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Environment Artist career path advice...what happens to the older folks?

jordank95
polycounter lvl 7
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jordank95 polycounter lvl 7

Generally wondering a career path for an Environment Artist. The usual age range, from my experience, is people in their 20s/30s. What about the older people? I don't really ever see Environment Artists in their late 40s or 50s. Is it the fact Environment Art as we know it today, is still fairly new so people just aren't old in this field yet?

Me personally, I love building environments and I'd want to do this for the rest of my career. It seems any higher up roles (leads, mainly) don't get to do as much building. Id want to stay in whatever role keeps me making and building things. So, where to go after a Senior role? Do people in their 40s/50s get naturally pushed out? Do people start their own studios? Move to other careers in general?

This has been bothering me lately and I'm trying to figure out a career path for myself and see what my options are. Thanks for the help.

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  • poopipe
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    poopipe godlike master sticky

    I know plenty of older people in the industry who just get paid an awful lot to be good at something . They tend to be very specialised programmers or technical people since thats where experience has legitimate value.


    For a jobbing artist it's basically impossible to justify paying double the money for someone just cos they have 20years experience if they're doing the same work that someone with 5 years could be doing perfectly well.

    If you want more money you need to be more valuable - the only thing the 20year artist has over the 5 is experience and wisdom and that's fuck all use to the studio if they're not passing it on to or using it to direct others.


    It's a moot point anyway really. In 15 years your hands won't work anymore and you won't want to go within 100 feet of a modelling package so you'll be glad of the respite that comes with being a lead

  • jordank95
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    jordank95 polycounter lvl 7

    good points. any advice on a trajectory? should I look to focus on more houdini based skills? broaden my skills in general with maybe some more VFX or tech art?

  • poopipe
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    poopipe godlike master sticky

    Not really.

    Pick something you understand and enjoy. Anything else is basically setting yourself up for failure and/or disappointment

  • jordank95
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    jordank95 polycounter lvl 7

    So, if I enjoy creating assets and environment art, Im basically shit outta luck? 😅

  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher veteran polycounter

    Not really thaaat old but ive been doing this for 15 years almost. got my first job at 20 and will be 35 this year.


    my career path has gone: jr env artist - mid level - Sr. env artist - Lighting artist/env artists - lighting artist - lead lighting artist - env art director.


    bascially as I have gone up the chain I have been more focused on the overal image and big picture of the player experience instead of small props and set dressing etc. modeling and world building skills will get you to a certain point, but at the end of the day that's a relatively low value/common skill that is pretty easy to hire for, people skills, leadership abilities and communication/documentation skills can add a lot more value, are more rare and usually will be the things that drive your salary to new heights. for me the biggest pay jumps were when I became lead and then again when I was promoted to Env AD.

    I have also worked with people who have gotten into the industry in their 40/50's as environment artists and they tend to follow a similar path as they gain production experience.

  • jordank95
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    jordank95 polycounter lvl 7

    Thanks for the input @PixelMasher

    as an Environment Art Director, whats your day to day like? That sounds like something Id be all about. Though I really do enjoy building worlds and creating things, not sure how much of that you're doing on a daily basis? So after Senior Env Artist, what would be another path to take to get to the Art Director role that doesn't necessarily involve lighting artist?

  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher veteran polycounter

    I would say you could also probably go the senior artist to principal artist route and then onto assistant/environment AD pretty easily. Its mainly about showing you know how to tackle the large scale macro visuals and you can start building those skills pretty heavily when you are a senior or principal artist. Going the lead artist route is more of a managerial position at a lot of studios so you end up doing less art and more set yourself on a path to go down the managerial track into project management/producing etc. Depends on the studio though, each place is different but in general thats the career flows ive seen before.

  • Eric Chadwick

    I'm an older enviro artist, loved making game enviro art in my career but moved into managerial roles over time. Both because the circumstances required it (someone has to lead, if there are no leads you just step up to try to fill the hole) and because the pay and perks from the increased responsibilities.

    I actually moved away from games, and am now in e-commerce doing essentially the same kinds of work but making much better pay. Go me!

    You can check my career trajectory over on LinkedIn if you like.

    I've jumped back and forth between manager and hands-on roles. Currently in a more hands-on role, doing essentially CG pipeline R&D, figuring out where the art team is having the most difficulty and why, then designing an art pipeline to solve it, and influencing teams to help them implement it the right way.

    I don't do much game enviro work any more though, no time for it. I miss it a bit, but not enough to pursue it really. In my off time I do other things instead of CG art. Gotta keep a balance.

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