The most common question I am asked;

How do I get work as a designer in the film industry?

Check out as many websites of concept artists as possible, and 'art of...' books and so on.
Get your own website going and start posting images because it will give you an objective view of where you work is at.
Learn how to use photoshop and painter.
If you want to specialise in character design you might consider learning to use a 3D package such as zBrush or Mudbox- particularly if you are doing creatures. But learn to draw first!
Decide if you want to be a concept artist or traditional film designer.
If you want to become a film designer then get a portfolio together and try to get onto a film design course that will get you working with other students who want to make a career in film. Many of the colleges will have connections in the industry that will offer work experience and internships and so on.
Remember that concept art is a non-hierarchical profession whereas traditional film design is very hierarchical -- in other words; you can start making tea in a film art department and work your way up from draughting door knobs through designing sets to art directing sets to supervising art directors and eventually be a production designer who takes charge of the look of the movie. Concept artists get work by having a good portfolio- nothing else matters. And being a concept artist means you will almost certainly not become a production designer. Why? because we don't spend time down on the sound-stages making sure the sets are built correctly - we don't manage crew.

More on the same subject;

Your portfolio is all that counts; This means having a website which becomes your shop window. Make sure the website is fast because nobody has the time to wait for images to download. Post your best work; don't pad it with old stuff and life drawings and doodles unless you really believe they represent what you do. It doesn't take many images to get an understanding of someones abilities. One duff drawing can knock the shine off the more accomplished art so be ruthless; strip out the mediocre and post your best even if it means you post 6 pictures.

Send a link to post production visual effects companies, art departments connected to specific films- usually the supervising art director or the production designer or the art department coordinator who will advise you on who and where your work should be sent. Or you send it to the H.R departments of production companies particularly animation companies who usually have all the departments under one roof. Check IMDB for addresses.

Advice on artwork.

no.1 problem I see all the time; new artists use black too much. Imagine you are a singer and your lowest note is one you can sing but it hurts your chest and your highest note is one you can reach but it hurts your throat; would you like to sing a song made of these two notes and nothing else? That' s what black and white are in a painting ; the extremes of value . So use them carefully. I am not talking about line drawings here but environment paintings. When you look out the window how much black and white do you see? Even the brightest part of the landscape has variations of value. The clouds are various shades of grey . study this stuff. Close your fist so it makes a little viewfinder and look at objects in the landscape next to each other and consider there relative values. Clouds next to a building; leaves floating in a pond, etc.

no.2. For the most part my work is minimalist in that it does not have lots of detail; but it is not sketchy. If you are going to draw a spaceship sitting on a landscape then don't have the spaceship and the rocks and the everything done in the same bumpy sketchy style. Put in graceful curves and hard lines and rough lines where appropriate. Mix it up! Look out to the real world and see that it is made up of various contrasting forms. Curves are more curvy when set against a straight line.

What is it that you are trying to do when you paint an environment?
Represent a 3 dimensional space in 2 dimensions.

What do you see when you look out there at the real world? What are the fundamental elements?
No. 1 is distance (usually called depth because depth sounds cooler). Distance between you the viewer and various objects in the scene. How do you represent this in your picture? Well first question to ask is; how is distance represented in the real world? What is it that tells you how far away an object is? There are only a few things to consider which seem obvious but you need to keep them in mind all the time as you paint.
Most obvious is; things look smaller when they are further away- that's easy- everybody gets that one; here is a common object that we understand as being a certain size such as a human being. In the picture there is a smaller one....this probably means it's further away.
But what about; here is a spaceship that's an unusual alien shape... here is another one that is a different weird shape but it's smaller. Is it smaller or further away? I can't tell because it's not something I recognise.
So how do I make the weird alien spaceship seem like it's further away ? what other processes out there in the real world can I use? Well....there is a big thick wad of air or atmosphere around us that tends to reduce the colour and contrast and value of objects as they move further away from us. We don't often think this is the case because the air around us is almost invisible and so we need a huge amount of it to have a significant affect on objects in the landscape. Look from a mountain top and the distant hills will be grey compared to the lush green grass we are standing on because the contrast and colour has been taken out by the air between us and the hills. (and look straight above you at the dark rich blue sky- why is that so contrasty and saturated? because we are looking up through a relatively thin layer of atmosphere )
So what else have we got to suggest distance? Silhouette This is a little tricky because the real world doesn't always provide us with clear silhouettes to define shapes. A tree against the sky is an obvious silhouette ...so is an elephant on an the Serengeti, or birds. Dark against light. But a human being walking down a city street can get lost in the business of a typical city environment. If you need to pick them out what is available to you to do it? Light; All that business can be thrown in to shadow and the character can have a convenient shaft of light land on them from around a corner or whatever. Or all the business can be lit up by bright sunlight...and the character can be in shadow and so stand out from the background. Variations in light and shade can help separate out elements in your image and foreground from background and so on.

Separating the foreground from the mid-ground from the background is something new artists find very difficult or else don't consider enough.

I'll post more soon- promise!


Please email me any questions you have and I'll try my best to answer them.