Featured Pro Portfolio: Jayson Miller

Jayson Miller is a Senior Environment artist based in Los Angeles currently working at Infinity Ward. His professional website uses the ArtStation Pro Horizon theme.

On presenting his work, he shares that as an environment artist with years of work in his portfolio:

“Having a more horizontal format was a way for not only more clarity, but also in my opinion, a better thumbnail. The fact that I could group them into albums from ArtStation, and then include it in the website layout was super convenient!”

Check out Jayson’s ArtStation-powered portfolio website. 

In this interview, he gives insight into a common obstacle he sees a lot of artists facing, his ideas for his personal IP and his advice for aspiring environment artists.

How did you get started in the industry? 

I was a bit of a late bloomer. Like a lot of people that went the more traditional “school” route, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to a traditional four year school more on the fine arts side and always wanted to do illustration and concept art. I quickly realized I just couldn’t compete (I mean just look at the ridiculously high quality works on ArtStation everyday!) I did however always have an interest in 3d spaces and quickly pivoted to studying architecture and 3d modeling.

That in combination with my gaming interests and trying to be artistic – it was a no brainer when I discovered that making environment art for games was a legitimate path I could pursue. I worked a ton of crappy low paying jobs doing print media and graphic design, etc (while continuing to study and learn 3d late at night) until I finally broke into games when the mobile scene had just started to grow. Starting small with mobile game development allowed me the opportunity to learn the pipeline in a microbial sense. I soon realized how limiting making art for mobile games was (at least during those early years -technology wise). That’s when I really began to push my boundaries as an artist and I just knew that I wanted to create games for larger studios because it would allow for the artistic freedom to make things look as cool as possible!

What was one of the biggest obstacles you had to overcome as an artist?

 There are so many so it’s very difficult to narrow it down to one. However, the one that sticks out in my mind currently (and one I certainly still struggle with today) is the fact that you are your own worst enemy artistically. Imposter Syndrome is very real, and doubly so for anybody in creative fields. I’m no doctor, but in short, Imposter syndrome is when an, “individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to see this cripple some amazingly talented young artists who feel that despite creating amazing and original art – it will never see the light of day. Even worse, they rationalize to themselves that no matter how good their work is, it’s never good enough which translates to them associating their own self worth and value to “not good enough.” It’s just unhealthy to say the least. It’s so tough in today’s age where everybody is so darn talented that it inhibits certain people from even posting at all.

I personally struggled with this early on and the problem I found with it was that it never actually gave me or potential employers the opportunity to gauge where I was  artistically with those around me. Most artists will get in their own way in regards to this, but there is no other way to see where you match up, what areas you need to improve on, etc. without posting your work and getting healthy critique. ArtStation, so far is the greatest avenue that I know of right now to get a solid gauge of where you currently are artistically. The added bonus with ArtStation is that there are actual professional artists within the industry that will almost always support one anotherand wish to see their peers grow.

So TLDR? Don’t get in your own way as an artist out of fear of what other people may think of you. Post your work, get critique, and constantly keep growing artistically because you never know who out there might look at your work and use that as inspiration for them to continue forward. Your piece(s) may get them out of a bad artistic rut, learn a technique, or spark an idea that could change their lives!

Tell us about one of your favorite projects. 

Most definitely my WHK personal project. I’ve actually been working on this personal project for probably the last 8 years or so! As a victim of the obstacle I mentioned earlier, I’ve found myself doing, and redoing that same project for years as I’m inspired daily by different visions, and new ideas, etc. Also, as my own abilities have grown and my original vision for it has only grown larger. I’m hoping for some actual major updates to be shown in early 2019. In short though, it’s a post apocalyptic world with very large Asian influence. I’m a huge fan of Asian folklore in general as well as the kind of scifi/post modern aesthetic. The project attempts to blend the two. Most of my time  has been spent fleshing out a legitimate story that I’ll be able to use to tell about my own personal events throughout my life.

The project originally started as my own fake “project” that I used as a student to give myself a focus with the intent on building a portfolio all those years ago. To this day, I still recommend this to students struggling to find things to work on. The exercise is: Whatever style you enjoy, whether it be hyper realistic, or stylized, or whatever – pretend that you’re an art director and really pay attention to the world that you’re creating. This allows you to be completely responsible for the general art direction, art quality, assets, etc. Work on it as if you were working a full-time professional job. I’m a huge advocate of “practice how you play” because if you just think, you can turn skills on like a light switch whenever you want.

What advice do you have for aspiring environment artists? 

As an environment artist, there are a few things I find myself repeating quite often. Mostly it boils down to: learn, know, and trust the process. Start small, and really learn the process from beginning to end. I see so many young artists that just find shortcuts, and try to fast track their way through the pipeline without really learning it. It always, always comes back to bite them in the end. For example, Megascans, or Substance Source truly are great resources – especially in the hands of those who have a deep understanding of how they were created and how they can be used and tweaked. The problem with these is that I see students using these in their scenes, and have no idea how to create these assets themselves.

There’s so much more that goes into environmental storytelling than just a good compositional eye using borrowed assets. It comes back to bite them professionally when they get hired with the expectations to create these things on their own and in actuality they don’t possess the technical abilities to pull them off. My biggest advice is take it slow, learn and know the process from it’s fundamentals, and trust that knowing and using these fundamentals over time will really pay off in the end. There’s no shortcut in this industry because it really is much smaller than you’d think. Those that fake their way in never truly last long. So be patient, start small and remember not to include things in your scene which aren’t  indicative of your actual skill level!

 See more of Jayson’s work on his portfolio websiteTo learn more about ArtStation Pro websites, click here.

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About the author

Sierra is the Editor of ArtStation Magazine.