I have to say, it's been a great six months so far. Last year, in November, I was laid off of my cushy remote job as a character and content artist for a software company. It was "cushy" in the sense that I got to work from home but it was otherwise brutal. Like, seriously hard core brutal. There were only two of us for years and then for the last year, it was just me and then even I was gone (along with the entire graphics division). I was suddenly in a position I'd not foreseen.
What do I do now? I asked myself. I could have gone back to work at a bookstore or begged my friends at LEGO for a job or I could suck it up and really try to throw my hat into the arena I've long wanted to be in: gaming. So I did just that. Applying to places I'd never thought I'd apply to and not hearing a thing back made me think I was doomed to fail. Then I sat in on a webinar with Ryan Kingslien about portfolios and breaking into the 3D biz. As a pro 3D artist, it may seem odd that I was sitting in on this but I am pretty much self taught and knew there had to be something I was missing, something about my portfolio I could change that would land me a gig. I mean, I had the skills after all. Sure enough, Ryan saw me in the chat and asked if they could use my portfolio as an example piece, which I allowed.
They ripped into it, which was great! The feedback was that they saw a lot of nice stuff but nothing that defined what I was trying to do as a creator. The problem with being a one man show at my last job was that I had to do a bit of everything and I then put that all in my portfolio. However, as a character artist, that's not the best thing to do if you want a character artist job - which is what I'd been applying for. I also had way too many pieces of varying quality that were left overs from my early years as an artist. So taking that feedback, I stripped out all but 4 pieces of art and made sure the focus was solely on characters. Within that week, I was contacted by two game studios. The change, it seems, was the best thing I could have done.
I took the art test for one of the studios (the other, notorious for slow responses, never sent a test), and got the position. I was elated because not only was I going into the game industry full time but they were local and a triple A studio, so that if after my contract was up, if they decided not to keep me, it'd be that much easier to find work. Upon arriving a the studio I had expected to be just a cog in a machine, a number with some art attached to it but to my surprise, not only was everyone super friendly and the team small-ish, everyone went out of their way to get to know me and make me feel welcomed. It's been a learning experience for me, my old job took a more film oriented approach to making content and games take a very different approach due to resource management concerns. Where before I could just throw polys at stuff, I now had to be more conservative in their use - coupled with the fact I had to learn new software and new ways of using old software. It has all been very exciting.
The point of all this isn't to say, "oh look at me! How great is my life" but instead, I am trying to show how just a small change can alter your life for the better. If you're an artist and having a hard time breaking into a field, take a hard look at your portfolio and cull things that don't focus on what you're going for. Take a chance and send that application into that studio you think may never want you - they may want you but you'd never know if you don't try. Above all else, don't listen to that tiny voice in your head that says, "you're not good enough yet. You need more time/practice/skill". That is your fear talking. It will hold you back from being and doing what you want. Take the chance because the thing is, if they say "no", it may be no forever or just no right now but if they say "yes"...ohhhh man.