Hello dear readers and welcome to another weekly installment of fun filled... positive... You know what. I can't do this right now. This week it's time to lay down some truth about the perception of concept art. Today it's time for salt. So let me just dive right in and talk about all that is awry in the world of concept art and the people trying to get in. Besides, I don't know about you but it's way too warm to read happy stuff!
1. The perception
People online, due to a lot of misinformation and marketing, have the idea that making concept art is about making pretty images that you can share on ArtStation and might lead to a feature on a gaming website or reddit or [insert favorite site here]. I have just one thing to say about that:
Whooooooooooooooooooooboy do I not like that mentality for a whole host of reasons. Yes, getting exposure to get work is a good thing. Calling it concept art, is bad.
Posting your actual concept work online to showcase what you've done: good
While making the work thinking about followers instead of the project: bad
2. The Danger
So here's the thing with thinking that what you make is concept art.
1. Actual AD's and concept artists know this isn't concept art and they won't look at it that way lessening the strength of your portfolio. Meaning, they might not take you serious because it looks like you have no idea what you are talking about.
2. This attitude might lead to the assumption and or situation that once in house you can make pretty pictures instead of engage problem solving. Building a concept art portfolio should be foremost about demonstrating your problem solving ability, research strength, initiative, design sensibilities and understanding of technical restrictions of the game / engine.
3. Other, perhaps newer companies or less routined senior staff, might assume that making pretty pictures is the definition of concept art forcing newer generations to only focus on making cool images rather than something useful. I've seen it time and again, pipelines and schedules being thrown out the window because someone wants a last minute shiny image for something or another that isn't the actual game.
4. Personal style has always been a iffy subject when it comes to concept art. The art has to be clear enough for another to work from it but it also has to speak to the imagination. There is a fine balance between production art and fine art sometimes as projects can take on, especially in the pre-production phase, lavish design principles. However, if the idea spreads about a "acceptable form" of concept art personal style will become endangered. Everything might be pushed towards one and the same thing. Of course not every project is the same and therefor might not lend itself for personalized art. C'est la vie!
3. What needs to change
It's so easy. Stop calling your non concept work 'concept art'. Done. Call it illustration, or personal piece or whatever else you can think of. Here is a neat and tidy checklist, if you meet the points on here you are free to call your work concept art:
- When it's clear for what type of game / project / department this is.
- When it's clear what the original art direction is.
- When the design problem is clearly communicated
- When the design solution is clearly communicated
- When multiple solutions are clearly demonstrated
- When a clear insight to 3D or integration is demonstrated
- When it's not a shot of a dude on a horse with a castle in the background
- When it's not a half naked chick with giant headphones looking over shoulder with no design visible with a random nonsensical background.
Point number 7 and 8 might be cool but they sure aren't concept art. They might be concept art if the project demands but still the other points have to be met as well. Also, concept illustration is a very fine line. It still has to be for a project, with clear art direction etc. Failure to demonstrate this makes it very difficult for anyone, especially Art Directors, to figure out if you actually understand how to follow a brief.
4. Definition of a concept artist in 3 words or less
So why write this, why show the whole world my inner salt mine to what many call a semantics problem. It's because the less educated people as a whole, maybe not this generation and maybe not even the next, but eventually their lack of insight will catch up with the industry and put down its roots. Corners will get cut, insightful solutions overlooked and it will further the generic games that we are already seeing. Same is true for film.
When people start to choose money over quality or mistake rendering for quality we are in deep trouble. Good projects demand good solutions and designs. Good solutions and designs require people to understand the finer details of the development. This understanding comes from time invested in this area, not anything else. It doesn't mean you can't have both but if you can't tell the difference between illustration and concept art in your own portfolio maybe there is still some work to be done.
This was Titus live from the salt mines in the inner regions of my ego.
Hugs and kisses