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Should portfolios demonstrate versatility?

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MegaMoogle polycounter lvl 9
Hi everyone,

Been considering revamping my whole portfolio, and I wanted to get some advice. I remember going through school, we were encouraged to only show pieces that directly corresponded with what we wanted to do. For example, if you wanted to be an environment or prop artist, do not display characters. If you want to model realistically, do not include stylized or cartoony models.

What is your advice? I want to create an appealing portfolio, but I don't want it to be boring with a bunch of same-old, same-old kind of models. Is showing versatility a good thing, or would it only hurt me in the long run?

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  • cholden
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    cholden polycounter lvl 13
    Your portfolio should have pieces that reflect the position you are applying for. Back in my job hunting days, I'd assemble specific galleries to catered to different companies while maintaining my own, main portfolio when this didn't matter.
  • wasabi
    I m also redoing my portfolio. My focus will be solely on environment. But I m going to show my versatility within that area. For example I will have one scene done in hard surface displaying my sub d modeling skill and another one done in zbrush displaying my organic modeling.
  • trancerobot
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    trancerobot polycounter lvl 7
    I'm happiest when modeling characters, however I made the assumption that versatility was a good thing so I decided to model a jeep. I also plan to dig up an old VW Bug model and finish it too.

    Cholden, should we include these 'odd things out' in our portfolio? When you said you build specific galleries, do you mean galleries all on one website but with different lined sections? Or did you have to hide stuff from employers in order to avoid looking like a generalist?

    I have a Deviant Art account that I put everything on. Would you recommend that we put our non-specialist work on such websites while only putting our specialist work in the portfolio website?
  • MegaMoogle
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    MegaMoogle polycounter lvl 9
    @trancerobot

    I'm the same way. I apply for environment and prop modeling jobs, but my passion is modeling and sculpting characters. So therefore, when I try to make something for my portfolio, I'm more inclined to try to do characters because I have a harder time deciding which environments I want to do.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 15
    There's the risk that potential employers will look at your portfolio and think "this is a character artist who's just settling for us because they need work, pass". Even if that's true, don't tell them that!

    I'd say keep at least an equal balance. Maybe make some cool environments with some nice statues in it - that would show your character modeling skills as an asset.
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher high dynamic range
    most jack of all trades portfolios I have seen tend to have creepy looking characters because the artist hasn't spent all their time focused on learning anatomy or perfecting their skills. on the other hand their environment texture work also tends to be lacking.

    this is a general observation I am making, not pertaining to anyone's folio directly, just something I have noticed from looking at tons of student portfolios where schools make you do everything instead of letting you choose what you enjoy doing.

    When you are applying for a job you only want to put your best foot forward, so if you have some wicked environment pieces and some meh characters, drop the characters from your folio. or vice versa.

    If you really want to be making characters and that's what you truly enjoy, then focus on perfecting your character creation skill set. I know a lot of students think that getting an environment art position is easier than a character one, but I think if you don't enjoy environment work that much you will be miserable making it all day, and have no time to work on becoming a character artist. Its easy to get stuck in the job you took to get into the industry and have a hard time attaining the one you really want.

    showing versatility in styles is a good thing though, showing you can do kick ass photoreal or styleized textures will make you a greater asset to any team regardless if its enviro or characters.

    so to sum it up, if you want to be am environment artist, focus on making the highest quality environments you can, if characters is your passion then pour all your efforts into making wicked characters and nailing anatomy and form. if you try to do it all its almost like slowly progressing in either skillset instead of hitting the turbo button on one of them.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    Nice write up cholden. So JUST things related to the job and MAYBE 1 or 2 miscellaneous contest/award winning pieces.

    So do you think having an extra page on your website for misc work is okay? As long as there is just 1 area dedicated to the job their applying for?
  • cholden
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    cholden polycounter lvl 13
    ZacD: As long as business is good (you're working) what you have on your web site is whatever you please. When looking for work, sticking to strong set of standards is the best option because you're trying to sell the art you produce.

    Personally, I have a gallery page that includes tons of silly things I made over the years. It is not linked from my portfolio as it should not be. I keep it because it's fun for me.
  • Muzzoid
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    Muzzoid polycounter lvl 10
    Show what you are bad ass at in general...
  • lefix
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    lefix polycounter lvl 11
    i guess if you're applying for an environment artist position, then your porfolio should have enough environment work to show you are capable to fill the position. additional to that, you may throw in a character or vehicle or whatever else you have to show, but in that case the other work should at least be about the same level of quality as the environment work.
  • MegaMoogle
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    MegaMoogle polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks everyone this is all really helpful. I guess the next question is, what websites do you go to to find inspiration? The hardest part for me is finding an environment I'm really excited about pursuing from start to finish.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    Do small and easily to finish projects, just one hallway or a scene designed for a one angle screen shot. Concept art and photos can both work for inspiration, it also depends on what kinds of studios you aiming for, if you wanna work on sci fi games, do sci fi scenes, also movies are a great, the scenes are there to set a certain mood.
  • [Deleted User]
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    [Deleted User] insane polycounter
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    @TeritakiSyle, I get too ambitious, too.
  • trancerobot
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    trancerobot polycounter lvl 7
    cholden wrote: »
    Just for good times, I'll give you guys a heads up on the types of applicants I commonly see.

    We receive up to a dozen job spams a day. About 90% of those are people that write a lovely email, but include NOTHING. No portfolio, resume or anything linked, attach, or whatever. Really, THIS is most applicants. These also include the "hey I can't do anything, but I'm willing to learn. Hire me!" types. These emails are all deleted.

    The next step up is people that do include some work, but are applying for the wrong job. For example, artists applying specifically to open programmer positions. These are deleted because people this dumb never have competent work. I kind of included this in good humor, but seriously, it happens a lot.

    Somewhere between there are shitty flash sites or anything with a "loading" bar. These are almost always overlooked because we have too many applicants to wait on one.

    Continuing on that path is people that apply with work samples for the right job, but their work is a random mish-mash of wtf. Like a zbrush head sculpt and a jeep. These folks usually don't know what they want to do or aren't good at what they do. These are, at best, intern or junior position folks. This is the transitional phase for artists. They can either be trained up and good, learn to present themselves and be good or simply never make it.

    Closing in on what’s right is the applicants that apply for a specific position, and all of their work represents said position IN REALTIME GAME ASSETS. When I can be choosy, I pay no attention to any submission below this level. If I don't see characters or environments inside of a game engine, I don't care.

    Finally, industry veterans. These guys are usually always good for the job. Only red flags I watch out for are company hopping resume padders and/or dated skill sets. Both of which are rare as this industry is small, and if you're a fuck-up, we probably already know.


    trancerobot; 'odd' things are just that. Some shit nobody cares about but you the artist because you made it. To elaborate on "I'd assemble specific galleries", I mean a separate either zip of images or html gallery page. If you're applying for env work, then I should see environments in a game. Renders from max/maya or whatever, characters, etc. don't care. That said, if I were you, trancerobot, I'd finish some characters. I mean a beleivable male and hot female characters. Critter portfolio won't get you far.

    BUT, and this is very important, if you're AMAZING, I throw most the rules out. What I mean by this is, if an environment artist applied, had all these lovely worlds, but also happened to win the dominance war so that character is there too. And does NOT mean a character you think you did well.

    Anyway, there's plenty of text for you nerds to scrutinize.

    Youch! After reading that I feel like I shouldn't even have a portfolio website yet, nor should I show anything anywhere but Deviant Art. :(

    But hey, that's why I joined this community. I absolutely love it when people get right to the point instead of tip-toeing around people's fragile egos or feelings. You've answered all of my questions. Thanks. :)
  • killingpeople
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    killingpeople polycounter lvl 14
    Don't settle for something you don't want to do. Sell yourself for the position you want.
  • Autocon
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    Autocon polycounter lvl 12
    Don't settle for something you don't want to do. Sell yourself for the position you want.

    Completely agree with this. Finding the right job isnt just about the work you have on your folio but its how well your market yourself for the job you want. That isnt to say the quality of work isnt important.

    Some employers will be willing to over look some technical/artistic short comings for some who is extreamly passionate about there work, the job they are applying for and show technical and artistic potential to be a great artist.

    A lot of things just come from experience that you cant get on your own and require a production environment.
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi interpolator
    I'm going to say versatlilty doesn't do much good for most companies.

    Almost every company is looking for someone that can emulate their style, and hit the ground running without much rampup time.

    Places like Blizzard, Infinity Ward, Naughty Dog, Bungie, Epic, Id, etc. want to see that you can completely emulate THEIR style, before they even send you a TEST to demonstrate how well you can emulate their style.
  • MegaMoogle
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    MegaMoogle polycounter lvl 9
    @ killingpeople and autocon

    :) I'm happy to hear you say that, but maybe I phrased myself incorrectly. I do enjoy doing character work, but I'm best at environment/prop work, which is why that's where I wanted to apply. Not to say that I cannot work to make my character art better, but when I hear how difficult it is for someone to get into the industry as a character artist with no experience, I thought that applying for environment and prop work would be a better way for me to get my foot in. I don't feel that by doing environment/prop work I'm just "settling" because I still enjoy doing it, it's just when I come up with an idea that I want to model, 9 times out of 10 it's character related, and not environment, which makes putting together an environment/prop portfolio difficult.

    ....Sorry, that's a bit long winded, but that's my dilemma, if you want to even call it that. :)
  • Farfarer
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    Farfarer Polycount Sponsor
    When I've applied for jobs, I've always had good feedback on the range of styles in my folio.

    As Jacque Choi mentioned, it's good to show you can latch onto a given style and run with it without any fuss.

    As for different disciplines... if you want to be a character artist, it's good to show only character art and so on. That said, you might be needed to work on other things (a character artist might need to make some props, for example) so it can be handy to show you understand what's required. I don't think it often goes the other way, though (i.e. env artists being moved onto characters).

    My 2c.
  • Mark Dygert
    whatever you show, it should be done well.

    Having more low quality won't make up the difference. It's better to be a master of one than a master of none. Of course after you master one thing you feel like tackling something else then go light the world on fire.
  • Richard Kain
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    Richard Kain polycounter lvl 14
    In this modern game development environment, versatility is probably not something that you want to advertise. It pains me to say this, but it is the current reality. Modern game development companies have become so spcialized that most of them will just be shopping for the very best of a certain specialty.

    This is a large part of why I stopped pursuing a position at a game development studio. My talents lean much more heavily toward generalization than specialization. I've never been fantastic at any one thing, but I tend to be good at almost everything.

    Sadly, if your objective is simply to find fresh employment, advertising a broad talent offering is not the way to go.
  • RabidRabit
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    RabidRabit polycounter lvl 7
    I know it's 5 years later but noticed a particular question has gone unasked.

    When it comes to pieces in a portfolio, what does a studio find more value in: Strong personal work, or having finished assets in a shipped title?

    Lets say the assets in the title fit the art style, are optimized correctly but are not off the wall amazing.

    I would assume both types of work showcased together would be strongest. But in regards to being a newer game artist with a decent skill set, would one recommend that they spend their time honing personal pieces or working as a volunteer on community projects that have potential to be released?

    Lets also say this newer game artist only has so much time to do either A) or B) due to a full time job, etc.

    Cheers!
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    For freelancing yes, for positions in large studios no.

    Never put in weak pieces for the sake of versatility though.
  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni sublime tool
    JacqueChoi wrote: »
    Places like Blizzard, Infinity Ward, Naughty Dog, Bungie, Epic, Id, etc. want to see that you can completely emulate THEIR style, before they even send you a TEST to demonstrate how well you can emulate their style.

    I think there are a couple exceptions to this. For example, I ended up with a test for Overwatch with 0 stylized pieces in my portfolio. I also know of another artist at a huge sci-fi oriented studio who was asked as well.

    Obviously Overwatch's style is a bit of a mid ground between realism and stylized. I feel though overall if you have a ton of realistic pieces, you're probably not going to work on a handpainted game anytime soon.
  • RPM
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    RPM null
    Do we need a portfolio website or a video showreel will do the work ???
  • oglu
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    oglu ngon master
    rule number one no videos for modelers..
  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi insane polycounter
    Videos only if you absolutely have a flythrough of an environment, an animation you need to show, etc.
  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis insane polycounter
    I spoke with an art lead at one of the bigger studios here in Vancouver. Told him that only having realism in my portfolio was heavily limiting the jobs I could apply at. He gave a tip to have 80% realism, and maybe 20% stylized in the folio, just to show you can do it. If you're good enough, the hiring person shouldn't really be upset that you have a few different art styles in there.
  • JordanN
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    JordanN interpolator
    IMO, I find it a bit suspect that a realism only portfolio is heavily limiting. Especially if we're talking game industry.
    I don't got the numbers but I'm confident there are more realistic games being made in the AAA space than stylized. And when you talk stylized, it's a very diverse and different set of artstyles whereas realism has a lot of overlaps.

  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis insane polycounter
    @JordanN That's what I've been told quite a bit. However, the majority of the jobs advertised on job search websites are for companies with cartoon stylized games. It surprised me as well. I've also been looking a bit at animation as well.
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