Am I too old to become a good concept artist at 26?


Please don’t be annoyed by this thread or my post count, I was embarrassed to post this on my main, also read through a few threads about this topic but I still have a few questions left unanswered.

Mainly concerning the development of a real talented artists mind, and the amount of time they have practiced while growing up. I mean, every concept artist I’ve read about started drawing / painting at a young age. They always knew it was what they wanted to do.

I’ve only recently seen the works of Dylan Cole after watching one of his dvd’s, and I have never been more motivated or inspired, wish I grew up around more creative artistic people. I always had a misguided delusion that I’m not really an artist, or else I would have been drawing amazing things since I was a kid.

The last few years I have been sculpting though, mainly focusing on characters, bypassing 2d concepting and going straight to 3d with zbrush & maya. I can retopologize, rig, animate and of course light/render/composite with a bit of environment modeling.
Even though I have these sculpting & technical skills, I am realizing now that being a concept artist with photoshop is where the real art is.

A main reason why I feel like I need good 2d digital painting & concepting skills is because I’m ultimately working on short films and now that I have characters down, I need to get into background & environment work. I don’t really want to work at a studio or on someone elses project, I really want to start something amazing that many people will see and hopefully open my own studio if I save up enough. Sure turning this into my day job would be great so I can become better at this doing it 24/7, but I’m already making a good income stress free with no deadlines or overtime and I get to be away from the computer and socialize.

I’m just not as hopeful as I can be anywhere near as good as someone like Dylan Cole since I’m only getting into concepting / photoshop so late in my life.

I hear people say it takes 3 years to be good, but can you really become a talented concept artist starting this late at 26?


If Ken Harris could become one of the animator masters by starting his animation career only at the end of his twenties, than surely you can become great at concept art, no matter what age you are. Van Gogh only started painting in his late twenties.

Age is just a number - if your work is top-notch when you are 19 or 29 or 39 or 59, no-one’s going to care when or where you started. Or which education you took. You will find work. It’s the work and passion that counts.


If you want it enough, you will do it. 26 isn’t too late for anything, it’s reasonably young.
Yes, a lot of artists draw from being very young, but without doubt it is far better to do 2 years of really dedicated study and focussed practice than 10 years of doodling.
Get started, seek out critique from people who are more experienced, and really study hard, and you can be near professional level in 2 years. Maybe less. There’s no exact time on it, but it will depend on your perseverence, time dedicated to practice, how focussed your studies are etc…

The only thing that worried me about your post was talking about starting your own studio.
Please, PLEASE don’t do that until you have at least a little professional experience, its a hell of a tough industry to make money in, and for someone who hasn’t got studio knowledge, its a recipe for disaster.

Hope it helps!


Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you when your career should start, or end, or what is too old. Follow your instincts and commit yourself completely to the craft you want to succeed in. Ignore anyone who says you had to be talented when you were a child to succeed today, or tomorrow. Talent can be both inherited and learned. Some people are born with raw talent and choose not to use it. Others are born with no talent and want to be an artist so badly they struggle to learn everything they know and spend a lifetime honing their skills to absolute perfection. Talent is, after all, a description of what we CAN do, learned or otherwise, and not an indication of what we are supposed to have.

BTW, Syd Mead started his career at 26.


Let me correct the question: can you become a concept artist (at all)? It depends on if you have some talent, which means have some passion and a bit of predisposition to enjoying it and developing the designer mindset. Some people are utterly untalented in some areas. No-one can be a good concept designer at the start, it’s the most demanding area of visual development, amongst with creative thinking.
Let’s say you have some talent to it, and feel you can become better and enjoy it. Then just take such an estimation: your age+let’s say 2-4 years to developing the needed skills. Then you can become good at 30. If you think designers sit and draw everyday, it’s not true. So it’s not you can’t catch up. You definitely can.
If you enjoy something, you can become good at it in several years. Should it stop you, whatever age you are? The exception would be some heavy sports at some age, if you want to become professional.


This thread makes me feel old. 26 is really young :confused:


You beat me to the punch.

I have T Shirts older than this kid. Anyway, 20-30-40-50 hell 60 is never too old.
The whole concept is to do something because you love it.

To hell with what society thinks.



I would drink to that any day Sir its what i keep saying despite EVERYBODY around me thinking otherwise.


If you want to be a concept artist you already are. If you want to be as good as the guy you mentioned then you will have to work hard and I am not sure if not doing it as a profession will help.

You mentioned that it is not a necessity to become world class because you have a comfortable stress free source of income. I am wondering if you like the idea of the goal instead of needing to do it. I don’t think age is an issue, only motivation.



26 is definitely over the hill from my point of view. :wip:


Yes, you’re done.

NO. You’re never too old. That sort of thinking is self-defeating.
Anyone with focus can become anything.

That Stan Lee post is sobering, never thought of that.


Are they collectables? Do they still fit you? :hmm:

Seriously though, I think the original poster will possibly learn faster because its what he wants to do. Age is no barrier to determination and love of a subject.


Ridley Scott Directed ALIEN when he was 40.

Danny Glover, Morgan Freeman, Samuel Jackson hit also their acting grooves after 40.
Age for some is just an abstract concept.
Yes your body is not the same, but boy life experience is useful as hell.
Honestly I think it is an self serving excuse for inaction.

Well they do fit my Wife quite well… :slight_smile:


I’m 56 and still haven’t found my groove. I’m thinking it’s going to happen in my 60’s
can hardly wait.


Honestly, this sounds like you are making excuses. Your only other post than this one is asking whether you can make it as a “modeler/animator” which indicates that you have a certain amount of grasping at straws going on here.

Don’t fool yourself. For every Dylan Cole out there doing sumptuous color studies for Star Wars movies, there are hundreds of others designing crates and swords and helmets for all manner of games and movies. I would much more classify “concept art” as a trade and not really an “art.” It’s about bringing life to someone else’s vision, not necessarily creating your own. There are very few people I would call “visionary artists” at the top of the concept art pile, and those are the ones with books of their work and whose work is equated with the business of CA. It is not the norm for the industry to have so much creative freedom.

This is, to put it kindly, a terrible idea.

Then you are in an ideal situation to learn. Every person I know who wanted to switch career tracks who was in a similar position went home from their day job and worked 6 or 8 hours every night at the job they wanted to do. That’s what it takes.

In all honestly, it’s likely you will not be as good. But you can be close, if you are dedicated enough. Even with all the people telling you that age doesn’t matter, the truth is that he probably already has 20 or more years experience over you. That’s a lot of catching up to do.

3 years is an arbitrary number. All serious artists are learning and improving all the time. There may be some point at which you could call yourself “employable,” but there’s no finish line here. Can it be done? Yes. Will it be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and test every ounce of commitment you can throw at something? Yes.


If you already have a good source of income doing a stress-free job that you enjoy, then you are already ahead of most people on this planet. If your goal is to open up your own studio, you’re going to be living a very different life. You will be stressed out all the time, and you will be dealing with a lot of business end of things that have nothing to do with creativity (unless you can afford to hire/partner with someone to do all that–basically run your company for you while you just handle the creative aspects). And you’ll likely find that your work life will completely dominate your personal life, because running a company is so much work.

Now, about your desire to become a good concept artist.

What is your motivation? Do you actually love the process of drawing/painting/designing? Don’t think about anything else (what you’ll be using the concept art for)–just focus on the actual process of brainstorming and researching design ideas for environments, characters, vehicles, weapons, gadgets, creatures, etc, and then sketch iteration after iteration of different variants to explore possibilities, then draw/paint it to the level that is considered top-quality work, which will take many hours of hardcore drawing/painting. Do you have any experience going through that entire process? How much of it have you done so far? And did you really LOVE the process, or did it feel like a chore?

See, you have to separate your desire to do something from whether or not you actually love doing it. There are way too many people in this world whose desires are writing checks their personality can’t cash. I have taught hundred of students, and many of them wanted to be concept artists, but when it comes to actually putting their noses to the grindstone and actually putting in the hard work, many of them discover that they had the desire, but lack the personality for it (meaning they lack the discipline, patience, tenacity, endurance for hardship, and the ability to enjoy being challenged and fighting hard to become better). This is the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

When you really love the process itself, it doesn’t even feel like hard work, because you just lose yourself in the endeavor and that full immersion makes it easy to endure the many hours, days, weeks, months, and years of pushing yourself to the limits of your ability. But if you find the process too grueling and it feels more like torture and a chore, then you are desiring something that your personality isn’t suited for.

Whether you make a living with your art isn’t a real indication of how good you can be, but generally speaking, professional are so good because they need to be that good in order to compete and make a living, so there’s extra incentive on top of them being passionate and loving what they do. So unless you make your artistic development into something that is just as all-consuming and demanding of your time and energy and dedication, it’ll be very difficult to reach the same level as the professionals.

Assuming you have the right personality, love the process, and you have the passion, discipline, tenacity, intelligence, curiosity, imagination, and endurance, then yes, you will be able to become a good concept artist if you work very hard at it the way full-time concept art students do while attending a demanding art school like The Art Center in Pasadena. There are enough learning resources out there these days that you can design a full curriculum for self-learning and achieve your goal.

One thing to keep in mind, is that when it comes to excelling in any creative endeavor, it often requires you give all you’ve got (or close to it). It’s not as if you only give 50% of your passion and dedication, you’ll see a 50% yield. It’s more like there’s a threshold you have to meet (let’s say maybe 85% minimum), and if you don’t meet that threshold, then all of your efforts will end up resulting in not much of anything, because you haven’t built up enough momentum to see clear results of your hard-work, and without that momentum, you will lose interest, and then give up. And you have to keep the momentum going, because you could be one year into your artistic development and then lose your momentum and it all just ends right there. Once you lose it, it’s very hard to get it back. Many people lose their momentum when they’re young, and only with age and mounting regret manage to find the motivation to try again many years later.

And to echo what other said–26 is still very young. There are many of us who would trade something very valuable–like a body part, to be 26 again (but still retaining the experience/wisdom we’ve built up at our current age).


Wow you guys are so inspiring, encouraging and beautiful. I’m sorry for making some of you feel old, but your visual life experiences and imagination must be vastly greater than someone my age giving you incredible power & potential. It’s very motivating to hear well known people who got started later in life.

About opening my own studio- I think many of us dream of it someday, it’s only something I hope to do on a smaller scale if the short movies I make do well on youtube and partnership turns lucrative. A good example is where freddiew is now. It’s my dream to be half as successful as him. I think I have a bigger skillset not only on the vfx/AE/film/particlesim side but with modeling animating and hopefully environment matte painting / concepting soon.

I’ve collected tons of material & dvd’s on photoshop / matte painting / concepting / perspective drawing from gnomon, DT, cmivfx, and many popular other tutorials.

I know I probably come off as pretty ambitious tackling too many disciplines, but I’m not trying to make long complicated movies, only 1-2 minutes like freddiew, but with more cg and less live action. Since I can’t afford to pay any artists because anyone of quality would cost more than I make at my job, I have to do everything myself, at least at the start (if you build it they will come). Also I think I have the patience, potential & dedication for this transition coming from using maya & zbrush for years.

It seems that the number one quality of any successful entrepreneur starting his own project is not only to have all the skills and drive to do it, but the free time. Our society isn’t really designed for people to work their day job, and then treat their personal project as a second job, because thats incredibly draining. Yes it would be amazing to work on huge movies and be part of a wonderful studio, but nothing probably beats having total control and heading your own vision.

A final response about not wanting to do this as my day job. If eventually what I’m making contributes to a good portfolio it could be ideal, since instead of selling insurance / realestate I would be working on my craft and getting better every day as an artist, but I think youtube is a huge market and it would be a dream to turn that into a living instead (just have to sleep alot less).

I can’t thank you all enough for the posts & encouragement here, what an amazing community. :buttrock:


don’t listen to any of these people.
26 is too old.
you need to find a nice rocking chair.