I get asked a lot of questions about digital painting and illustration as a craft, so I have compiled them all into an FAQ below for anyone who is interested – hopefully it’s of some use to you!
The following answers express my own opinions and do not reflect the opinions of my clients, employers or future employers.
What do you use to create your artwork?
I use Photoshop and an A3 Wacom Graphics Tablet! Neither of these are a necessity though and I recommend all artists or beginners to tryout a few software’s and maybe start off with a cheaper tablet to see how you get on and how you prefer working.
Are you open for commissions?
As of right now, I am! Please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to check my availability.
How do artists usually get hired?
There are many avenues in which an artist can pursue their dream job – first of all you need to establish the root of what it is that you love. For me it’s digital painting! From there I figured that I also love to create worlds, design characters and in particular, I enjoy painting and designing from a fantasy genre. All things considered, for me I wanted to pursue being a Concept Artist, so that is the direction I am taking my career in. It may be different for you though. For example, the root of what you love might also be digital painting but you might prefer drawing other peoples characters. If that’s the case than digital illustration would be the path that you would take.The difference between Concept Art and Illustration is that the first is designing characters based on a brief you are given or designing your own characters to put into a developing story. The latter is simply illustrating someone else’s characters – I do a lot of this when it comes to books and characters that inspire me. In terms of getting hired, it depends on whether you want to be a part of an industry like game, film or TV or whether you want to be self employed and work as a freelancer across a broad range of work. If you want to get into any of these industries, you need a strong 2D portfolio and a CV with a good, enthusiastic cover letter. If you want to freelance, you need to spend some time establishing a client base. So I recommend working full time and freelancing in your spare time for a year or two until you get regular work. Again, you need a really good 2D portfolio for this.
What is it that employers often look for, generally speaking?
Versatility, enthusiasm, good communication skills, someone who is self-initiative etc etc the list goes on, unfortunately. It depends entirely on what industry you want to be a part of. If its the game industry, employers tend to like people who have an interest in games and have a good imagination. If its TV, similar thing. Same for film. But I would say the most useful and important skill would be to be versatile.You need to be able to design characters, creatures, weapons, logo’s, environments, worlds etc. You also need to be able to do these things in a number of different styles. I think its important for an artist to have their own style that they work in, but also be able to apply themselves to other styles if need be.
What is the schedule like?
I used to work in advertising and the turn around for work is tight (understatement of the year). Sometimes we would get a brief in for an ad and the deadline is at the end of the week so we only have a few days to complete it. Other times, on a rare occasion, we may get a month but the volume of work is still huge. This is because the client has to be able to get the work out and on air in various countries around the world. In other industries it will be different. For example for a film, you usually get a year or two to do the work, but within those years there will be set deadlines for each department. Usually the art department has to finish their work first before other departments as they are establishing the visuals for the film. So again, it depends on the industry.
Do artists usually work off contracts or does it vary on the type of work?
If you are freelancing, it’s good to work with contracts and keep track of your Invoices as this creates a professional working relationship with the client. Also, if you are like me and live in the UK or other parts of the world, you will have to pay tax for being self-employed and the tax man needs to see proof of payments etc. If you work in a company, your contract is with that company and they will own the rights to any work you do with them.
When it comes to working on digital pieces, do they all have to be on Photoshop, or can it be any digital art program, as long as the piece(s) get completed?
It depends what you specialise in, but for digital painting and illustration in a company, it will generally be Photoshop. Sometimes they may let you use a different software, but if you want to do this professionally I advise learning the Adobe suites to create your art. If you work from home, however, you could probably use whatever software you liked, but I would still recommend using something that people (clients) recognise and are comfortable with.
What skills would you say is needed to pursue an art career? Do artists have to be able to paint, digitally or traditionally, or have to be able to draw a variety of objects and organisms?
The first question is actually quite tough to answer, as most artists skills vary depending on what it is they specialise in. If you want to do what I do, you need a good understanding of traditional art practices. These are things like anatomy, proportion, composition, perspective, how light reacts to different materials, colour theory etc Life drawing classes are good for learning anatomy and proportion, and as for the others, its all about practice, I’m afraid. It takes years and years of practising. It has taken me around about a decade to get to where I am today as an artist and I am still learning. You will be learning for the rest of your career! There is a great quote that says If you think you have learnt everything you need to learn than you are out of a job, because an artist never stops learning. I also recommend watching lots of tutorials on colour theory etc. I actually learnt the majority about lighting and colour through learning 3D. When you have to texture, light and render something within a 3D software, your brain begins to understand how light affects different materials and objects because the software has done a lot of the hard work for you calculating everything. So, If you are interested in 3D as well as 2D, I highly recommend it!
What can beginning artists do to help train themselves in subjects they have issues drawing with, such as with the human figure?
Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice… You don’t need to draw every day, but I recommend drawing as much and as often as you can. Drawing is essentially muscle memory, your brain and your hand remember how to draw something once you’ve done it a lot, so practice things that you find hard. Life drawing is good for human figures – if you can’t get to a class, than YouTube has great videos for this. A channel called New Masters Academy is really good – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCliUF1c8m7MUspaCykJljSg
Also watch a ton of tutorials from a variety of different artists and try and gather as much information as you can from them to then apply to your own work!