How To Succeed As A Concept Artist
ImagineFX|November 2019
Bright ideas top concept artists tell Gary Evans how to get educated, get employed, and get better in art’s most misunderstood field

Are you sure you want to be a concept artist? After all, concept artists don’t get to draw whatever they want. They don’t even get to draw famous characters very often – if ever. Plus, most of their drawings will never see the light of day.

Disappointed? Hold up, there’s more. Concept artists don’t spend all their time playing video games. They don’t generally hang out on film sets or hang around with big-name actors. They don’t live especially glamorous lives. They’re not really famous. They’re not really rich. Concept art is repetitive. Concept art is labour intensive. Concept art is hard to get good at and harder to get a job in. In fact, you could even argue concept art isn’t really art.

“Concept art is very different from just drawing,” Feng Zhu says. He has over a decade’s experience working on Transformers, Call of Duty, and Star Wars. “In reality, about 90 per cent of our work is grounded and pretty dry. Even when you are on a high-profile project, the ‘fun’ stuff generally lasts about a month or so. The other two or three months are generally filled with more mundane stuff: how landing gear folds out, arranging button layouts in a cockpit, say.” Feng reckons that only one out every 10 images makes it to the next round of production.

Christian Alzmann

says it’s not uncommon to work on a design for months, only for it to be cut from the final film. Christian is concept design supervisor at Lucasfilm. He worked on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His job isn’t making art; it’s solving problems. His boss might say: ‘I need some concepts – this afternoon – for a vehicle that flies, but can’t have wings or rotors, and has to fit into the style of this film sequel.’ The picture Christian comes up with is “just the math formula we use to show our solution to the problem.”

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