Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Website

Sort of changed my website. It's wordpress now but it's not really any better than my old site. It will be easier to update and it will have a store up sometime after GenCon. Doesn't look like I'll be able to combine it with my blog unless I buy a premium theme. My previous bio section didn't really say anything about myself and sounded more like it should be a part of a resume. Now it's rambling chaos which I think is an improvement.

Also, I got that texture artist job. I'll still be able to do a little freelancing. So now I've been an art director, concept artist, illustrator and texture artist. Hopefully soon, I'll also be able to say 3D artist. That only leaves  storyboard artist to do.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Adventure in being a texture artist

So I've been working on some texture work lately on a trial basis. Wrapped it up today and I have a good feeling they won't be hiring me on. Very unfortunate and disappointing as I'd really like to do the work.

Isn't there a saying that goes, "you don't know what you don't know." I didn't know jack about how difficult it is to be a texture artist. You might think it's just painting surfaces for a 3D object so that it looks like metal,skin, rust, dents, pores,dirt,etc. It's more graphic design than painting. I thought more of the surface of the models would be modeled so all I would be doing is painting textures. The whole side of a vehicle might be a single flat plane though and you've got to paint all of the doo dads like vents and cavities and the like and make their texture appear real. All of the stuff you paint also sort of needs to be devoid of a light source. So no highlighting up planes and putting down planes in shadow. What makes a difficult task even more difficult is trying to visualize an overall design for the object while you're working on a tiny section. Plus you're trying to concentrate on keeping your work ultra clean. Sort of felt like my work looked like you emptied a trash can onto the plane.

It's a real shame that I probably won't get the full contract. Could have meant a totally different lifestyle for me and my family.  I've been filled with so much anxiety over this thing that I wasn't able to sleep a wink last night. It's been a long time since I've wanted anything more than I was wanting this job. It was my first texture work though so I'm not ready to give up on that career option yet. Or maybe I'll get lucky and the client will see some promise in the work and I'll get the rest of the work.

The plan is to go ahead with learning 3D at the moment.

How I became an art directore and how hilarity ensued

I think it's an interesting story so I figured I'd lay it out here.
I was art director for a roleplaying game company and helped put together a couple of books in case you didn't know.

So I was hired by company X for some quarter-page illustrations. Eventually they asked if I would like to playtest the game for them. I said sure. I playtested the game with some friends and knew the rules really well and gave the company feedback. They asked me to do some paid writing for their game even though I'm no writer and I said sure. I also did some more artwork for them and pointed out to the current AD at the time that one of the other artists had given them stolen artwork.

Then Gencon came and they asked if I'd like to stop by the booth and do a signing of the two books I'd worked on. I said sure. There I found that the current AD didn't like the game at all and seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the game. It would be like handing someone the xbox game Need for Speed and them asking how many hit points they have and why can't they jump out of their car and like totally shoot a machine gun or something. AD had his wife doing demos of the game and he had his wife telling them the rules how he thought the rules should be. I felt sorry for the owner because his product was being totally mishandled but hey I'm not about to go insulting the AD that gives me work so I shrugged my shoulders and ignored the catastrophe.

Owner was disappointed that Gencon sales were terrible. Then he found out that AD and wife were very obese, making it difficult for customers to visit booth and felt that they were socially inept. Owner apparently wasn't getting along great with AD before then and was especially fighting with AD's wife who was designing the website. So he asked if I was interested and to send him a photo of myself if I was. I said sure. I apparently didn't look like a hideous cave troll so I got the job. I managed to raise rates for the artists and created some great books I think. I used some of the previous artists and had to keep some of the established design stuff that the previous AD had done. I continued to hire the previous AD for work but owner asked for a recommendation for a new web person which I did direct him to somebody.

Bitter wife of ex-AD begins posting as false personas on company forum criticizing my art direction and attempting to sabotage the company by posting other ridiculous stuff on the forum. She also began pushing for us to hire the ex-AD more. We started calling her out and she admitted that she was a friend of the ex-AD. The wife under a false identity had said she hated the digital art we were using and would rather we use traditional stuff. I said that we would if there were traditional artists able to deliver the same quality for the same price. She continued to run her mouth so I said something along the lines of , "good news! We'll be cutting out all border art and chapter art which will give us a bigger budget for our quarter-pagers!" The ex-AD was the one doing the border art and chapter art.  The ex-AD e-mailed us saying that he just found out that his wife was doing this stuff on the forums and that she was sorry. Yeah right. Anyways, never imagined there'd be sabotage and subterfuge to deal with when I took over as AD.

Work with the company slowed down and was really inconsistent. Then I started doing the work on the children's book and the company started needing AD work again so I decided to resign.

Presentation

Thought I'd run through the various ways I've presented my portfolio and the pros and cons.

Regular Ol' three ring binder
Pros:Cheap. Custom cover. Adjustable page count.
Cons:Feels cheap.Can get scuffed up.
Anecdote:In college I had some support materials in a drawing presentation that where in a binder where a plastic sleeve was scuffed and something had mysteriously discolored a spot on the back. The guest reviewer (nobody famous) gave me a C based on this alone. Meanwhile a girl who tied yarn onto a nail in the wall got an A for her drawing project. Love it.

Itoya
Pros:Plenty of space.Cheap.Portable.
Cons: When is the client going to have time to hire you? They have to set aside the rest of their lives to look at your portfolio if you fill it up. The pages get scuffed easily. Pages are not interchangeable so a damaged page means buying an entire new one. Glossy pages make for a lot of glare in a convention setting.

Anecdote: A guy I was friends with actually filled up a monster sized Itoya portfolio with robot thumbnails and mid-sized family sedan concepts. He got a job at Massive Black. Sometimes quantity over quality works. No offense if you're reading this (which I doubt) buddy but that was obviously your tactic and it totally worked. He sold himself as a work-a-holic that was overflowing with ideas.

Leather portfolio case with zipper
Pros: Number of pages can be adjusted. Relatively portable. Artwork feels very safe. Flap for business cards. Matches your couch?
Cons: Way too expensive. You'll never use the zipper and handles seem entirely unnecessary unless you've printed your work on lead plates. Once again, the plastic sleeves create a glare in a convention environment. Binder part has a million loops so it would be a huge pain to make your own custom pages. Portfolio will want to close on you.
Anecdote: I fondly remember showing my work for the first time at Gencon and being nervous and bumbling around with that zipper. I was screaming in my head, "oh god why! Why did I zip it closed!? Must unzip before client runs away!"

Univenture thin binder
Pros:Very portable. Lots of sizes. Can insert custom front. Easy to make custom pages where there won't be shiny sleaves creating glare. This bad boy is so thin that you're forced to limit the size of your portfolio which is probably a good thing.
Cons: It's able to be so compact because of the unique binder rings. This uniqueness means that viewers often fumble with how to turn pages. Turning pages means slide then flip with this case. Viewers don't seem to mind but there's very little clearance between rings and spine so you're dealing with potential for accidental wear and tear on a very thin piece of paper. So you need to either get those little plastic rings to put on your paper and strengthen the paper or use heavier stock paper.
Also, you'll have to spend a couple of minutes after ever review resetting the pages as most viewers won't know how to move the pages back and even if they do, you pretty much have to move one page at a time.
Anecdote:I remember showing my work at Gencon and being nervous while art directors bumbled with turning the pages. I was screaming in my head, "oh god why! Why won't the pages just flip normally!? Don't give up AD! Keep trying! You'll get it! There's good artwork on the next page!"


Univenture mega binder!
Pros: You can put 11x17s in this bad boy. Artwork feels very safe. Nice for when multiple people are looking at your work at once.
Cons: It's pretty darn big. You feel like a jerk carrying around this thing on a convention floor. You'll feel tempted to carry it above your head and expose everyone to your armpits. You also can't customize the cover really. It may be a problem with AD's at smaller booths because they won't have a table to sit down at and look over the work. So they have to hold this monstrosity in their hands.

Anecdote: Last year the WotC reviewers talked a bit about how much they liked this portfolio presentation of mine. Said it was nice to see such large, high quality prints.

Book
Pros:Custom cover. Very professional feel. Pages are hinged and lay completely flat. Very portable. Makes a good keepsake. Can have two page spreads that look amazing.
Cons:Expensive. Your paper choices are going to be more limited. Images have less impact because I didn't want to make this ungodly expensive by only printing on one side of each page.You could print so that each image is viewed individually but again this gets into that whole cost issue. It's also impossible to make any last minute adjustments to the content of your portfolio.

Anecdote: Maybe I should make this like a children's book for AD's and put flaps over every image so that they have to be viewed individually. Lift-a-flap portfolio book. Sounds awesome.

PSP,Iphone,etc
Pros: Can carry it all of the time for unexpected portfolio showing. Also doubles as toy.
Cons: You look like a douche. Artwork is too small to make any conclusions about. I'd feel like I was going to break the thing. Also you may find yourself distracted by the toy aspect of these gadgets and missing something of importance.

THE BOX portfolio(some artists have a little box with masonite or styrene mounted illustrations)
Pros: Lots of paper choices and finish choices for prints. Forces you to have a smaller sized portfolio. If you only have a small number of pieces to show you can make those few pieces feel more important this way. It's another way to express who you are by designing your box.
Cons: You've just handed the AD a box with a bunch of objects to juggle. Expectations are going to be through the roof. I'd expect gold inlay and original paintings. Your craft for the presentation has to be especially good since these are handmade.
Anecdote: Every artist I've seen do this had really high quality artwork.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Keeping prints in mind

I often forget until GenCon rolls around but if you want the productions costs of your prints to be  really low you need to plan for the images being 11x17 or 8.5x11. You have a lot more options as far as companies when it comes to looking for those size prints and most of them offer big price breaks for ordering as few as five. It's not too hard to get each of your prints for fifty cents to a dollar. If you really go nuts and order a lot of prints, some places will do offset printing which is supposed to be higher quality. I ordered some prints last year that were offset printed and I honestly couldn't tell the difference.

If you've failed to design for those sizes you'll end up using a company that prints for photographers and prices are much much higher. An 8x10 might cost 1.30 to 2.50 and usually these companies don't give price breaks until 10 prints and even then it's not competitive with the 8.5x11 prices.

There aren't really any cheap options for the larger sizes such as 16x20 but you'll have to go with one of the photo places.

There's another strange thing to consider that had never come up until last year but you might want to ask the company if the prints can be signed. Or ask the company to send you samples and they will and then you can test them. Last year my prints were impossible to sign. All inks just beaded up on the surface. People would ask me to sign their prints and I felt bad because they were left with a pointilism version of my signature.

Thought to post this because I didn't order any prints of my Mage piece because I made it a really strange format. Really silly considering it was a private commission and I could have made them any dimensions.

If you're going to GenCon don't forget to check out my GenCon recap on the blog as it might have some useful information for you.

Right now I'm working on two traditional media pieces and I should be allowed to show them in August. I'm excited and hopeful about them. Thanks to Lynda.com I'll also be learning Zbrush better soon. The website isn't as close to being finished as I thought.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mounting...huh ..huh. .huh

I need your help. I don't do a lot of traditional art so I don't know how to do some stuff.

I've got this painting on illustration board that I'd like to have on my panel at GenCon. It's not very rigid though so I suppose I need to mount it on foam core. What's the best way to do that?
I suppose I could frame it instead but I think it would be a more expensive option and I'm trying to keep things cheap.

Also, it looks like it won't be long before I have the new website up.