Advice and Direction



I don’t have a polished portfolio, but my art is here , so if you have some time to kill, please take a peek and read the following novella about my many issues.

Note, if I get a critique informing me that all of my stuff’s crap, that would be fantastic as long as said critic pointed me in the right direction. I’m not looking for an ego massage. Also note, I am not currently perusing an art career. That may be nice sometime in the future, but at the moment improvement is a self-worth sorta thing. My goal with my art is to tell a story that is engaging and interesting.

My tale: I went to college to be an art teacher. Said college devalued referential art, half-assed teaching technique in order to prioritize conceptual bs, preferred total abstraction, and discouraged anything they considered illustrative. I unlearned anatomy in college and developed extreme anxiety regarding my art. To add insult to injury, student loans prevent me from seeking continuing education.

To top that all off, I have ADD, which has gifted me with incredible hyper-focus and the ability to become utterly enveloped in my imagination. It is also hindering my development. Though I am now medicated, I find it skin-crawlingly difficult to work through aspects of drawings that I am not 100% into. Backgrounds, for example. All I want to draw is my characters, preferably just their face. That’s where their personality is. This mentality has led to years, and I mean over a decade of me primarily drawing nothing but head floating in space in the center of a picture plane. When I try to break from that trend, I run face first into the drawing fundamentals I have ignored, and I can only force myself to step back and work on the basics for so long before frustration and an impulsive need to return to my characters kicks in.

Winding down to the end, dear sweet reader. I torture you, then ask you for favors.

You see, due to my unfortunate college experience, I have never had my art critiqued by fellow illustrative artists. I don’t know what my strengths are, and I may be over thinking or oblivious of my weaknesses; I am in a terrifying state of not knowing where I stand and therefore where to go. So, you lovely dear human being, if you have time, please look at my art and answer any of the following questions as specifically as you are able:

  1. What is your first impression of my stuff, skill-wise and stylistically?
  2. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Do I commit any reoccurring errors?
  4. What should I focus on to propel my self education?
  5. Do you have any general advice?
  6. Do you draw hot dudes and if so, can you send me a link?


First of all I think that the thread title might actually scare some people away from commenting since it seems like the things people will say will have an impact on your future, so no one wants that responsibility :D.

Anyways, I have just two things to say.

First is, you need to decide on which path you want to follow. Currently it seems like you are trying to illustrate, concept design, develop comics (although one might argue it beeing part of illustrations). If this is just a hobby then just ignore this point and do whatever you like, but if you intend to earn money from this, then i would really suggest to choose which route you want to take and tailor your art accordingly, because you won’t get an illustrator job without any illustrations in your portfolio.

Second one, this is the advice on what to do next. You need to brush up your basics. The perspective and light and shadows. By saying perspective i don’t mean learn to draw cubes, but rather to learn to draw things in different positions.Be it a cube, human, plant, alien, car etc etc. So far it seems like your pictures are drawn based on “feeling or silouete” rather than constructed. This knowledge will also help in making backgrounds since not a lot of your picture contains them and in the ones that do they are rather “non detailed, empty”. As for value, it’s tricky since your portfolio (as you said) is very diverse in the time the pictures were added, but I think you could still push some of the pictures more value wise even considering they flat vectorish coloring style.

No offense was intended and good luck with your work.


Oh no, don’t worry about offending me at all. I would be joyous if someone told me all my stuff is crap as long as they pointed me in the correct direction. I am not actively seeking employment as an artist. It is more of a personal development thing, though it would be nice to create something I could make a living off of some day.

Forgive my ignorance, but how do I better distinguish between an illustration, concept art, and a comic portfolio? For example, John Howe’s illustrations for Tolkien books were used as concept art for the movies, and if you threw sequential story telling into the mix, the same images could be panels in a glorious comic. All three types strive to tell a story, in albeit different ways, but besides panels, text, and diagrams, I don’t know how to better distinguish each category.


First, I’ll tell you what I like about your work.

You have a strong sense of style. Your stuff is distinct and you know what you’re going for, unlike many aspiring artists out there who have no artistic identity or a solid sense of aesthetics.

You are certainly far along enough as an artist to have gotten over most of the beginner stuff, and you’re intermediate or advanced in some areas, but because you have an aversion to doing anything else other than characters, you might have severe shortcomings that we can’t see.

Now, let’s address the other stuff.

Eduardas is right about knowing what you actually want to pursue in your future art career. This is important because competition is cutthroat in this day and age–there are far more accomplished artists than there are jobs out there. If you’ve browsed through any online art community galleries, you already know this. When your competitions are applying for studio jobs, sending portfolios out to editors/publishers/art directors, they have a sharp focus the address the needs of the job requirement. If you aren’t doing the same, you don’t stand a chance.

What you said about the intermingle of illustration, concept art, comic, etc. is not from the perspective of the art director who’s actually doing the hiring for art jobs. Art directors look at hundreds of portfolios and they spend about a few seconds on most portfolios. They can tell immediately if the person’s any good and then move on to the next portfolio in the stack (or sitting in the email inbox along with hundreds of other submissions). They will only slow down and really look if your work impresses them in those first few seconds. I used to be a studio art director for games and animation, so I’m telling you this from experience. Your portfolio has to show that you know how to follow basic instructions given by the studio’s job postings, which always tells you exactly what kind of work should be included in your portfolio when you apply. If your work is a mishmash of images that can’t be identified/categorized according to those requirements, you’re going to have a hard time getting noticed.

To differentiate between the formats, you have to put yourself into the shoes of the art director, producer, director, editor, publisher, etc. If you were to publish a novel, what would you want to see on the book cover? If you were an art director looking for concept artists, what would you want to see that directly demonstrates the person’s ability as a designer (keep in mind, concept artists are designer first, artists second). If you are a comic book publisher, what would you want to see in a portfolio submission?

Obviously, in all those cases, you’d want the artist to show exactly what each job requires of them. An aspiring comic book artist better show actual pages with panels that show his sequential storytelling ability as well as overall competence and style as an artist. Concept artists better show his ability to brainstorm and come up with design ideas, formulate interesting variations, narrow down to the best ones, and then finalize the best design and present it in a way that all his collaborators in the studio can understand it easily and replicate the design as 3D assets. Books publishers would want the artist to have the ability to depict that one still image that really encompasses the emotional and intellectual core of the story, choosing a moment from the story that represents the whole very well, or do a character portrait that really conveys the personality and essence of that character. Those three requirements are separate and each have its own idiosyncratic needs—you cannot simply lump them all together.

Now, if you want to create a portfolio that showcases your ability to do all of them, then go ahead, but again, do you really know if you want to do all of them, and is it even possible? Or should you focus on one goal and dedicate all of your energy to that one goal first, and then after you’ve achieved it, branch out and tackle other goals.

There’s also the issue of becoming a worker-for-hire artist or focusing on your own intellectual property and becoming a creator instead. Being a worker-for-hire is the easier route, because there are a lot more opportunities when you work for others with the funding for projects–sometimes HUGE funding in the millions, such as movies, animation, video games. They can afford to hire dozens to hundreds of artists, so it’s simple math that it’s the easier route. If you want to do your own thing, then you have to work your ass off to build an audience so that you can actually make a decent living with a large enough fanbase. But you still have to know exactly what kind of product you are trying to sell to your fanbase. And no, crowd-funding like Patreon is unlikely going to do it. There are well-known artists doing it that can’t even make enough money to feed themselves, let alone someone who no one knows and isn’t nearly as good. So instead, you have to have a distinct product–a web comic, an animated series, an indie game–something that has a commercial format that consumers can get behind and support.

And now we circle back to the problem of you having an aversion to drawing anything other than faces. You don’t need us to tell you that your chances of making it as an artist if you only drew faces is extremely slim. If you want to tell stories, you have to draw anything and everything that the story requires of you. If you want to be a character concept artist, you have to be an expert at the entire figure, and master all types of clothing, armor, accessories, etc.

The reality is this: If you want to just enjoy drawing faces, then just be a hobbyist, because so much of what professional art requires of you is beyond your comfort zone, and unless you are willing to go beyond your comfort zone, you will not stand a chance against the vast sea of talented competitors out there who are hungry for art jobs. But think about this too: Even if you force yourself to draw everything else, if it’s just a chore and you hate it, then why would you choose a life of torture like that? Why not just enjoy drawing faces as a hobbyist?

I kind of went through something similar, where after having a career as a comic book creator/writer/artist, working in video games, animation, illustration, etc., I came to the realization that the emotional/intellectual core and motivation behind most of the visual art I do are the stories themselves, and the art is really just there to help tell the story. Once I realized I enjoyed the actual writing/storytelling much more than art (which can feel like a chore in comparison), I decided to just focus on writing novels.


Thank you for clarifying those points, Lunatique, and for you entire reply. I have considered in the past pulling back and just writing, but that doesn’t feel satisfying for me. I really believe, especially with some helpful critiques under my belt, that more than anything that I need an attitude change, which will allow me to practice and improve.


How about you try this: Force yourself to do a series of images that actually match the criteria of the kind of jobs you aspire to have as an artist, regardless if you feel uncomfortable about having to do things that you don’t enjoy as much as drawing faces. Do several of them (5~7) to the best of your ability, and try to imagine yourself as someone who’s actually hiring artists for publishing, comics, animation, video games, etc., and what you’d actually want to see in the portfolio of the ideal candidate.

While working on this goal, how you feel about the entire process will tell you a lot about whether your personality and interests even matches the requirements of the kind of art jobs you’d like to have. It’s entirely possible that some people covet things they aren’t compatible with their personalities, and there are in fact other things in life that suits them more.

You might want to read this too–this was the post that became the foundation of the workshop I teach, and will force you to ask yourself some hard questions as well as alter your mentality regarding your artistic development: