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2D Digital artist (vector/pixel) with loads of freelance experience struggling to find studio work

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Hi, my name's Jameson Wilkins, for the past three years I've supported myself as a 2D artist for mobile/browser/independent games through freelance. I've been taking contracts since 2010 after graduating from Ringling College of Art and Design, and started working full time as of middle of 2012. It hasn't been easy, and for quite some time now I've been working on trying to get my name out and hopefully land a studio job as a 2D illustrator.

 

I've even done contracted artwork that is now prominently displayed as part of an interactive attraction at one of Orlando's largest theme parks (NDA prevents me from stating where, but it's not hard to guess). So I'd like to think that I have the skills required to land a job in the industry.

 

I've also released an indie game that was met with a decent amount of critical praise and has somewhere in the neighborhood of 50k downloads called "A Nation of Wind", which I developed on my own and then released for free.

 

I spend several hours of my work week hunting down any openings I can and sending them my portfolio and resume in between freelance, and I've been doing this for the better part of the past 3 years.

 

I'm looking for any and all suggestions on finding work in a studio environment. I've had numerous "near misses" (studio conducts 2-3 phone interviews or many promising email chains only to fall through in the last moment due to filling the position or funding issues or something) and would really love to hear any kind of help I possibly can. Portfolio critiques, suggested self-marketing avenues, or what have you. Bear in mind most of my work fits into the pixel/vector style associated with mobile/browser casual or independent gaming, so that's kind of what I'm looking to get into in terms of studios (places like Row Sham Bow or similar).

 

My portfolio is here: http://altpick.com/jamesonwilkins

 

You can click on the button on the top left of the screen labeled "portfolios" to change what sub-category you are looking at.

 

Thanks!

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Hi, jwilkins.

So you graduated a year ago, and you live in Florida, and you're having a tough time landing a game job.  This does not surprise me.  Looking on gamedevmap, I see fewer than 20 companies in that area (and gamedevmap also lists Tampa and other cities, which may or may not actually be within commuting distance of your location).  It's impossible to tell from your first post how many of the Barrier Busters you're doing, or how many of the Stupid Tricks you may be guilty of. 

http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson27.htm

http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson24.htm

The job search can be lengthy and frustrating.  My recommendation is to keep trying, keep polishing the portfolio, and consider moving.

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...No I graduated 3 years ago, and I've made a living (albeit not a terribly easy one) freelancing in that time as a digital artist.

 

Also, I'm fully aware of the lack of development studios in Florida, which is why most of my job searching takes place outside of the state, although I do agree that it would obviously be a better option if I could move to a location that was more developer friendly.

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I do agree that it would obviously be a better option if I could move to a location that was more developer friendly.

 

Well, okay then.

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One question here though.

I see you are specializing in pixel art (albeit relatively highrez one).

Surely you realize the strain this might put on potential employers?

To a lot of them, pixelart is 'fancy' but something they generally can't afford.

How long do you reckon these illustrations have taken to do?

How long would they take if they weren't pixel based (sketched and then colored for example)?

 

A lot of independent developers I've seen still walk the line of pixel art, because (like me) they enjoy the end result. They believe there is a lot to the graphical quality and feel of pixel art. I've however seen larger developer shun pixelart in fear of budget. The argument was that it is a low ROI art style, and I don't think there's any disputing this.

(In fact, I recently had to argue upstairs (and lose) to make a game in pixel art rather than straightforward sketching/polishing).

 

Perhaps it would be wise to showcase your ability to do other styles, pushing forward your illustration skills with classic techniques (sketching for example).

Some employers will definitely be looking for an efficient artist (one that can get the job done well enough, fast enough) and though no one has probably said so this far, as a potential employer, I could consider your focus on pixel art to be a flaw as it could heavily decrease the profitability of my games (and these devs are in business for profit).

 

Good luck.

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From the looks of your art, you could probably also go for concept artist positions.

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One question here though.

I see you are specializing in pixel art (albeit relatively highrez one).

Surely you realize the strain this might put on potential employers?

To a lot of them, pixelart is 'fancy' but something they generally can't afford.

How long do you reckon these illustrations have taken to do?

How long would they take if they weren't pixel based (sketched and then colored for example)?

 

A lot of independent developers I've seen still walk the line of pixel art, because (like me) they enjoy the end result. They believe there is a lot to the graphical quality and feel of pixel art. I've however seen larger developer shun pixelart in fear of budget. The argument was that it is a low ROI art style, and I don't think there's any disputing this.

(In fact, I recently had to argue upstairs (and lose) to make a game in pixel art rather than straightforward sketching/polishing).

 

Perhaps it would be wise to showcase your ability to do other styles, pushing forward your illustration skills with classic techniques (sketching for example).

Some employers will definitely be looking for an efficient artist (one that can get the job done well enough, fast enough) and though no one has probably said so this far, as a potential employer, I could consider your focus on pixel art to be a flaw as it could heavily decrease the profitability of my games (and these devs are in business for profit).

 

Good luck.

 

I would consider this a larger problem if my portfolio solely focused on pixel art, or was made up of a majority of pixel art, but there is much much more vector art in my portfolio. I've been attempting to fill most of my portfolio with contracted work, which does make up the majority of it, and is mostly vector. I should think that most people would realize that while I can do pixel art, which does take more time, I am also very proficient with simple vector graphics, which do not.

 

That being said, I do agree that I could use some more variety and process work to show my ability to work quickly.

 

From the looks of your art, you could probably also go for concept artist positions.

 

I've considered this, though to be perfectly honest I don't feel comfortable in photoshop or digital painting skills to go this route yet. I am currently trying to better myself as a digital painter (I just picked up a Wacom finally), but have not yet produced work I feel is of high enough quality to place next to the rest of my work in my portfolio.

Edited by jwilkinsart

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