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  • Artistic Enterprise: Advice on Portfolios, Software, and Schools

    - Jill Duffy

  •  The Portfolio
    "What should be in a portfolio really hasn't changed since the time that I did it," said Jaquays. "Eight to 10 pieces of your absolute best work."

    Punchatz really emphasized "best work only" by adding that he would rather see four excellent pieces than eight mediocre ones.

    The portfolio should also "should focus on things you're good at and want to do in your career," Jaquays said. For example, students who want to work for a game company that makes next-gen shooters should eliminate cartoon work from their array, even if those images are stellar. "If you don't want to do it, don't put it in your portfolio."

    One things some students don't know about showing an art portfolio is that not all the pieces have to be considered finished, Madad Ansari said. At his studio, Paradigm Entertainment, two of the best recent hires to the company showed sketch work. The pieces were individually detailed and overall broad in terms of showing a range of work and styles. Gallery sketchbook work in particular, noted Ansari, can tell a lot about a candidate, especially if it gives an insight to the artist's private thoughts.

    For animators, emotion is the most important thing to get across in one's show reel. "With animation, I look mainly for a good walk cycle and a good run cycle," Mark Grisby of Infinity Ward said. He wants to see that the candidate has an understanding of weight, timing, and character. "Show what you're capable of doing." And for modelers, he added, what gets him excited about a candidate is seeing real sculptures.

    Grisby also said that sometimes he will encounter a candidate whose basic art skills are so strong, he trusts that he or she can make the technological leap and learn the software after being brought in-house.

    One thing that most of the panelists said is lacking in the reels of graduating animators nowadays is non-cartoonish animations. More realistic actions are much slower than the jumpy, whipped-around motions of cartoon characters, and a good deal of game studios would prefer to see this kind of work in a reel. It's better to not try to recreate a Pixar moment.

    The Best Art Schools
    The panelists named a handful of schools that seem to produce superior job candidates. It should be noted that the panelists were speaking from personal experience, based on the schools they were familiar with.

    Ansari noted that The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University does a good job of "emulating the industry processes" by putting in place a system of deadlines and pipelines. Punchatz seconded that motion, noting that Guildhall graduates typically know what a producer actually does, for example.

    Said Punchatz, "Vancouver [Film School] puts out the best modelers I've ever seen." He also added to the list Ringling School of Art and Design, which tends to graduate highly talented individuals.

    Grisby, who himself attended the Art Institute of Dallas, called out California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and The Guildhall. "But to me, it's not really the school," he said. "It's you."


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