Struggling [to be] a[n] artist

{3 April 2014}   UI Artist

This is something that’s been struggled with through out the games, the interfaces and menus.

This is just a gathering of initial research about the discipline I’ve found.

Forum post on Game Artist – Quick Impressions and notes 

  • A UI artist works through the flow of the game menus. Not just the HUD. Websites are a common UI that we’re familiar with.
  • A working knowledge of basic graphic design method and theory is applicable (specifically typesetting, wireframing and layout/composition knowledge), as well as being able to use tools like PS, Illustrator and Flash. A good grasp on coding and animation will help, too.
  •  Go to Speak Up Archive: Top 10 Design Questions: Student Edition and search for Gary R Boodhoo’s comment. He’s a UI designer for games. Here’s his site: CLADINBLACK4 | Gary R Boodhoo : art + design + interaction
  • Programming languages maybe: XML, LUA, SPLGTDP, ActionScript etc or whatever in-house item they may use.
  • Be a constant student of Iconography. Develop your sense of communicating without words through icons.


A Polycount Thread 

Visual hierarchy – Organizing data visually, so the user catches all the important elements at first glance. A good UI has to be Informative, but that doesn’t mean slapping help text and popup hints all over the place. Clear, simple phrasing and visual metaphors can get the job done more effectively with less clutter.
Usability – How does it feel to use the UI? On-screen, and with the input devices the game will have. The best way about this is to test often, and have other people test your designs often. Prototype, and try to design for people picking up the game for the first time. Resist the temptation to make your UI complex or obscure. This is the possibly the trickiest area of UI design, since everyone thinks their own taste is best.
Graphic design – This is the de facto skillset, but I would say the least important of the three. The graphic design helps to brand the game and set the tone just as much as the in-game art direction does, but can easily be tasked out once the skeleton UI has been built.

Be an Avid gamer. Play a multitude of games and observe their interaction, inventory management, online presence options, finding games to play with friends, communicating with friends, how information is displayed to the user in game & out, etc etc.

Be a planner and organizer. The idea may start small and balloon quickly.

Here’s an article from Get In Media about the job and the duties, education/skills, and what to expect.

And an Interview with an  UI/UX artist, Tamara Knoss

This is more about web design, but UI is UI.

{31 July 2012}   http://gamasutr…

I plan at some point pulling out bits of info I found super encouraging/informal. Anyway, the link before I lose it.

I was in the beginning of a “What do I really want to do and Can I actually do it” phase, and then I realized, I work at a game company. I can go ask one of the animators about what they do, what they are expected to do, etc. I’ve removed names of people and companies for NDA reasons. This seems like it’s all pretty standard, but does not reflect every company in the industry, and where you land may change drastically. I just happen to work for a really awesome company. So here is the transcript, including me being a dork. (PS this was done over a chat messenger)

Me: What does your job actually involve? All animation all the time, types of animations (game specific vs cut-scene)

Me: Pretty newbie question, but I realized the other day, a lot of game companies may not have all their animations done in house

Animator: most of the time, yeah it’s all animation all the time, and all game specific anims for real-time creature and player movement

Me: okay

Animator: we also did the 4 intro movies here, *coworker1* and I animated and did camera work, *coworker2* did the lighting, and *coworker3* did the VFX

Animator: but the CG intro movie was done out of house

Me: did the number of animators fluctuate with the project or was it pretty much the same through it all

Animator: it grew over the course of the project

Animator: I’d say for the entire last year or so we had our max number of animators

Me: Is that a common thing (in house animators doing it all) or a sometimes type thing?

Animator: last year before ship, that is

Animator: for most big games, I don’t think that’s common

Animator: there is usually a professional cinematic company doing any sort of video movies

Animator: but the in-game rendered cut-scenes are usually done in the same house

Animator: due to the extremely technical nature

Me: yeah videos, I meant the game animations

Animator: whereas a pre-rendered movie can be done anywhere for the right $$

Animator: yeah, usually for games this size, all animations are done in house

Me: okay

Me: So besides just animation, you need cinematography as well, right?

Animator: hmm, it helps to have some knowledge of camera angles, shot composition, and lenses if you’re making in game cutscenes

Animator: but if you’re doing animation for characters in a game where the player has control over the camera, then I’d focus more on making the animation read well from all angles… which is purely a good grasp on character motion and timing

Animator: the timing thing gets hard when it all has to play based on the user input… things like an anticipation before a big jump are just not possible when the player wants to be able to jump instantly with the space bar

 Animator: so it helps to be a fan of many types of games to see what different styles look and feel like

Me: right, I felt some of that doing some other animations

Me: do you ever do any type of modeling? Or do you know of other places (besides tiny teams) where animators are also modelers or texture artists?

 Animator: hmm

 Animator: I knew of them

Me: do you think it’s a common thing?

 Animator: but I can’t think of many big houses which have the modeler/texture/animator all in one roles anymore

Me: okay

 Animator: with big teams, the specializing is more common I’d say

 Animator: a lot more like an assembly line, now more than ever

 Animator: are you interested in getting into animation?

Me: yeah

 Animator: right on 🙂

Me: I’ve done some, but haven’t been practicing lately, so I’m trying to sit myself right

Me: (wow that sentence made no sense)

 Animator: hehe

Me: I’m on the boarder of an “OH GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ” for a career panic

Me: and thinking “I have no idea what/how things are done in a game company more than 3 people”

Me: then I realized I could just ASK someone since I have that access much easier now

 Animator: haha

 Animator: yeah, so I’m just speaking from what I know, and that’s from 4 years at [rival company 2] prior to [company], and some other buddies I have on teams at some [Rival company 3] companies and [rival company 1]

Me: right

Animator: [rival company 1] used to do the whole model/texture/animate thing back in the days of [big product 1] and [big product 2]

Me: it’s still better than me wondering and not knowing

Animator: cool, let me know if I can help answer anything else

Me: I will, but so far, I think I can do this. I was going to panic if I had to do modeling or something

Me: my topology and unwrapping are terrible

 Animator: that’s a tough thing, yeah.  Mine isn’t all that great either

 Animator: I haven’t really done that stuff since I went to school, heh

Me: oh rigging! Do you do rigging?

Me: how often do animators end up doing the rigging~

Me: omg

 Animator: I know a bit of rigging.  Here at [company], hardly any animators rig.  I’ve skinned some props like walls of bricks crumbling… all rigged bodies, no soft skinning

 Animator: and I haven’t made any rigs other than parenting bones to nodes I can key

Me: is that a common thing?

 Animator: so, hardly any rigging is done by non-TDs

Me: TD?

 Animator: yeah, the TDs usually handle all the complex rigging at most every company I know of

 Animator: Technical Director

Me: ahh

Animator: or technical artist

Me: okay

Me: soo good to know

 Animator: they typically know some scripting/coding

Me: shoulders are so hard

Animator: all our rigs on *game* are built with some fairly complex scripts

{27 September 2011}   #the50

This was shared on someone’s social network. I found it entertaining and a good remind of things. More valuable for those not so much studying anymore, but trying to make a living from it. Regardless, should be shared and read through.

Just for more emphasis 🙂

{15 July 2011}   Advice from a Friend

When the electricity goes off, all the work you did on the machine is just as stuck as the ideas in your head. Computer generated art, anything, is a fairy gift. It can melt away in a heartbeat. A solid foundation in composition, design, drawing, history and color theory will always support an artist. It is after all the artist’s hands creating the work. It boils down to the individual.

I also recommend any artist entertaining a career in the game industry, comics or movies, must take basic business courses as well. Too many artists don’t pay attention to the paper work and it always comes back to bite them.

 – Maurine                                                 

I was going through my inbox (220 messages from 6 years) and deleting stuff that was no longer relevant, etc. This was actually posted to a y!Group I’m on, and I thought this would be a good place to put it. I want to make it all more fancy and stuff. Very good wisdom that I hear from so many places.

{1 July 2011}   Portfolio info.

New category: Portfolio! Will include tips for demo reels and websites as well.
Porn Elves and Other Offenses of the Common Student Portfolio is a nice run down of some do’s and don’t’s  of a portfolio. My biggest issue on there might be the generalization. Animation, character design, illustration and graphic design (less so on the graphic part) is what would probably be displayed in mine. I like to think it wouldn’t be an issue but who knows. I do need to redo my website and demo reel so badly, and then maybe I can get some good insight on it.

More I have to read: and

I would post hilights, but that would just be copy/pasting the article.

Design portfolio:

{13 February 2011}   Resumes

A friend had posted a cover letter example and another posted resume examples thought I would add them to my list of info 😀

{15 February 2010}   Job Description

Since this is what I pretend I want to do. Lifted form Bioware

What Does A Successful Concept Art Portfolio Look Like?
What You Need

To be a Concept Artist for the games industry, you need the following:

  • Imagination – if you don’t have this as a foundation, you will never draw anything uniquely cool or interesting. We have seen plenty of great renderers with no imagination. Those portfolios are tough because the work looks good, but there is not an original idea in the bunch.
  • Next would be the raw ability to draw. Draw, Draw, Draw, as they say. You have to draw more than the next guy to get the job.
  • Ability to communicate your idea quickly, both verbally and through your drawings. You also must be able to receive and give constructive and balanced critiques. This is in the top 4 attributes. It is so important to work with the team and not be the lone gunman.
  • Good color sense. A mastery of color and how it relates is essential.
  • Ability to create mood with lighting and atmosphere. Most environment pieces are all about the moods they evoke. Composition is also very important.
  • Ability to work in different styles. It’s great to show off your style, but also show how you can mimic and adapt to other styles of rendering. This makes any concept artist more valuable.
  • Ability to deliver something that is better than what was asked for, yet still meets all the criteria, on time, and the iterations well-communicated.

What do we look for in a portfolio?

We look to see if the concept artist has a range of subject matter. We look for as many of the following, as well-executed as possible:

  • Characters – We like to see personality and “story” in the character. The drawing should answer many questions, but also invite the audience to ask even more, compelling them to want to learn more about the character. Have a sheet of facial expressions of the same character to show different moods and attitudes.
  • Costumes – This is a chance to show off your sense of fashion. The costume is part of the character. Tell more of the story, showing the same character in different clothing as a good exercise. The clothing should have the right balance of form and function.
  • Creatures – Must be believable, i.e., through the study of real animal/human musculature and skeletal structure, create a creature you believe can move, eat, fight, breed, and so on.
  • EnvironmentsNatural exterior environments that features organic structure and flora. Lighting, color and mood are essential.
  • EnvironmentsExterior environments that feature architecture. These should be integrated into the landscapes that surround them. Must show a command of perspective, an understanding or architectural design, show the influences of various geographic and historical influences. We like to see this mixed with a bit of fantasy or sci-fi. A good split for “real” versus “imagined” architecture is about 70/30 – so a subtle approach to integrating fantasy into a concept.
  • EnvironmentsInteriors should have everything from the above point, but from the inside.
  • Tech – We like to see how a concept artist understands technical things. How does a machine fit together? When you look at the drawing, can you imagine it working? This can be a fantastic catapult with gears and levers, or it can be a futuristic device. Both should look like they can work, have a sense of industrial design that reflects the culture and time they come from, and of course, look cool.
  • Vehicles – Believe it or not, it is hard to find people who are really good at this, so it’s one other thing we look for to help balance our team of concept artists. See tech above. Good vehicles can make or break a game (especially if the game play revolves around driving).

Keep in mind we don’t expect a single person to excel at all the subject matter. Most people have their favourite thing they grew up drawing. But try to include as many of the above as possible. I remember we had someone apply who said they would like a job as a female character artist, and sure enough he was an expert at depicting the female form! However, for the size of our studio (and for the size of most game studios) this request is too specialized for us.

Please also include personal work, sketchbook material, and figure drawing studies.

Concept art is the most competitive space in video game art. So your submission has to look better than the competition. Select only the best pieces to feature in your portfolio. Visiting websites or forums that feature concept artists or concept art for critique and comment is a good sounding board. is an excellent resource for professionals and those seeking advice in this particular field.

Good skill and good luck!


This one is from a forum post Here

Here is what the replier said:

A good portfolio that is targeted towards a specific “forté” as you put it will consist of something similar to this:

Basically between 10 – 20 images

You’ll want to show your idea process as much as anything else. What people tend to neglect is that concept artists aren’t only hired specifically for the end result but also for the stages that get you from point A to point B.

  • 3 – 5 pages of thumbnails
  • 3 – 5 pages of “in between” drawings, or roughs, where you have taken a thumbnail and are tweaking angles and colors as well as other elements that wouldn’t quite be tweaked in a thumbnail

and finally

  • 5 – 10 pages of fully realized images specializing in the specific area that you are interested in

et cetera