15 steps to landing your dream art job

150812_YB_bioIn our regular profiles of leading digital artists, we ask our interviewees for their careers advice. Normally, it’s just a paragraph of text. But Yekaterina Bourykina‘s answer was so detailed, we thought it was worth an article in its own right. Below, you can find the Blizzard Entertainment character artist’s 15-step plan for landing your dream art job, plus links to useful resources. Some are tailored to the games industry, but the advice they contain applies to VFX work and illustration too.

1. Choose a studio or studios you’d like to work for.

2. Look up their artists and check out the work they did, including work done in their personal time.

3. Reach to hit that quality or better. Take out work from your portfolio that doesn’t meet your goals. You learned from those pieces: now it’s time to move on and do better.

4. When sending out a cover letter and resume, tailor them to that studio. Make sure that you show you want to work there, and that they are not number 63 of the 283 studios getting the same letter.

Archer, by Yekaterina Bourykina.

All of Yekaterina’s work – like Archer, our main image – carries a discreet ‘YBourykina’ signature. Googling the phrase leads recruiters to her online galleries and social media profiles.

5. You want to be found, easily – so make sure all your work has your name or your identification on it. I use ‘YBourykina’, so if you look that up on search engines or any artists’ site, you’ll find me. You don’t want to take attention away from your work, so you don’t have to write it big, just large enough to be readable; and you don’t have to include your email address or URL.

Further reading:Your portfolio repels jobs
Veteran outsourcing manager Jon Jones reveals the main mistakes artists make in online portfolios.

6. Join forums like Polycount?, ZBrushCentral, CGSociety and GameArtisans for feedback, networking opportunities, and friends. Get honest critiques from other artists who want to help others grow.

7. Also join the Ten Thousand Hours group on Facebook.

The Ten Thousand Hours Facebook group.

Dedicated to helping digital artist improve their skills, Facebook group Ten Thousand Hours provides a platform for honest feedback, and runs regular art challenges.

8. And like Iain McCaig says, “Murder your darlings.” Don’t get attached to your work: if you have to redo some or all of it to make it better, do it. It’ll be worth it in the end.

9. On that note, if you can make something better and you know how, do it. If you don’t someone else will put that extra time in, and they’ll get your job.

10. Make it easy for people to find you. Use sites like the forums listed above, plus ArtStation?, DeviantArt?, Sketchfab?, LinkedIn, Twitter, Behance, and whatever else works for you.

Further reading:The art of getting noticed
Jon Jones’ 10-minute talk for IGDA Austin offers practical tips for self-marketing.

11. The industry is small, and everyone knows everyone. Play nice.

12. Stay hungry and humble. You always have more to learn. There will always be someone better.

13. You will have bad days. It’s okay, everyone does. Everyone that succeeds learns to pick themselves back up and keep moving forward.

14. Make small goals that lead you to your big ones. Take things one step at a time.

15. If this is truly the industry you want to be a part of, don’t ever give up.

Further reading:State of the industry: why you should or should not give up
Read a detailed post in this Polycount thread by Hazardous (digital sculptor Jon Troy Nickel).

Further reading:Game industry even worth it?
Another detailed post from Jon Troy Nickel with some valuable personal insights.

More resources

CrunchCast and CrunchBites

CrunchCast, veteran games artist Chris Holden‘s podcast, contains a lot of valuable career advice:

#7 Marketing yourself to employers
#8 Game industry anecdotes and portfolios
#29 Answering Polycount questions
#44 Portfolios, working fast and before games
#51 Portfolios and art tests

The CrunchBites series covers the entire process of becoming a game artist in smaller chunks:

CrunchBites 05 – Interview prep
CrunchBites 13 – Phone and onsite interview

If you have any questions for Chris Holden, you can ask them on Polycount.

Games Industry Mentor

Artist Aaron Canaday runs Games Industry Mentor, an audio podcast on industry-related topics:

#03 Gaining experience
#05 Environment art
#07 Portfolios
#09 Character art
#13 Which studios are right for you?
#17 The job interview

About the author: Yekaterina Bourykina is a character, creature and weapons artist on World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment. Look out for our full profile of Katia on ArtStation Magazine soon.

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About the author

Jim Thacker is a contributing editor for ArtStation Magazine.