Let's have an open and honest chat about the level your art needs to be to get your first job as a 3D artist in the video game industry.
First thing to know, you need to be able to do the job. Studios are not schools, you need to already have a good understanding of...
...clean modelling techniques, optimal UV layouts, texel density, LODs, material IDs, accurate materials.
I say this because there are an alarming amount of graduates that don't understand why they aren't getting a job straight out of uni, and the simple answer is...
...you aren't ready yet. That doesn't mean you won't be, it just means you have to push more. You should by graduation already have the base understanding of the technical skills required, now you need to push your artistic eye for composition, materials, lighting & presentation.
The students who get hired right away, or get internships. What did they do that you didn't? Usually they have sought out professionals to give them critique regularly, they've taken tutorials made by professional artists like @SF_simonfox who I can highly recommend.
I was asked to critique a portfolio recently from a student who had taken one of his tutorials and the quality of his work before and after was night and day, and he was only just starting his second year of uni.
If you really want to do this as your career, a course...
...isn't going to do the work for you. You have to find the information from the right people and put in the time to get to an employable level. It's competitive and you're going to have to practice, make mistakes, and learn. You will have to deal with being told you...
...have done something incorrectly and understand why it's not correct and either fix it or do it better on the next one.
What I look for in a graduate is someone with a good eye but also someone who's eager to learn and continue improving.
I've seen juniors with maybe not the best technical skills, but I can teach and help improve that area. What is much more difficult to teach is an artistic eye. I've recommended artists for positions based off of one or two very well made props that were presented beautifully.
How do you develop that? Honestly; research, reference, practice and critique. Find paintings and photography that are praised for their compositions and lighting, learn why they are. Use reference for EVERYTHING. Material, lighting, damage, wear and tear, silhouette...
...composition reference, for every project you work on. When I had to make a leather chair I went and found a leather chair, I shone different lights across the surface, looked at it in natural and artificial light to see how the material looked. Take a LOT of photos.
Be that crazy person who stops to photograph a piece of random wood on the side of the path because the texture is great reference for rotten wood and you can store it for later. Generic stuff like that is a goldmine of visual information that you can use to train your eye.
Never trust your brain that you THINK you know what something looks like, go and look at it. If you can't find anything on the internet then go outside and find something similar. This is how you can train your eyes, and judge when you've done something correctly.
I've had artists smirk at me when they see me do something by eye, but more often than not I can trust myself because I've either done it 100 times before and I know it's right, or I can make an educated guess and be pretty close to the mark.
After all that, and you get your first job and you're feeling great. Now you have to do all that again, because now you need to make art for the PROJECT, not your portfolio. You have to understand what art looks like for the game, not what YOU want, but what the game requires.
That is what is going to set you apart from being a graduate artist to being an experienced production artist. The ability to see the game's art direction and adapt your own work to fit that style. I've seen artists moan and complain because they can't add all the details they...
...want to because of technical budgets they aren't used to. They want every asset to be "the best one of these ever made". That's not how ANY of this works guys. Leave that mindset at the door with your portfolio, now it's all about the game you are working on.
This career is a lot of fun don't get me wrong. You'll meet a vast amount of talented and awesome people you can call your team mates. There will be good days where you feel like a pro, and days where you wonder why they employed you, or if anyone will again.
It's tough to get in to there's no doubt, you have to work so hard to get your foot in the door. But it can be incredibly rewarding to those who love this chaotic impossible thing we do of trying to put a million odd shaped jigsaw pieces together, sometimes with a hammer.
This has been my TED talk at 2am because I can't sleep. Have a good night everyone, and happy thanksgiving to all the Americans, enjoy your food comas. #gamedev #gameart #ineedtosleep
I know that this is all sounds very daunting, and scary to people who want to get in to this. But you can do it. I won't lie, it's hard work, emotionally draining and exhausting to get to that employable point. Education hasn't caught up yet either in general.
A student these days has to go above and beyond their course to get the right information to be good enough when they graduate. Those are the ones that get employed pretty quickly. I don't blame students who trust in their course/degree to teach them all they need to know.
The universities advertise to you that you will be "industry ready" on graduation. Some of them will be, most won't. I'd say that on average out of all the graduate portfolio's I've reviewed, maybe 15% are employable right away just based on their work.
But that's the thing, your portfolio is our introduction to you as an artist. If you don't nail it you won't even get to the first interview. I think great artists are overlooked because of that, because of a few presentation/lighting issues in their work.
That's why your portfolio of work is so so important, every aspect of it speaks about you as an artist. What you value, what you enjoy, it's all visible in your work. We can tell straight away the pieces you enjoyed working on the most.
Your presentation shows me how much you care about your work, and therefor how much you could care about a game we asked you to work on. Show us in your work how much pride you have for your work, put just as much effort it to showing it off as you did in to making it.
Show me HOW you made it. Wireframes, texture breakdowns, UV layouts, beauty renders, in-engine shots. Don't be lazy with this stuff, not only do we want to see it, we need to so we can see where you're at technically.
For anyone looking for a nice little discord channel to have their artwork critiqued, I have a chill discord server you're welcome to join - discord.gg/BaCANejQ
Thank you to everyone who has retweeted and spread this around. Twitter is essentially shouting into a vast void and hoping someone hears you. it's nice to see positive discussions around this topic. The industry has a long way to go, but with good people it will improve.

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More from @JLHGameArt

25 Nov
Once you start working in studios and you're building up your experience you'll start getting approached by other studios and recruiters. Some people feel a sense of guilt at entertaining leaving a studio to progress your career. You should IMO always do what's right for you.
You don't owe any particular company some sense of loyalty, even if they gave you your first job. The biggest career leaps you will take in this industry is when you move from one company to another, usually in both pay band and title. The company isn't going to suffer...
...they will replace you and continue on as normal. Don't be afraid to move to a project/country/company you would prefer if it makes you happy. We work too hard to be unhappy with our place of work. There are however people out there that will gaslight you...
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