Concept artists then create many iterations of design and story solutions. “These are presented to the story creators, who choose the images that best fit their vision. Often, they ask for adjustments to the art. It’s not dissimilar to what actors do in crafting their performances, giving the director variations within their skills and craft,” explains McCaig.
From there, artists make changes and tweaks to their designs and send the final product along to the next department. Depending on the design, they could be sent to the costume designer, the production designer, animators, or the art department. Keep in mind that concept art is a team project, focused on bringing the vision and story to life.
Tips for mastering your craft.
Get comfortable with your tools.
When you’re confident in your skills and your materials, you’ll create better work. Whether you start with pencil on paper or work in Adobe Photoshop (or do digital painting and sketching in Adobe Fresco on a tablet), use the tools that work for you. But keep in mind that you’ll probably need to make a digital version of your designs. “All of my final work is delivered in a digital format — even my pencil drawings are scanned,” notes McCaig.
Practice makes perfect.
“You have to know about your subject. Let’s say you’re trying to paint a portrait. Do you know the anatomy? Do you know how skin reacts in light? If you don’t know, find out. And if you have that knowledge, but it’s still not looking right, then you just need to practice,” says Ortiz. Drawing, painting, and illustrating is a muscle. To get better you need to exercise your skills, so keep making more art.
Find your unique point of view.
“You won’t go anywhere in the entertainment industry if you don't know your craft, but the one unique thing you have to offer the world is who you are. Putting your own unique vision into what you do is what makes good art great,” explains McCaig. “Finding your voice or style is as simple as keeping an inspiration sketchbook. Put one drawing in there every day of something that creates strong emotions in you. Collect these images for a few months and then look back through the sketchbook. What you see will be a snapshot of your soul.”
Take on passion projects.
When you paint and create for a living, you can get burned out and uninspired. Keep your passion for art and illustration alive with projects just for yourself. “I always remind people of the importance of personal work. I always make time for myself to pursue new paintings, whether it’s an interesting freelance project or even if it’s just painting for myself,” notes Ortiz.
Concept art can seem intimidating, but if you work hard at your craft and infuse it with your personal vision, the ability to put your imagination onto screens big and small will be at your fingertips.