Securing a Job in the Digital Art Space: With members of Digital Art Network

Good morning Digital Art Network!

Or evening, depending on what part of the world you’re seeing this from.
Out of curiosity, I conducted a poll two weeks ago to find out how many of us artists actually work full-time as artists in their various countries. I found that less than 30% of artists work full-time and the rest are freelancers or hobbyists.

Occasionally, I get to talk to artist that are really passionate about digital art but work in some other profession and cannot risk quitting their job to pursue a career in digital art and animations. Other times, I receive messages from people asking how they could get started in 3d art and what opportunities are available for them. The problem here is that most artists that are new to the scene don’t know how to get the best out of their skill. Many don’t believe it is possible to make good income from digital art unless you work in a AAA studio. And many of those same people believe it is impossible to work in a AAA studio unless you are a god-level expert at what you do.
This kind of thinking leads new/aspiring artists to either give up or relinquish digital art to the role of just a hobby rather than a possible profession. So, over the past few days since the poll, I’ve been talking to artists that work in the industry. I wanted them to share with us what it was like securing a job in the industry. Was it sheer luck? Was it a classic case of preparation meeting opportunity? Or did they devote all their time to learning and practicing 3d to the point where they became undisputable gods of 3d art and companies had no choice but to beg for the presence of these artists in their organizations?
Well, if you’re reading this, open up your mind because you’d be really interested in what I found.
In the process of talking to these artists to find out about what’s involved in working in the industry, there were four main questions I asked.
1. Where do you work? (What country)
2. How did you get your first job as a digital artist?
3. What skill level would you rate yourself at as at when you got the job?
4. In your country, how difficult would you generally say it is to get a full-time job in the industry?

  1. Where Do You Work

This question was important as I found out earlier on in my journey as a digital artist that digital art isn’t perceived as having the same value everywhere on the globe. Even in multi-national studios that have branches in different parts world, working conditions could vary greatly depending on what part of the world the branch you work in is located. From government regulations to the demand of the skill in different parts of the world there are many factors that could determine what one could face as a digital artist looking to build a career.
From all the artists I talked to, these are the results I got.

Other countries include: Brazil (4.5%), Istanbul, Portugal, Finland, Israel, Indonesia etc.

From the results above, one can see that most of the employed digital artists are from countries in Europe and America. Also, it seems Spain, Barcelona especially, has been pretty busy in the digital art space. I hear the city is growing many game companies and schools. But that’s not the full story. Let’s continue.

2. How did you get your first job as a 3D artist?

This category of questions came with a few “sub-questions”, if you will. They go like this:

  • Is this current job your first one as a digital artist?
  • How did you get your first job as an artist?
  • Were you recommended to the company by someone?
  • Did you apply specifically?
  • Was there a selection process?
  • Did the company seek you out themselves?

The replies gotten indicated that only a small portion of artists were self-taught. A much larger portion of the artists got their first job after completing a digital art related course in university/college, or they took a certified course (online or otherwise) offered by an institution in the field.

This may imply that although there are relatively few institutions around the world that offer an accredited course in the field of digital arts, the ones that do most likely have a connection to companies seeking talent in the field or at least serve as a hub for companies looking to hire digital artists. But the story is not over yet. It gets more interesting…

3. What skill level would you rate yourself at as at when you got the job?

When asked this question, the artists were provided with four options to choose from:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Expert

I don’t know if you’ve guessed this by now, but not a single artist chose “Expert” as their skill level when they got their first job. And I talked to a few artists that work at AAA studios. None even out-rightly chose “Advanced”. Interesting right? Very few artists chose “Intermediate – Advanced” and the rest sat firmly in “Intermediate” with some even swaying towards “Beginner”. Most had about 2-4years of learning/practicing under their belts.

Andrew Hwang, a current VR/AR specialist at Snapchat with over 12years of work experience in the field of digital arts under his belt gives account of his experience: “My first job was designing characters for a website company, super low quality. They found me after I posted a bunch on resume and job websites. Then I worked for liquid development in game titles. They found me through posting on artist websites like CG Channel etc. I was intermediate at that point with modeling and texturing.”

recent work of Andrew Hwang (@andrewhwang.art)

4. In your country, how difficult would you generally say it is to get a full-time job in the industry?

Finally, this is the question that brought the most variety in replies. So I’m going to section the answers by countries and give a reply of an artist in each country.

Spain: according to @sergidelasheras3d: “It’s hard, especially if you don’t have a good portfolio. I know a lot of people here without a job and they are still improving their portfolios trying to get one.”

USA: In the words of @shrednector: “Probably pretty easy. There are a million jobs. And now every company is accustomed to working remotely so you can probably apply for a job and not have to move.”

Italy: “Here in Italy, 2D art isn’t perceived as that’s worth the money. Out there is literally a war between who makes the lower price… I can’t beat someone that makes you a full illustration for just $30… After a year in this way, I was tired. I decided to switch to 3d sculpt. This switch was a game changer.[email protected]

UK: “Not too hard. There are heaps of indirect 3d jobs such as digital training, marketing etc. which are a good way in for beginners” [email protected]

From my findings, USA and UK were the only countries where artists didn’t express just how tough it was to get a job in the industry. It was such a rarity for artists to reply with “not too hard” or “pretty easy”. Only people from America or Britain could dare to say such things. For everywhere else the artists stressed just how essential a good portfolio was to getting scoring a job, how much competition there was or just how little demand there is for digital art on a professional level in that country. This is not to scare you though. A lot more was said that cannot be included in this already long article, but I can at least draw my conclusions from there.

CONCLUSION

We have been able to see that the conditions surrounding getting a job as a digital artist vary greatly by location, but from all the information I gathered, I have come to these conclusions.

  1. If you’re in the UK or US and you’re still looking for a good job, put yourself out there! Network a little more. Leverage social media and digital art showcase platforms- which is where we (Digital Art Network) come in. I have personally connected quite a few artists with companies or individuals looking for their services via our instagram page. I also interacted with a few artists during the survey that talked of how they got noticed through Artstation. Also, do not be afraid to apply for a job. From what I hear, there are lots of organizations looking for your skill. So if one hasn’t found you, then maybe you should find it. Apply to as many organizations as you’d like. You’d sooner or later find one that desperately needs you.
  2. For the rest of us, I’d say firstly, identify the problem of scoring a job in the digital art space in your country. Is it steep competition? Or low demand?
  3. If it’s steep competition- for example, in places like Barcelona, Spain, then you have your work cut out for ya. Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio. The importance of improving your portfolio cannot be overstated. If you’re finding it hard to improve your skill as a whole, take an online course! Don’t rough it out. You could probably learn it on your own from YouTube and a lot of practicing, but an online course will take you straight to your destination without any bus stops. Keep your portfolio updated with all your latest works. If you’re ever out of ideas, go back to your old works and redo them. It’s a great way to gauge your progress and re-establish confidence in your own abilities. It will also help you replace the not-so-great art in your portfolio with stunning new renders.
  4. If it’s low demand that you face in your country, then I know how you feel. I’m African, and I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s no single mention of an African country in this entire article. That’s how lacking the digital art space is, especially for 3d works as there is very little going on in the gaming industry in the region. If it’s the same with your side of the world, then it’s a slightly different ball game. Firstly, you have to identify what sells in your country. Regardless of where you are in the world, chances are there are companies present in your country. And if there are companies present, then they will require commercials to promote their brand and that’s where you can come in. if you’re into 3d animation, it might be a good idea to add product demo modeling and animation to your skillset. If you’re into 2D, add motion graphics to your skillset. Trust me, you will be approached a lot more.
  5. Also, make sure people know that you’re a digital artist. Especially if you live in a country with low demand, then most people won’t even understand what it is you do but don’t ever hide or water down what you do. If nobody understands, then you’d at least be the person that everyone thinks of when they hear “animation”. They will do your marketing for you. Most times they will bring jobs on product demos and animations from small companies/ startups looking to advertise their products. Hence, no.4.
  6. Do not be afraid to apply for a job. You might think you’re not good enough yet, but like you saw earlier in this article, not a single artist was far above intermediate when he/she got a first job. The average time spent learning/practicing before getting a job was around 2-4 years. Including a degree/course in digital art. So if you’ve been consistent with developing your skill for up to 2 years, then you’re ripe to get a job. You don’t need to know everything first. Chances are the facilities provided by the organization you work for could boost your learning curve swiftly. So put yourself out there. Apply for as many jobs as you’d like. What’s the worst that could happen?

My name is Victor Igwe, founder of Digital Art Network and I wish everyone reading this good luck in all your future endeavours.

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