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Breaking into concept art
At the end of the day, your artistic value is based on what makes you special. What can you do that sets you apart from what others do? There are a lot of young artists that can paint an image and make it look dramatic, colorful, and maybe realistic. This is important, but the market is saturated on that end. What is hard to find are artists with refined drawing and design abilities. I always get calls looking for referrals of young design talent - artists that know forms, architecture, design details, and how to draw them well. The best way to teach yourself these skills is to get away from the computer, and work on your sketchbook! If all of your skills are in digital painting, you limit the type of work you can create. On many shows you can’t use photo reference, because the whole idea is to design something new. You should be able to show your ideas in a sketchbook before the rendering process ever begins. After you get your foot in the door, then you can get back into the rendering side of your work. The VFX industry is becoming more and more competitive, so there is less money for visual development. Most VFX companies don’t have a staff art department and will only bring in a concept artist for a big show. More concept design is being done by digital artists like compositors and matte painters, who are learning more pre-visualization skills. Most visual effects design is actually less drawing heavy versus digital manipulation. For all these reasons, if you want to be more involved at the conception of a film, I would look into pre-production art departments in films and games versus working at a visual effects company.
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The Future
George Hull   I love designing for films and I will always stay involved in it. There are less and less films that get me excited however, so I’ve become more selective with my time. After spending so much energy on my career I am taking more time for my own artistic projects. I enjoy getting away from the computer and painting in oils and acrylics. I want the art that I do on my own to feel timeless, and I have a hard time getting that feeling with digital art.

I still have my bulletin board with my favorite artists and work that inspires me. But it has less science fiction work and more fine art paintings and photography. Artists like Sebastian Salgado, Steve McCurry, Edwin Church, Kent Williams, Bill Henson, and so many others. I think I’m on my next “mission” in my career path, but this time it is for myself. I’m starting there and I’ll see where it takes me.

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