Recently Laid Off, Need Help Rebuilding Portfolio

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Took me a bit to plan and write this, but felt like I need guidance from fellow artists and professionals.

Background: I'm a recent grad student from a Game Design major and was fortunate enough to get a Game Artist Intern position for educational mobile applications right as I left. However, I mostly did texture and UI artwork along with QA. The company has laid off our team after a year due to budget issues. 

Situation: Although I'm without work, financially I will fine for a couple months with family. I'm thinking of rebuilding my portfolio to my interest in 3D Character and Prop Art since the work I did there was mostly 2D art and extremely low poly stuff.

My Questions: 

#1 Since I'm more geared to a school style based of learning, how should plan and study 3D art efficiently? (While I was working, I did learned Zbrush on the side and bought Marc Brunet's "ULTIMATE Career Guide: 3D Artist.")

#2 What exercises should I do daily to improve? (I worked a 8-5 job so I was thinking working on improving myself 5-6hrs a day)

#3 Should I have realistic pieces and stylized pieces in the same portfolio? (I'm currently looking at Firaxis, Bethesda, and 2K games as places of interest atm).

#4 Art specific question, for realistic character models is there a good tutorial for Facial Texturing? I'm clueless about displacement maps and how people add skin pores in zbrush and export onto their retopos.

Examples of my Current Work:

Marmoset: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/8Xd3w




Replies

  • Zi0
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    Zi0 greentooth
    If you are aiming for more AAA types of studios I would say specialize in something, I would not recommend learning character art and creation of props at the same time since you only have a couple of months before you run out of money.
  • BoonS
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    BoonS polycounter lvl 2
    1. Since you looked at the Ultimate Career Guide already, I'd assume you'd know that there's a variety of tutorial/resources at your disposal. I'd recommend Raf Grassetti's anatomy set if you're looking to focus more on character sculpting and zbrush in general: https://gumroad.com/grassetti
    Outside of that, it would do you well to learn outside of an academic process; being able to identify and incorporate the techniques of artists through their work alone is pretty important for growth (and it's free.) I learned more about FPS animations by going through Ranon Sarono's clips frame by frame than through his older tutorial videos. So if you want to do, say, prop work, you don't want to miss out on the myriad of hardsurface models that you can reference from that aren't going to be in tutorials; they can also have process notes and links to brushes and insert meshes that you can use yourself.

    2. I can't speak for what you should focus on or do as an artist, but if you're looking to create a routine, you should keep an eye on your motivation and tunnel vision. It's easy to fall out of exercises because you're getting bored or you're not looking at proper avenues to learn new techniques. You also don't want to teach yourself the wrong things either, always keep an eye on what higher end artists in your field are doing; even if you aren't close to being able to imitate their assets, their design sensibilities are going to be better references for direction than just looking at your older work. If it means joining a community like r/blender, or dealing with the radio silences of polycount, or working through freelancing deadlines, you have to conscious about where you are and where you need to improve.

    3. In a preferable scenario, you'd have enough work that you can send in specific pieces that lean towards what a specific employer may be looking for. In your limited circumstance (especially in time), you're probably going to aim more towards work that's more accessible to your position. If there are small studios like your previous employer or you have network contacts you can push towards, that'd be nice, otherwise you're going to target specific clients through freelancing. Lower tier freelancing sucks, but it'll always be there.

    4. A lot of artists are using 'texturing.xyz' assets for skin details. This is a good article to start with if you're interested: https://80.lv/articles/working-with-scans-for-character-art/
    If you want to experiment with basic skin pores, you can look at morph brushing zbrush's surface noise; baking retopo is just baking, I don't think anyone would blame you for using your default 3D software or xNormal as long as it looks good.


    And hey, I'm really not that deep in the industry, I'm just a freelancer, so take whatever's useful above. Hope that helps.
  • griffitii
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    griffitii polycounter lvl 2
    Like others have said, I would choose a career path and stick to that for the moment. Both your prop work and character work needs improvement but I would say your character work needs a much bigger time investment to get it up to the same standard as most triple-A studios. 

    What I always encourage people to do is to start small with things they want to create. You want to create something that's not too complicated but is something that will push your skills (eg. work/blacksmith tools). Model, texture, render/get it into engine, move onto the next object. Rinse and repeat until you've got a range of props and finished them. Half the battle is working out the workflow. If you can get this nailed down then it doesn't matter what you work on, you'll know the best and fastest way to complete it.

    Talking about completion, make sure you finish what you start. Don't have unfinished work on your portfolio. It also says a lot to an employer: this person can start and finish a thing. It doesn't sound like a big thing but knowing you can take an object from start to finish goes a long way.

    It sounds like you'll be committed to working on your levelling up your skills so working 6 hours a day is realistic. I wouldn't go over by too much unless you're feeling particularly good that day. Make sure you take plenty of breaks and do things that aren't associated with learning 3D. eg. go on walks. Burnout is a thing and is pretty detrimental when it hits.

    To help you stay on track have a go at planning your days and then reviewing your goals at the end of that day. Doing so gets everything out of your head and onto paper, gives you an idea of what you want to achieve that day, what you want to learn that day, and what you can accomplish in a day. Don't worry about speed when you're learning new things. What's more important is that you're learning, understanding and applying the knowledge to the given situation.

    Like BoonS said, find artists that you want to be as good as and figure out how they've created the things in their portfolios. Try not to get disheartened when looking at awesome work (it happens to everyone) and try not to compare yourseld to them either. You'll get there eventually as long as you're committed to what you want to achieve. 

    Good luck!
  • SaltySalter
    BoonS said:
    1. Since you looked at the Ultimate Career Guide already, I'd assume you'd know that there's a variety of tutorial/resources at your disposal. I'd recommend Raf Grassetti's anatomy set if you're looking to focus more on character sculpting and zbrush in general: https://gumroad.com/grassetti
    Outside of that, it would do you well to learn outside of an academic process; being able to identify and incorporate the techniques of artists through their work alone is pretty important for growth (and it's free.) I learned more about FPS animations by going through Ranon Sarono's clips frame by frame than through his older tutorial videos. So if you want to do, say, prop work, you don't want to miss out on the myriad of hardsurface models that you can reference from that aren't going to be in tutorials; they can also have process notes and links to brushes and insert meshes that you can use yourself.

    2. I can't speak for what you should focus on or do as an artist, but if you're looking to create a routine, you should keep an eye on your motivation and tunnel vision. It's easy to fall out of exercises because you're getting bored or you're not looking at proper avenues to learn new techniques. You also don't want to teach yourself the wrong things either, always keep an eye on what higher end artists in your field are doing; even if you aren't close to being able to imitate their assets, their design sensibilities are going to be better references for direction than just looking at your older work. If it means joining a community like r/blender, or dealing with the radio silences of polycount, or working through freelancing deadlines, you have to conscious about where you are and where you need to improve.

    3. In a preferable scenario, you'd have enough work that you can send in specific pieces that lean towards what a specific employer may be looking for. In your limited circumstance (especially in time), you're probably going to aim more towards work that's more accessible to your position. If there are small studios like your previous employer or you have network contacts you can push towards, that'd be nice, otherwise you're going to target specific clients through freelancing. Lower tier freelancing sucks, but it'll always be there.

    4. A lot of artists are using 'texturing.xyz' assets for skin details. This is a good article to start with if you're interested: https://80.lv/articles/working-with-scans-for-character-art/
    If you want to experiment with basic skin pores, you can look at morph brushing zbrush's surface noise; baking retopo is just baking, I don't think anyone would blame you for using your default 3D software or xNormal as long as it looks good.


    And hey, I'm really not that deep in the industry, I'm just a freelancer, so take whatever's useful above. Hope that helps.
    Thanks for the advice! Yeah my one worry is keeping up a routine and finding things to do properly. I've always jumped on trying hard on one piece that I say will be a portfolio piece, but then fall out of it after spending a ton of time on it with no progression. So I think some quick study's would be ideal for me I guess. Looking around on Artstation does give me inspiration at the same time puts me down to how people achieve certain skills, though I try to dissect every piece I see to figure out their methods.
  • SaltySalter
    griffitii said:
    Like others have said, I would choose a career path and stick to that for the moment. Both your prop work and character work needs improvement but I would say your character work needs a much bigger time investment to get it up to the same standard as most triple-A studios. 

    What I always encourage people to do is to start small with things they want to create. You want to create something that's not too complicated but is something that will push your skills (eg. work/blacksmith tools). Model, texture, render/get it into engine, move onto the next object. Rinse and repeat until you've got a range of props and finished them. Half the battle is working out the workflow. If you can get this nailed down then it doesn't matter what you work on, you'll know the best and fastest way to complete it.

    Talking about completion, make sure you finish what you start. Don't have unfinished work on your portfolio. It also says a lot to an employer: this person can start and finish a thing. It doesn't sound like a big thing but knowing you can take an object from start to finish goes a long way.

    It sounds like you'll be committed to working on your levelling up your skills so working 6 hours a day is realistic. I wouldn't go over by too much unless you're feeling particularly good that day. Make sure you take plenty of breaks and do things that aren't associated with learning 3D. eg. go on walks. Burnout is a thing and is pretty detrimental when it hits.

    To help you stay on track have a go at planning your days and then reviewing your goals at the end of that day. Doing so gets everything out of your head and onto paper, gives you an idea of what you want to achieve that day, what you want to learn that day, and what you can accomplish in a day. Don't worry about speed when you're learning new things. What's more important is that you're learning, understanding and applying the knowledge to the given situation.

    Like BoonS said, find artists that you want to be as good as and figure out how they've created the things in their portfolios. Try not to get disheartened when looking at awesome work (it happens to everyone) and try not to compare yourseld to them either. You'll get there eventually as long as you're committed to what you want to achieve. 

    Good luck!
    Thanks for the advice! The completion mindset is what I suffer to atm. I will try hard on a single piece, but then fall out of it when I see no progression, its kind of disheartening. I feel I jump into it to blindly expecting good results so maybe doing quick study's will remedy that. The workflow is my biggest hurdle and since I'm learning more software to incorporate into it, its been a sluggish process for me (Ex. I got Marvelous Designer and Substance). Thank god I found out about 80 Level.com recently, I feel blessed with soo many nice tutorials and tips at my disposal now.
  • xvampire
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    xvampire polycounter lvl 12
    #3 Should I have realistic pieces and stylized pieces in the same portfolio? 
    depends on your interest.  choose the one you think you  would like to invest on it for quite long term. 
    find some area of interest, preferably with deep learning curve.  and be obsessed with   it.       :)

    since you like academic style learning then  , learn lots  art foundation.   shapes.  dont just read or watch do it.  everyday. 
    make  interesting stuff out of simple shapes. 

    dont forget, : watch some  movies, read comics, play games, and... analyze it  


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