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Recent graduate looking for career advice

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VictoriaR triangle
I am a recent graduate from DigiPen Institute of Technology where I studied for my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Digital Art and Animation. I graduated this April and have been struggling starting my career off. I understand times are rough right now and many companies are on a hiring freeze due to the pandemic. I am a little lost at where and how to even go about finding the start to my career.

My partner (22M) also studied at my college, but for a programing degree, and has been getting interview after interview (helps that he has experience working in industry with internships). I on the other hand have failed to even get a single company interested in my work let alone any feedback. I do understand that in general in the game industry that programming and art are different fields and art is harder to land job in. I just am lost with how to progress with the little to no feedback I am getting on my portfolio, resume, and applications.  I know that networking and connections are very important to landing a job in the game industry, but due to the pandemic it is rough because networking opportunities are non existent along with the fact that many of my connections can not assist me because either they got laid off or their company is currently not hiring.

I'll add that I know the particular job I am looking for is competitive (3D Character art) and I have a lot I still need to learn and practice.

** I guess what I am looking for by posting this is that I would like to receive constructive criticism on my portfolio and resume along with any and all advice anyone has for getting my foot in the door.  I would appreciate feed back on: 1.What I can add to my portfolio to make me a better candidate 2. What I personally could work on (Skill and technique wise) 3.Any resources to help improve my work (videos, step by step break downs of a process, tutorials, courses to consider,etc...)

My portfolio can be found here: https://victoriaaridenour.wixsite.com/mysite

And my most up to date resume can be found here: https://victoriaaridenour.wixsite.com/mysite/resume

Thanks!

Replies

  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    With this COVID situation, while work from home has become fairly standard, I've found that most larger studios aren't very willing to hire people starting out in a work from home capacity unless they have prior experience of some sort.
    It still is a good opportunity to learn new skills and workflows.

    While you are improving your art, if your boyfriend gets a job in a company as a programmer, aside from having him put in a referral, be sure to attend company events and make introductions (network)

    You may land something in a studio that you can transition from. 
    In my graduating class, a bunch of students who graduated as animators got work as project coordinators and associate producers. While it was not creative work at all, they were within the studio so now had access to internal postings and could also develop closer relationships with recruitment.
    Again it wasn't that they weren't great animators, its just that there are many other aspects that influence hiring in a studio that goes beyond skill and talent. 

    This is not to say that you cannot get into a studio on your own, rather a lot of the industry works on word of mouth and referrals. 
    Considering how many hundreds of applications end up on a recruiters desk each week and not all of them are to the company standards this isn't unusual.
    Also the industry is notorious for keeping up job postings that don't exist. 
    Their usual excuse for this isn't laziness but that "we are always looking for talent". Its a marketing tactic. 

    Just giving some advice aside from the usual keep working on the portfolio bit.
    The top tier level art will get you a job may happen, then again you should push your art for yourself first.
    And make sure to cover all the basics that studios expect of your work.
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    @NikhilR My partner definitely has had experience prior to the pandemic, and is an extremely skilled audio programmer, so I get that the situation would be different for him and I regarding how companies respond to our applications. The current pandemic I feel is definitely impacting my chances of landing my first job (I had an offer that was pulled back in march because of the pandemic). I definitely have not considered that companies do not want to start out new employees as work from home. Thanks for that perspective! I am not necessarily new to the industry, the school I went to is tied strongly to the industry and many of my professors worked, or even still work, in the game industry. Do you have any advice or resources for networking during the Covid pandemic? Since I can only assume companies will not be hosting company events any time soon (Or at least in my area).
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    Taylor Brown that makes a lot of sense. The only reason I even have the wixsite in the first place was because it was a requirement to make one for my degree. Do you have any suggestions for making ArtStation look more presentable or is that less of an issue? Additionally, regarding skills, I am currently working on learning more technical skills that can be applied to character art. I have been taking time to learn rigging, XGen, and cloth simulation, is there anything else you would add to the list of skills to learn while I am in between graduating and searching for a job?
  • neilberard
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    neilberard polycounter lvl 16
    I graduated from DigiPen back in 2011 and worked as a character artist for number of years before switching to Tech Art. I would say the 3 things that need the most help are materials, creating game engine ready assets (low poly with normal maps) and presentation.

    Dark Fantasy Character: Lighting needs work, use an IBL map, 3 point light setup and ditch the fog.

    Bust Portrait: Way too much transparency in the hair cards. Look up "alpha overdraw."  Doing game hair well is a big plus for studios that I have come across in the past.

    Good luck!
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    @neilberard thank you! I will make adjustments accordingly.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    @Taylor Brown said it perfectly regarding the site. Honestly the site alone would be an issue as it wastes so much time of a viewer. Having this as school project/requirement sounds about right as school tend to bog you down with completely pointless assignments when it comes to actually getting a job. Also things like rigging, cloth simulation XGen are not necessarily useful beyond the basics for character artists. For example 'Cloth simulation' is pointless beyond knowing how to use Marvelous Designer. Rigging basics should be there, but in anything besides the smallest teams you won't be doing the rigs as character artist/3d modeller. XGen's basics to create a texture sheet for hair cards are simple to learn, beyond that it requires too much work to be a regular character artists job, usually it will go to specialists on a team if grooms are even used.

    To be honest your work isn't really on the level yet to be a high profile candidate for most places. First lets get the basics for applying in there as it will help you to focus on what to improve. I had a longer conversation with another beginner just last week or so here https://polycount.com/discussion/220931/wips-in-portfolio-when-applying-to-a-job#latest 

    It comes down to picking your dream job and setting up your portfolio to match their quality. No need to have a huge portfolio, but it needs the highest quality you can squeeze out of your work. So your portfolio should be easily accessible, focused just on displaying your art, mainly in screenshot format (no videos, 3d viewers only as bonus). Each image should have your name, job title and email address so that if it gets saved or passed around by a recruiter they immediately know how to reach you.

    Don't expect anybody to read your description of your project or even your resume if your art doesn't peek their interest - even then they will glance over it and forget it. I'm a 100% certain besides HR nobody read my resume (and for the past several years not even them), especially not producers or artists from interviews. This also means that you shouldn't expect your life story or project descriptions to help you out - which means you can keep them brief and to the point. 

    Since nobody will be reading when checking your portfolio this also sets the standard for your work - it has to speak for itself. It shouldn't leave doubts in the recruiters eye about your skill set. This is also why you have to expect to be judged by your weakest piece of work - for example the hair transparency in your portfolio makes you a no go for any job where you would be expected to work without close supervision because it should have been obvious to you that that isn't going to be good enough for a game. I know this sounds harsh, but you need to remember recruiters are not looking for reasons to hire you, they are looking for warning signs why not to hire you.

    I'm a bit reluctant to go into every detail of how to go about your portfolio because there are so many threads about it on this site. The wiki has also some great advice and there are so many articles from lead artists and art directors all over the internet. It is really all out there and actually not a secret, just a daunting task to get there ;)

    But for starters just drop your portfolio site completely, go out there find your dream company and read their job postings to find out what skill set they demand for the job you want to do for them. Pick up a concept from their most current game and do a project based on it, bring it to their quality level as game ready asset so it doesn't stick out from their work. Make sure you practise all the skills they require for that position and put the project on art station. Keep in mind artstation has 2 pages for your account - the regular one and a portfolio page where you can keep just those projects that really belong in a portfolio, it should have no wips, no old work that ain't up to standard. Stay focused with your portfolio, don't put in there stuff that isn't part of the job you are going for - for example no 2d art when applying for a 3d character job.

    Finally don't get discouraged, its a long path and not an easy one. Just make sure you are progressing in the right direction and keep getting feedback :) 

    Also you can consider doing a course for character creation at one of the online schools. Sometimes they help to take the next step. Just be sure that you go there before being ready. It can be a waste of money if you spend more time learning the workflows than actually soaking in as much feedback for your work and that of fellow students as you can.
  • YF_Sticks
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    YF_Sticks polycounter lvl 5
    First things first and it's already been said. Use Artstation. Do not use your custom website. It's just a no-brainer. 
    Second, work on your presentation. If it's 3D Character Art you want to pursue, make only 3D Characters. Don't focus on 2D Environments etc and don't put those into your portfolio. One killer-character can get you a job. Look at the presentation and portfolio of other (professional!) Character Artists on Artstation and try to match their quality. Then, decide what studios you want to work for and target your character art to that studio (with that I mainly mean you either go stylised or realistic).


  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    @Biomag Thankyou! What you said is completely true and points me in the right direction. I know a lot of my work needs improvement and the advice I have been getting gives me a starting point. I did just graduate college, so I did not have as much time as I wish to really get great work done because of stress and anxiety.
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    @YF_Sticks thankyou. I definitely need to take some time to self reflect on what I want to focus on within character art.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    @VictoriaR Its normal. I don't think many students are really ready after most schools. Schools give you a foundation, but more often than not students only reach the required level once they take the time to really specialise and focus on their goal away from the school environment. So don't be too hard on yourself and just get started with your next step :)
  • birb
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    birb interpolator
    Additional advice focusing on 2D if you ever feel inclined to try this area in the future:

    You'd be likely aiming for a concept artist position in game studios. Studies are the last thing they'd want to see in a portfolio for this position.

    Studies don't show your creative skills nor your actual 2D skillset, what they show is your ability to copy. That's moot if you're applying to a job in which you'll be drawing from imagination. Concepting can be brutal, you may not have the time to find the right reference to fill in potential gaps in your understanding of anatomy/composition/etc. It's not like it's forbidden to use references (they're awesome for brainstorming and ensuring something looks right!), but you need to put yourself in a position your work won't suffer when you can't use them for some reason. If you can execute a piece from imagination well the ability to work from references is implicit.

    The only situation I wouldn't mind looking at studies would be at the end of a portfolio that already won me over—but honestly, they're best reserved for a blog. You absolutely can have a blog, link it somewhere in your actual portfolio and send the link over to prospective employers and clients if they ask to see more of your work or process.

    One thing in which portfolios for 2D and 3D positions differ is that while 3D seems to be biased towards showing fewer high quality pieces in 2D it's good to have a slightly wider selection of works and really aim for consistency. I'd be wary of a 2D portfolio that has one or two stunningly good artworks and a noticeable dip in quality in the few other pieces. This raises the possibility that the artist made heavy use of references in the good ones, or worse, "references": Copied it from someone's else work.

    So how these considerations relate to improving your 2D portfolio: Replace the studies with original artworks, strive to bring these pieces to the same technical level of the studies. The environments are beautifully executed, with sleek and confident brush strokes while the character pieces don't show the same confidence and firm grip on light and volume.

    All of the above is in the context of a change of focus away from 3D. The advice given to concentrate on showing your 3D work if that's the position you want is pretty good. 2D skills add to your 3D skillset, but you should not divert attention away from your 3D work by mixing portfolios. ;)
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    Taylor Brown what you said about using ArtStation makes a lot of sense. The only reason I have the wixsite in the first place is because it was required to graduate from my degree (my cohort tried to explain to the professors that ArtStation would be better than building a site but they claimed ArtStation is too much of a "social media" platform to be a portfolio). I do have an artstation, but I have not considered using that for my applications. I will clean it up and start using that instead. I appreciate the feedback and will work on that!
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    @birb that is super interesting and I would definitely pass that on to some of my  2D artist friends. I do want to focus on 3D art, so it doesn't super apply to my situation but I will for sure keep it in mind. Thanks for the perspective as a 2D artist and I will pass that information on.
  • jStins
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    jStins interpolator
    Not sure if it's something appealing to you, but I would also keep an eye out for positions related to sculpting and 3D printing. You have experience with it and some of your sculpts seem conducive to that type of work. Funko isn't too far away from you for example. I assume the hiring situation is similarly affected by the pandemic though. 
  • VictoriaR
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    VictoriaR triangle
    @Jstins I actually focused my last year on toy production and had a job lined up for working on collectibles, but they pulled their offer due to the pandemic. So I actually do know a lot about that line of work. It is something I am highly interested in, there are just less jobs available in general. And as for Funko, I have a lot of friends who do work there as sculptors, I am not sure that is a company I would like to work for. And they toy industry is heavily impacted by the pandemic, many companies, including Funko, laid off a ton of workers which really sucks.
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    @VictoriaR Sorry for late reply!
    With VictoriaR said:
    @NikhilR My partner definitely has had experience prior to the pandemic, and is an extremely skilled audio programmer, so I get that the situation would be different for him and I regarding how companies respond to our applications. The current pandemic I feel is definitely impacting my chances of landing my first job (I had an offer that was pulled back in march because of the pandemic). I definitely have not considered that companies do not want to start out new employees as work from home. Thanks for that perspective! I am not necessarily new to the industry, the school I went to is tied strongly to the industry and many of my professors worked, or even still work, in the game industry. Do you have any advice or resources for networking during the Covid pandemic? Since I can only assume companies will not be hosting company events any time soon (Or at least in my area).
    Digipen is well connected to the industry there, and the best networking you can do is keep in touch with your professors and colleagues sharing updates to your work on artstation and linkedin.

    I do recommend linkedin more since it is job specific and your work isn't lost in artstations metrics 

     You also mentioned a background in sculpture, while that industry has been definitely impacted on the larger scale (toy manufacturing) there is a career in more custom work that you can sell to a smaller group of patrons.

      For instance there's artists providing 3D prints for Dungeons and Dragons, or environment kits for table top gaming, and they use a patreon model where they provide STL files for a monthly pledge.

    Of course the appeal of those is something you ought to work at, some creative work is more marketable than others. 

    One thing about company events is that while they are a good place to network, it really depends on the company. While some events have been productive for me and were better organised and really focused on connecting potential employees with opportunities,  others were just binge drinking fests (not a part of that) and as you might have read recently a lot of bad people did bad things, so be wary of that going forward.

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