Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tips For Students Starting Out in Visual Development / Concept Art

When I left  Mumbai to come to the States I gave up on something I loved to do. Teaching. Couldn't wait to get back to it. I finally got the opportunity to do so when I started to Tutor at the Academy of Art University.

Last week was my final tutoring session. I am really bummed about it. But, I had a great 2 semesters and hopefully a teaching opportunity will come up soon.

Most students who came to me were either just starting off or were nearing their mid point. These are somethings I found in common and would like to share it with everybody

As a visual development artist it is our job to explore. To come up with as many variations as possible to get to the final design. Explore, Draw and keep drawing till you come up with something just Perfect!

Character Evolution


Listen to the suggestions, tips, ideas that your Directors, Teachers and Peers give you. Actually listen! Give it a thought, analyze it and then make a decision of whether or not to follow them. But, don't just disregard the suggestions because it means more work. Our Teachers and Directors are there to help. They mean well, I promise you.


This one is a biggie. Using reference is not cheating! Not using reference does not make you a better artist. The important thing to learn is HOW TO USE REFERENCE and where to gather references from. Google is a great place to start with, but don't stop there. And also don't believe everything Google says. There are a lot reasons why a certain image comes up as a result of the keywords you use. See if it actually works for your specific concept.

The best and the easiest way to get reference both correct and appropriate for your project is to take pictures yourself. Don't know how hands look in a specific pose? Pose yourself and take a picture. Go outside and take pictures for reference. Build your own library.

I took some references of my own for my thesis project. They are not great pictures (photography wise) but they serve the purpose. Remember nobody needs to see them, it's for you!


Don't refrain from learning how to paint traditionally. Yes, in the industry most of the work is done digitally. But, learning how to paint traditionally changes how you use and mix colors. It forces you to try and understand value and color without resorting to layer settings like overlay and multiply. It also forces you to make decisions and teaches you how to rectify your mistake. No ctrl + Z to the rescue! It improves your observations skills. It forces you to think of perspective. It teaches you how to compose a picture within the dimensions of your canvas. Traditional medium changed me as an Artist. And I highly recommend it to all students. Don't refrain from learning the traditional medium.

Before I painted traditionally                 After a few traditional painting classes


Go outside and sketch. Sketch stories, people, trees, objects, buildings... ANYTHING. But sketch. Draw from life. It will definitely help you improve your observation. When you draw from life your entire being is focused on what you see, how you see it and how that translates to the paper. It might also help you evolve your own style. It definitely is challenging but it is the best way to develop your skills.


I know this sounds fairly basic but follow directions. If you are asked to keep a certain amount of border and use a specific paper, DO IT! There is a reason why we are given specific guidelines. Follow them! I cannot exaggerate enough on how important this is. When you start to work for a studio you are going to be given specific directions and you will have to follow them. Get into the habit early on. I have seen enough people get fired because they could not follow simple directions. It just wastes everybody's time.


Your beautifully rendered image is no good if it's not telling a story or your perspective is off or you did not compose it well. Get your basics right! Go through the process of thumbnails, value and color study before you jump to paint the final picture. You can render the crap out of something once you have figured everything out.


If you don't understand something in class, ASK! Don't worry about sounding stupid. The teachers have been doing this long enough and they have heard it all. The question you have has most probably been asked before. And if nothing else be assured I have asked all the questions! And that is how I improved. Don't be afraid to ask a question or let your teacher know that you are feeling left behind.


We all come from different cultural backgrounds and it's great to have your cultural influence in the story you choose for your thesis but don't pick a story that only a certain cultural group would understand or relate to. You have to know your audience. And when you are pitching a story at your Mid-Point, remember you are pitching your story to a wider demographic. Choose a simple story and place it in any part of the world you like.

And finally... THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSTITUTE FOR HARD WORK! You will have to put in the time and the effort to improve and be a better artist. Sorry, there is just No way around it! 

I hope this post was useful. I would love to know what you all think.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment