Guide to Game Art Applications with Kieran Goodson

Title card for the series with image of Kieran

Guide to Game Art Applications by Kieran Goodson is an essential introduction to the process of getting a job in game art. Kieran covers core topics related to portfolios, resumes and cover letters, and art tests and interviews.

     Watch it here     

In this interview you’ll find out more about Kieran’s professional background, the game art application process, and what he hopes viewers will take away from his ArtStation Learning series. Plus, read through to learn where to find a free resource pack with resume examples, interview questions, and more!

Kieran Goodson is a 3D Environment Artist at Rebellion currently working on the Sniper Elite series. Best known for his “Those Who Mourn” scene, he strives to produce meaningful artwork through stories and cinematics. A blogger, podcast guest, and mentor, he has also recently created Guide to Game Art Applications for ArtStation Learning.

Behind the series:

Strolling out of university with a first-class degree literally meant nothing for my career and the floor fell out from beneath me when I realised I couldn’t get a job with my subpar university projects. The projects weren’t good enough. Too many get smacked in this face with this fact and artists shouldn’t kid themselves about how difficult it is to break into the games industry. Not only that, but just because you’re in doesn’t mean your journey between places will be easy either. Job titles aren’t transferable. Workflows aren’t either. If you move, you have to adapt. The competition is fierce so it helps to be industrious in your approach to learning.

Introducing the Guide to Game Art Applications. This guide exists as a handrail for the application process. It gives the journey a defined structure and prepares the audience on art fundamentals, persuasive writing, soft skill interview preparation, and everything else in between.

Career advice tends to get trapped in DMs and Discord discussions. As a mentor, I found myself being asked the same questions time and time again. This advice is in high demand for a lot of students and professionals alike, so it made sense to produce a resource that was accessible to everyone. Most career advice is also dull, vague, and difficult to apply at the best of times. Let’s be real—no one wants to watch how to make a resume and cover letter, and you can’t blame them. But I wanted my series to be different.

I wanted the Guide to Game Art Applications to be an exciting, modern, and refreshing take through solid, structured content that everyone can benefit from.

If you take that bedrock of career building away then the superstar artist that everyone strives to be has nowhere to work. Take that away, and the superstar artist lacks the bigger-picture perspective, the healthy mindset, and the crucial soft skills needed to interface with any team.

A graphic displaying the main topics in each section of the series

Most memorable learning experience?

I don’t have one defining learning experience; rather, a series of memorable lessons over the course of my career that have led to one key realisation.

Everyone at some point in their lives has said things like, “Why do I feel like I should know this already? Why does this keep happening? When will I be recognised for my efforts?” What I’ve come to realise is that no matter how clueless you feel, the answers are only ever a question away.

“I keep getting a bug when I do this—has this happened to you? Sorry mate, but I’m stuck on this—how can I move forward? I’ve been taking on responsibilities above my paygrade—may we have a salary review?”

Just ask.

Even if you might not like the answer, if you ask the question you can move forward from that place in confidence because you’ll have confronted the challenge. You’ll no longer squirm with anxiety about it because it won’t be unexplored territory anymore. Win, lose or draw—the outcome almost doesn’t matter because you’ll be wiser for it. The process of going out there, despite everything, and asking anyway is the definition of courage, and you’ll need plenty of courage to achieve your goals.

A wooded landscape with an ancient stairway on a grassy hill

What’s something surprising about the game art application process?

It’s surprising how often you’ll be ghosted by studios if you’re not right for the job, how often you’ll have to chase responses up if you want something, and how long it can take for a successful application to go through (especially if it’s an international one). The most important thing to remember is that it’s never personal. I do believe this adversity encourages artists to have thicker skin. You’ll be building mental fortitude, getting braver, handling feedback better, moving on faster after bad news, and importantly, it’ll light a fire underneath you to achieve what you set out to do. These are all highly valuable traits as a production artist.

It’s also surprising that despite all of this, there’s no shortage of compassion and kindness in this industry so you’re never alone.

What do you enjoy most about working as an Environment Artist?

I love the variety that comes each day as an Environment Artist. One day you’re set-dressing, the next you’re modeling and texturing. Then you’re dealing with JIRAs. The day after, you’re dragged into optimisation or outsourcing or in meetings all day. Every day is different and that variety gives some spice to the work. There’s (usually) never a boring day.

A part of the job that I absolutely adore is the research. I enjoy digging around the internet to find out how something works or how an area was used. I also love searching for reference. Not only is it an integral part of the process when faithfully recreating spaces, but it’s fun learning a bunch of random stuff along the way. I already enjoyed history but after joining Rebellion to work on Sniper Elite, I can safely say I’ve given every inch of my professional work the reference, research, and historical scrutiny it deserves to be an accurate depiction of the place and time. I can’t imagine not wanting to do that—it’s so much fun.

Storytelling (and I include composition as a smaller, technical component of this), is a never-ending rabbit hole where no matter how much you think you know, someone will come along and humble you real quick and you realise you’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m not that interested in game art software because I know deep down the tools on their own aren’t where the magic happens. Software and workflows get replaced all the time. It’s when you combine the software with the storytelling that you get something memorable. This is the ‘art’ part of ‘game art’. That’s something I love about my job and is something I’ll pursue until I’m gone.

Old forest stones, trees, and roots obscure a deer in the fog

1 sentence of advice:

Nothing easy is meaningful.

Something I’ve learned as an artist, both from experience and from observing others, is that it’s not the finished artwork that produces pride, pleasure, or satisfaction. It’s the mini-wins in the micro-battles of the creative process that result in you wanting to do it again and again. No amount of money or likes will motivate you forever and they certainly won’t save you if you betray your own standards. If you can breadcrumb your way along with intrinsic rewards, you’ll motivate yourself through a healthy and happy career.

Title card for Kieran's resource pack

Get Kieran’s Free Guide to Game Art Applications Resource Pack

Kieran has provided a free resource pack on the ArtStation Marketplace containing:

  • First 15 studios spreadsheet
  • Storytelling table for game art
  • Example resumes and cover letters for both professionals and students
  • Art test management triangle
  • Soft skill interview questions sheet

     Get it here     

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About the author

ArtStation Community Manager