Featured Pro Portfolio: Thomas Visscher
Thomas Visscher is a concept artist whose ever-changing art style is inspired by his travels abroad. Since completing his art education in Singapore, he has worked on major titles like Maze Runner, Suicide Squad, and Wonderwoman.
In this interview, he shares how to build a portfolio that will get you hired, how he developed his art style, and more.
My mom would say I was born with a pencil in my hand. I used to make my own comic books when I was really young. Since I wasn’t able to write yet my parents would write in the words to finish it off. This evolved into me getting into painting and late-night street art. At that point, my mom wasn’t so supportive anymore since she is a police officer. As a teen, I was actually customizing sneakers for some spare change. I’m a huge sneakerhead. I never really saw art as a career path though.
It was not until I saw Feng Zhu’s videos on Youtube that I learned there was a whole industry in need of awesome art. Not too long after discovering his channel, I moved to Singapore to study at FZD school for a year. This was an amazing environment where I got to meet a bunch of talented and hyper-motivated people who were the other students. It wasn’t unusual for us to spend all of our time on our homework. We would barely sleep about 4-5 hours a night. During beamer presentations when the lights got turned off, it would be hard to stay awake and many of us would fall asleep at our desks.
This is where I picked up my design/drawing foundation and vigorous work ethic. Straight out of school I was hired to be a concept artist at Talespin Games(formerly known as Sticky Studios). While there, I was able to design on some huge IPs. Being part of a great team creating amazing projects was a lot of fun and a great start of my career.
How would you describe your art style and how did it develop?
I’d say my style is a mess! I get bored quickly sticking to one style so I switch it up a lot. Some of my pictures are based on a new program I’m learning or a tutorial I bought on the ArtStation Marketplace. Most of the personal pieces I’ve made are inspired by traveling. Pre-COVID, I was traveling for about 3 years while working as a freelance concept artist.
Asia is my favorite part of the world so I spend a lot of time in different countries over there. The bigger cities we’re the most exciting for me. In particular, Hanoi Bangkok and Taipei inspired me a lot. Travel allowed me to meet people I would have otherwise never been able to meet with different cultures and ideas which all influenced my style. At the same time, I was able to build up a huge library of photos I was able to use in my work. I could even earn a bit of money from them by selling them on the ArtStation Marketplace.
Have a look at my aerial photo pack of Taipei city for example. I’d say travel is the biggest influence on my work. I would recommend every artist to travel, especially because most of the time we just sit at a desk and draw. Get out there! Explore!
Tell us about one of your favorite pieces in your portfolio.
“Christmas will always be safe. ” I don’t send this picture out to potential clients anymore since it doesn’t show my current skill level. However, it is my favorite portfolio piece since it gave me the idea that my art has a huge potential audience wise.
I had first created this image as a personal project in the winter of 2015. At the time Europe was dealing with a lot of terrorist attacks.
I was never directly affected by the attacks but there was always a threat. A week after I went to visit Paris there was shooting in a place we had visited. So it did get pretty close there. This Santa with his little helpers in the back was going to make sure that Christmas will always be safe.
When I first put this picture on ArtStation it was immediately very popular. Other websites started picking it up and sharing it along. At some point, B.O.P.E the elite unit of Brazil’s police used it as their Christmas card, and it really started blowing up. The picture started showing up in newspapers all around the world. I had journalists calling me for interviews. I’ve never had anything like that happen before or after that and it was really something else!
What advice do you have for artists trying to make a portfolio that will get you hired?
Currently, I’m working at Net-ease as a senior concept artist. Their representatives contacted me through ArtStation first and after a few interviews, I joined the team. Having a visible ArtStation page is very important. Link it through on all your social media! As a freelancer, I would get about 80% of my work through ArtStation too. Either from recruiters contacting me or sending out an email when I see interesting jobs showing up on the ArtStation/jobs page.
First of all, you have to be quite aware that your competition is basically the best of what ArtStation artists have to offer, which can be intimidating. If you’re going to do what everyone else is doing you’re going to be a dime a dozen. If you manage to find your own voice or specialize in a particular field, you’re going to have a much easier time.
This can take time though, I myself have probably hundreds of abandoned style experiments that turned into failures. Don’t get discouraged though. This is all part of the process! There is only one of you in this world. Make use of the unique experiences that you’ve had in your life and use them as inspiration for your art!
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