Hey all, name's Tory.


Jeez... How to start? I'm 21 and I just got out of that "what do I want to do with my life?" phase. Honestly, I've always known it would have something to do with games, but I could never really put my finger on it. In my early teen years I drew a lot, and I really enjoyed it. So, now I'm trying to find out how I can turn that into a career in this kind of industry. There's just so many things to think about. Concept art, story boarding, all sorts of things. Though, I've only ever drawn characters. Never really tried backgrounds or scenery, anything like that. I know when it comes to this kind of career, any potential employer is going to wanna see what I can do, rather than rely on a degree or certificate I got from a school.

I know that right now, I still have some work to do. I know that it takes practice practice practice, especially if I wanna make a portfolio that someone'll even look twice at. I've always drawn with pencil and paper. I've never really played around with paints or chalks or anything like that. Here recently I've wanted to go digital, like using a tablet thingy with Photoshop or SAI.

I'm wondering if I should just go ahead and attend a school, learn some basics and some business, or if I'd be better off working a regular job and developing my skills on the side on my own. There's a lot I don't know yet, but I really wanna get the ball rollin' soon.

Also, I'm a good 3 hours late, but happy 4th everyone.

Rachel Marks:
Hey Tory,

That's the thing. There is no proven path to becoming an artist in any industry. Any of the options you mentioned could work, or they might not.
What works for one person won't work for another. What it really comes down to is you.

How much time per day are you wiling to devote to polishing your skills?

What about art makes you happy?

What subjects do you like to draw most?

Are you open to experimenting?

Do you take feedback and critique well?

What is your current life situation?

Do you learn better on your own or do you need someone to help you along?

Can you afford to attend a school?

And so forth and so on. These are things you really need to ask yourself.
I can only speak from my own experiences and I know I've lived a rather odd life so I'm not sure my own path would work well for another artist.

If you're in a situation where you don't have to work or you have enough money to live while you hone your skills, then I'd go for that. But if you need a constant stream of income then getting a job while either going to school or learning on your own would work as well. And if you aren't a self-motivated person, then I'd suggest at least taking some side classes or personal tutoring. (There are lots of artists in the city after-all)

Below is a brief story of how I started doing this for a living.
It's in no way necessary for you to read this (or any other drivel I write), but it might be useful to you in some way.

I knew that I wanted to be an "artist" since I was about 4 years old. At that time I wanted to work as an animator for Disney. Then I got heavily into drawing comics when I was in my pre-teens and decided that I wanted to make my living off of web-comics. So I did research on how I might be able to do that. However that didn't work for me since I am not much of a writer and my sequential skills were desperately lacking. I was pretty discouraged and I could never get beyond 70 pages into a story without losing interest or doing a complete rewrite.

For the most part I gave on the web-comic scheme when I hit high school. I focused mostly on my grades during high-school, but still doodled, experimented with different mediums, and created a few short story comics. When I was 17 I got a frequent customer from my sister's work place. I had done freelance work before that (when I was 12) but it was very sparse. This customer encouraged me a lot, as did my friends and family, and I decided that after I finished school that I would put off college and take at least a year of living with my parents to really focus on my art and understand what it was I loved about it so much.

I knew that if there was any chance that I'd be able to do it as a living, that I needed to get better. Over that time I did a lot of water color and acrylic painting, charcoal drawings, and a LOT of mixed media. I spoke to a few local artists and hit some of the local art fairs and galleries. At that time I was mostly interested in fine art and illustration. Didn't work. I simply didn't love it enough. I decided that I needed to get a degree in something that would bring in a regular stream of money so that I could focus on my art in my free time.

So I got into a local college and started working towards a science based degree (was either going for doctor or engineer at the time). I did about a year before I switched majors. I could not stand the thought that I was doing all of this work for something that would dominate my life and I wouldn't even enjoy it. I changed my focus to graphic design. At least that had some artistic aspects. Kind of. I was also considering moving out and enrolling full time at a art driven university. I abandoned the idea after doing some research. Well, the graphic design didn't work out either. Not for a lack of dedication on my part really.

I met Richard Marks, my husband, online while working on an mmo racing game. I had signed up as a concept artist because I was bored with school and wanted to learn to draw something new. I couldn't draw cars so that was it. The job was unpaid and the team fell apart due to poor leadership. But Richard and I kept in contact and I moved south with him after about a year. He had a regular job and I stayed at home most of the day. I was considering going back to school, but didn't have any means of transportation so that idea was put off. I spent a lot of time online and ended up getting some frequent comic work from my deviantart profile.

It was nice spending cash, but I didn't know what I was doing and way under-charged. I was also very...rusty art wise. Richard and I did a few small games together and after talking about it, formed BBAStudios. Working on the first title we did forced me to maintain a consistent style and quality, and work schedule, throughout the development of the game. After the game was complete I was leagues better than I was before. And I got FAST. Stuff that took me hours or days to complete before took me 30 minutes. I started getting more online work due to my improved portfolio.

Then, Richard got very ill for an extended period of time and lost his job. So I took on as much online freelance work as I could. I raised my prices, started becoming aware of "bad deals", figured out who to and who not to work for, and made some wonderful life long clients. We ended up moving to New Orleans a little over a year ago. Since we moved I've worked on some large gaming productions, such as Sword of the Stars 2. I do a lot of environment work, character design, color work, and just about every type of comic art you can name. I just turned 24 2 days ago. Everything I know I taught myself. Throughout the whole thing I learned something about my art.

I almost NEVER draw something unless I need to. That's why I got bored with my own comics, why I couldn't keep up with fine art, or why I never made much of a career until we had no income. There was simple no reason to do it.

So yeah. It's really just what works for you. Everything that I tried to do in order to "become an artist" pretty much failed until I didn't have a choice. lol I also learned the business side of things the slow and painful way. On the subject of motivation, I recommend checking out Bobby Chiu's youtube channel.


Everything is free to view and there's a lot of good advice up there. I think it's in the in the Dreamers video that he addresses artists who are trying to make it.

And as for digital art, wacom tablets, and software. That's also a decision of personal taste. It's not required for learning the basics, but you will probably need it for actually doing industry work. I can't think of many artists that are out there now that are solely traditional.

Okie dokie. Ramble over.

Let me know if you have any questions about anything.

Rachel Marks:
Also, this is somewhat related to my previous reply, but still something to be considered.

If you didn't skip my life story, then you read that working on our games made me improve drastically over a short period of time. Either way, it did.
There are countless game development projects that you can get involved in online, and possibly locally. Chances are it won't be paid work, but it's a good learning experience. You can get an idea of what's required for certain positions, what people expect of you, how to work with a group, and if there is a deadline you might speed up your workflow. It's also good for figuring out what position you might be interested in pursuing.

Aaaand..on the off chance you are working with more than noobs, people that actually know what they are doing, and the project gets completed, published, and makes some revenue, then you might come away with more than just the experience. That's a big if though. Most projects like that (which is called spec work due to potential pay) never make it to completion as most of the people involved are still learning.


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