Elliot discusses what to do when you don’t have a portfolio ready for the concept art industry.

Q My name is Ashley and I recently graduated from the University of South Carolina (not an art school).  In my last semester I realized that I had a passion to do concept art, but that there was nothing in my portfolio to show my interest. I am concerned that this puts me at a disadvantage to other job applicants who have an art school background. Does this matter in the industry? Does this mean I simply have to work and fight harder to stand out? Also, although it is geared towards the video game industry, could the advice given in your book: The Big Bad World Of Concept Art; An Insider’s Guide For Students  also be applied to the animation/movie industry as well?

A Your situation is very similar to my own experience in college, so I know what you are going through. Yes, you are definitely at a disadvantage if you want to be a concept artist, but not because you do not hold an art degree, rather because:

  • You might not have developed the appropriate foundation skills to be a competitive artists at SCU
  • Your teachers are not working professional concept artists who can give you industry tips and tricks
  • You currently do not have a concept art portfolio that demonstrates your desired career choice
  • Your school has no networking opportunities for the entertainment industries


If you seriously want to be a concept artist, you will almost assuredly need further training from an outside source. My solution was to go back to school for another two years to really refine my skill set and portfolio.  I would suggest you do the same.  Attend a concept art focused school or at least attend some online classes. Check out the resources page on the website for our highly recommended choices. Also: I wrote an article on my blog a while back called Am I in the wrong school?” It offers three really good actionable options that might offer additional solutions to solving your dilemma.

It’s also worth mentioning that you will need to work hard just to be “up to par” with other budding artists looking to get into the industry. THEN you will need to work extra hard to stand out. In fact, EVERY ARTIST (pro and student) has to work hard to stand out in this industry. – That’s a lifetime effort.

Lastly, YES, the advice given in The Big Bad World Of Concept Art; An Insider’s Guide For Students  also applies to other professional industries. Since getting a job in any entertainment industry is about the same, you can take what you’ve learned in my book and apply it to that specific area.

Want to help us grow our resources section? If a resource has helped you greatly please e-mail it to me or any suggestions 
to: me@eliottlillyart.com. I will be keeping this list updated as I discover new entries. Thank you--