks great, don’t change a thing!” sound familiar? No piece of art is without flaw, and rarely does an artist not have an opinion. If you want to feel good about your art, by all means, listen to these people and don’t bother improving. But if you want your art to get better and be fit for a professional development environment, listen to the people whose comments hurt the most.

The people that rip your work apart the hardest are the people that genuinely want to help you. Think about it. They took the time to look at your work, think it over and write out a response. Your mom may think you’re just the best guy ever and think you deserve all the attention in the world, but you don’t. Time and attention is respect.

Show them the same respect and never turn them away. Be grateful. Learn to face the pain head-on. The comments hurt because they are true, and deep down, you know it. Get used to being broken down, and never fail to build yourself back up, stronger than before. Getting your feelings hurt is a part of life, and successful people learn to pick themselves up and try harder next time.

As you meet these people, acquire a mentor. Find someone better than you that knows what they’re doing, is honest, and likes you. Become friends. The only reason I rose from a mewling mediocrity to a professional artist is because of mentors that invested time and attention in me. Drop your ego and open yourself to learning, and never, ever backtalk if you truly trust their opinion.

Finally, FREELANCE.

Your best bet toward getting a job making art is to simulate the job experience in every way you can. Join a mod. Design levels. Make player models. Most importantly, finish them.

Find as many ways as possible to gain experience making real, usable, ingame assets. There’s a world of difference between making a model in a 3D application and making it work in the game, and that difference is what separates the amateurs from the professionals.

When you select a mod or contract to take on, decide in advance what you intend to learn from it and how you plan to grow. Every step I’ve ever taken in my career was considered in regards to what specific experience I’ll gain from it. In my eagerness for experience, I have willingly eaten a considerable amount of dirt to get the experience I needed to move forward. Identify the gaps in your education and seek to fill them through hands-on experience. Always, always, always finish what you start.

And there you have it.

That’s all I have to say on the subject. Depending on how well this is received, I may write a guide soon on how to dramatically increase your chances of getting a job based on my experiences as a salesman and as a hapless artist trying desperately to become employed. It’s truly remarkable how simple it can be, and how so many people miss out on it.