David Mitchell is currently a freelance artist, specializing in illustration and conceptual design.
Professional Portfolio: https://applecrow.carbonmade.com/
Support David on Patreon
Current portfolio examples:
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 of this interview, where we asked him specific questions about what it’s like to be a concept artist in the entertainment industry, dispel a few common misconceptions that aspiring artists tend to have about the field, and more. Here, in part two of this interview, we ask David Mitchell specific questions about building his portfolio, marketing himself in the industry and more. Here’s what David Mitchell had to say:
HOW VALUABLE WILL GETTING AN EDUCATION FROM A UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE BE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS WHO WANT TO BREAK INTO THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY?
This is a topic my friends and I discuss often. School vs no school, whether or not a degree is necessary, etc. I feel that artists learn and grow in various ways, and there’s no definitive answer as to how best to assign value to one way over another. Instruction and exposure to the software, and technology the industry is fueled by, is absolutely necessary. Anywhere you can go, whether it be a trade school or a university or a community college that supplies you with access to such things is of great value. On the other hand, being self taught and not going to school can yield the same results if you have access to the industry, whether it’s through online workshops or just social media art groups and networking with industry pros.
I think the value of education is determined by the artist’s dedication to learning. If you can find it, study it, and apply it to make yourself viable and relevant to a studio or company It really doesn’t matter where the information came from.
BESIDES THE FUNDAMENTAL ART CLASSES, WHAT CLASSES DO YOU THINK STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE IN COLLEGE?
There are a few classes outside of the core ones that I feel helped or could have helped me a lot more looking back now. I would say for sure any kind of fashion/costume design classes would really be useful for learning different styles of garb for various cultures and themes. As a concept artist, having those styles and influences readily available in your visual library can greatly improve your creativity and ability to create new looks that still connect to actual attire that people can understand. I’d also say taking industrial/ product design classes and practical sculpture classes are great additions to help your understanding of 3d space and functionality that applies to environments, vehicles, weapons, etc.
David’s student work examples from 2005/ 2006.
WHAT ARE YOUR LISTS OF DOS AND DON’TS TO BUILDING A STRONG PORTFOLIO?
Building a portfolio is very important. As I am still retooling mine, there are several things that have come to mind lately. Overcrowding your portfolio with everything you’ve done is of course not a great way to go. My instructors used to drill into us that you are only as good as your worst piece. I find that to be fairly accurate. Not in literal terms, but more in the sense that your choices of what you use to show off your ability says as much about you as the art itself. Quality over quantity is best. Show your strengths and as much variety as you can in a handful of images. Each image in your portfolio should boast a different facet of your skillset. It’s also handy to include 1 or 2 images that play to the styles and themes common with which ever company you are applying to, to show that you understand their visual language and have the ability to hit the ground running.
HOW DID YOU HUNT DOWN YOUR FIRST JOBS IN THE INDUSTRY?
I got my first gaming studio gig randomly after about two years of doing freelance graphic design here and there while working a few different 9-5 jobs.
I had been working on my portfolio and working all the contacts I could find during that time. Going to sketch groups with other industry guys, posting on forums, etc. Ironically it was none of those things that got me in the door.
I went to an indie games party / workshop in downtown Austin with a few friends of mine, just on a whim as I wanted to take that night off from the normal grind. While I was there a got to talking with a guy named Norman from a small startup company, called D7 Games, that was there to demo a game they were developing. I told him I was trying to break into games myself and gave him my card. A few days later I get a call from one of the head guys at D7 and he offered me a job. Turns out Norman was just checking out my online portfolio while at work, and this guy noticed it and decided I could be a good fit there. Now, of course I’m not saying that you should just wait around til you get a call, that’s just how it happened for me. I would urge anyone trying to break into the industry to go to as many workshops, sketch groups, online hangout groups / forums…anything you can find to promote yourself and network while you build your portfolio. And of course, apply to every single studio you can.
HOW DID YOU MARKET YOURSELF COMING OUT OF COLLEGE/ FIRST STARTING OUT?
Just coming out of college I did not market myself very well. I posted my work on one art forum weekly, and I had an online portfolio that I would direct people to. I didn’t however, aggressively push that information out there. It wasn’t until I got into a sketch group a few months later with a few other art school friends that I really had my eyes opened to how I should more effectively put myself out there.
I started posting my art on several new forums daily, and going to workshops to try and grow my industry network. I learned from the pros that I met at the sketch groups, not by shoving my work in their faces and asking for portfolio tips, but just by observing how they worked and listening to what they talked about in regards to the industry and art in general.
After a while some of them would look at my work and give me crits, some others even started pushing me and challenging me to do better. It was challenging, and sometimes disappointing when even though I knew so many industry artists I couldn’t land a gig at any of the studios. I had to in a sense, get over myself. By that I mean, I had to stop thinking why I wasn’t getting jobs, and focus on becoming a better artist and designer. It wasn’t about being good enough; it was about being the right fit.
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY MARKET YOURSELF? WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT (YOUR WEBSITE, SOCIAL MEDIA, WORD OF MOUTH?, ETC.)
Currently I post my work on facebook, instagram, and I recently started up a Patreon page. I also still post to my website. I always carry around some of my business cards in my pocket for when I’m out and about or at my sketch groups and such. I’m not sure about which one gives me the most back, but my bet would be social media. There’s really no contest when it comes to how valuable art forums and social sites like twitter and facebook are. The entire world can see it and share it, and that makes it a very powerful tool to promote yourself.
This concludes Part 2 of our interview with David Mitchell. If you would like to read more from David, check out his Words Of Wisdom (coming soon). All images used with permission by the artist. ©David Mitchell.