Advice desired on becoming 2D Artist/Concept Artist


Hi, my name’s Mynta. This may be long, I warn you. :slight_smile:

So, after a year and a half of a Pre-Animation and Illustration course, and a year and a half of Game Development, I’m finally starting to get the idea of what I need to do to make the art for games - the dream that made me take those courses in the first place. But because of all the stops and starts, and because I’m 21 and want to get married to my fiancé within the next couple years once he’s finished his Animation degree, I don’t want my education and preparation to take four years of a Fine Arts degree and multiple tens of thousands of dollars to complete before I can get a job somewhere.

So, this thread is basically me telling you guys my plan and asking, please, will this work? Or I end up, as one person put it, “lifescrewed” because I forgot something or have the wrong major? Am I not giving myself enough time to learn? All those paranoid things. I really appreciate any advice; I just want to have a solid plan that will get me in the door.

The process to get there is vague to me, but I want to ultimately be a concept artist (like so incredibly many). To that end, I believe that I need to focus on generic fine art/digital painting skills, as well as modelling, because as I understand it hardly anyone gets to just draw. If I could realistically do only the 2D stuff, let me know. I may still be a modeller, but I’m curious.

The Plan, draft one:

Algonquin College, right near where I’m living from home, will be offering a 2 year Professional Illustration course in September. Information isn’t up yet on the website because it’s new, and so there may be kinks in the program. But, as I’ve heard people say, it doesn’t matter where you go to learn, just that you give it your best and learn as much as you can when you’re there. And it would be much easier to learn from home while I have the opportunity.

Between then and now, I want to work on generic art skills and get them high as I can before taking courses, while I can be at home and have the time to pour into it. So you can get an idea of the skill level I have now and whether I’m giving myself enough time to learn, here’s the link to my blog from Pre-Animation. I had to post assignments there for the teacher to mark. It’s from a couple years ago and I haven’t drawn much in between, so I’m a bit better, but about the same.

This next part is the daily schedule I want to set for myself for all those months I will have between now and school starting. I want to make sure I cover the subjects I will need to know adequately. Part of the point of this for me is to build the habit of working consistently, because when I was in Pre-Animation I’d get burned out and not want to draw. Giving myself flexibility to draw what I want, but still having a schedule I’m hoping will help me to build steady habits, as opposed to procrastinating, rushing at the end, and burning myself out in cycles.

I figure can stop for the day when I reach 8 hrs, or keep going, and I’m most likely to keep going if I save my random fun project for last. Knowing me, it’s hard to pull away once I start on something I’m interested in. :slight_smile:

Daily Plan (8 hours min a day):
-1 hr sketching human anatomy and doing gestures
-1 hr drawing animals (I have lots of reference books I want to use)
-1 hr drawing environments, architecture or props

  • Draw one short portrait (to practice faces)
    -Read one chapter from art instruction books, such as those by Andrew Loomis, or Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Do exercises if there are any.
  • Do CG Society daily sketch and post it
  • 1 hr doing tutorials/working in Photoshop, Maya, Max, or Zbrush
  • Do one excercise from the Concept Art 101 thread on, or the similar tutorial thread on game art (These can be repeated when I get to the end).
  • Draw something I want to draw for the rest of the day. This can be painting, modelling, sketching, anything. Just something for fun.

For each of the things I do during the day, I’ll try to make sure I incorporate principles on negative space, lighting, composition, etc. wherever I can so that that is being explored as well. I’ll also try make my pictures tell stories and experiment with drawing styles. I would do my sketches and exercises with a tablet in Photoshop as well as on paper.

Other Parts of the Plan:

  • In the summer a former teacher has Sketch Nights, where everybody gets together for fun, and I can use that to get critiques on my art, as well as here and on I’ll try and find people I can show my stuff too, and hopefully even one person I can go to over and over who can see my progress and who really does know what I will need to be able to do to get in.
  • There is currently a one year Professional Illustration course for those who have already graduated from Animation or some such artsy program, and it includes a course on game art I[/I]. It’s taught by a guy who’s done most sides of the art for a game company in Ottawa, and I know texturing is part of that course. I believe it’s a fair guess that it would be part of the new 2 year course also.
  • I’m not spending a lot of time modelling because as I understand it you can learn the programs well enough on your own. Perhaps once I’m in Illustration I could spend my spare time on the more specifically game-related parts.

Okay, I believe that’s all. So…

General thoughts or advice? Too much time on something, not enough given to something else? Skill I will have to develop and am not including? I don’t want to spread myself too thin and not learn all the basic skills enough, but I also don’t want to not know enough to be useful.

Anyways. I’ll stop rambling now and sit back to listen. :slight_smile: Again, thank you for everything.


*I was all set to post this in your general topic thread, but it was closed as I was typing it. hope this helps

Wow, sounds like you have a well thought out plan, if nothing else :smiley:

I can’t speak directly to the part of wanting to be a concept artist so my response is more vague and for overall dedication to this.

I may have missed it in your post, but do you have a day job? one to pay the bills and what have you. If you plan on devoting so much time to this I would try to have some income coming in so you don’t have to be the starving artist.

Your daily plan looks like something that would work every other day or a few times a week, but if you mentioned you got burned out before I think doing that is both going to be very hard on the system and hard to maintain it every day. All the things you talk about are good but you are not leaving yourself much of a life outside of this (assuming we are talking 8 hours of sleep and at least a part time job) you just don’t want to kill yourself and doing that every day might lead to a melt down. I know it would for me, but that’s not to say you couldn’t handle it.

I noticed when I was freelancing out of my house it was easy to get distracted or off task.

as far as drawing animals if you have a zoo nearby I always preferred to draw animals in real life rather than use books. same for people. go to a local mall or place of gathering where you have a lot of people and start sketching. open areas where people move around a lot can help you train in on getting down the gestures fast because often you only have 10-30 seconds of the model as they walk by. Coffee shops, book stores, food courts are good for longer studies of people.

I like that you are trying to spread yourself into multiple art areas. you might also want to study on story boarding and film making. At most of the places I have worked the person who draws the characters and what not also wears the hat of storyboard artist. Its a good skill to work on as long as you are working on the illustrations as well.

That’s all I can think about for now. It sounds like you have a plan. I don’t think if it was me I would be able to stick to that plan for very long but good luck to you if you can :smiley:


Hi, thanks for getting back. :slight_smile:

No, I don’t have a job right now, because I only just decided to quit my Game Dev program when this last semester finished (far too programming heavy, and I wasn’t learning the things I need), so I’ve only been off a few days. Come January I was going to look for a part-time job somewhere. My parents are supporting me while I’m at school though, so I don’t have to worry about starving. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure I would burn out, though - what happened way before was that I would only do as much work as I needed to for the assignment, and I would procrastinate right until the end, rush in a panic to get it done, and hate art for the next week. That’s why I wanted to work steady and let myself off working after an 8 hour day, so that I’m learning discipline and accomplishing things, but I have freedom to draw what I want within the guidelines and I can stop when my mandatory 8 hrs are up.

Right now at least I don’t feel like I would burn out - I really want to learn. Now that I’m trying to do it myself instead of waiting for classes to teach me everything I need, I feel like I have a thousand different principles and tutorials I want to go through and learn. When I get curious about something, I’ll research for hours, never getting tired of it even if I’ve been absorbing information for the last 14 hours. So I think for me, the key to avoiding meltdown is (at this stage at least) letting myself follow my curiosity and drawing the things that I want to draw (as opposed to 12 hours of fruit baskets :P), while steering myself in the right directions.

Although I agree with you, I’ll have to watch that I don’t run out of energy in the first 3 weeks, that I let it myself be more steady.

Thank you for all the tips. :slight_smile: I’ll take a look at storyboarding.


I’m in an art school right now, I’m personally going for animation, but I have a lot of concept art major friends and I’m very much into visual development also. So here’s my advice:

They say you can learn to draw anywhere, and that is true. However those people who learn to draw on their own or at a standard college are the exception, not the rule. I went to a state school, took a bunch of art classes, got all As, thought I was doing awesome. When I went to art school, however, they really knocked me down a few pegs. The teachers were much better artists and teachers, and the competition also raised my standard. I was getting A+s in state school, but struggling for B’s in art school. If no one had pointed out reflected light to me I would have never seen it. Because of the higher standard and the emphasis on the art, I grew much much more and much much faster than I ever would have elsewhere. Its very difficult to teach yourself and if your school’s not giving you the intense education you desperately need to survive in this field, its not worth it. I personally feel as though my art classes at my state school were a waste of money and time.

Concept art is an extremely competitive field (and storyboarding is exactly the same). Many companies get a couple concept artists and keep the same ones until they retire. There are some companies like Massive Black, but those are also harder than hell to get into. Also consider that when you go out into the business, there are no entry level jobs in this field. You’re competing with the guy who’s already been working for 20 years, so you have to be that good if not better when you get out, or find something else to do. Basically, if you’re not going into this heads on with the will to really strive, work your ass off, and draw instead of sleep, its not for you. I know students who live like that and are still concerned about job opportunities.

My last advice is that, while it’s important to practice and draw, 8 hours a day after classes and work is A LOT, I would be burnt out (but I have a friend who manages to draw that much). I just want to mention that while it’s important to draw, it’s more important to draw properly. Repeating the same thing and keep drawing the same mistakes will not help you get better. Drawing from life is more important than the stuff that comes out of your head. If you can’t draw from life, you can’t draw what comes out of your head. You don’t know anatomy or classical painting, it shows more than you might think. Sit in a park and draw people, don’t just draw at home. If there are workshops at your school, go to all of them. Take every opportunity that arises.

Finally, make sure you always get your work critiqued, a thread is a wonderful start, but always make sure you get a critique by a professional artist as often as possible. That’s what you’re teachers and directors are there for. Too many people on the internet make suggestions that turn your art to shit rather than gold.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck!


I’ve always found that “truism” to be the most misleading piece of information that just won’t seem to die.

What you end up with is possibly a lot of wasted money, squandered time and effort for little progress. This is compared to if one had learned from quality instructors who are very skilled. If you have the skill and drive to learn and master your art, you will progress so much faster and learn so much more in the same amount of time than if you dither around on your own or at a subpar school.

Think of it like a ravenous beast in a situation of a huge buffet where it can stuff itself silly, or in the desert scavenging for whatever it can find. Sure it may be easier to scavenge these days with the internet, but one of the beasts will grow more quickly. Don’t short-change yourself, life happens much faster than we all plan.

Also I think 8 hours a day every day may quickly lead to burn out. And an hour in each area is spreading yourself too thin. Possibly tackle 2 or 3 things a day, maybe mix up the days a little. An hour is really not enough to get into something like figure or animal drawing. Set aside 3-4 blocks to tackle that, mixing in studying instructional videos/books with time to practice.

And don’t sit at home, get out and draw and paint things from lie - people, animals, objects, environments, that will teach you bucketloads more than sitting at home doing some online forum exercises.


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