The more I read, the more I begin to believe that there’s a general misconception with entry level artists whom for some reason consider art tests an evil incarnation the game industry came up with to keep their feet firmly outside the door. Truth is art tests are a great way for Directors and art teams to quickly gauge your skill, speed and range of abilities. Art tests can often be a lot of fun especially if you enjoy being challenged.
In this second part of the series I will outline some tips that can assist you in getting to the next level in your pursuit.
So you have a killer portfolio ready and you’ve submitted this to a potential employer, you became ecstatic when the studio returns an email to you only to find out they require an art test; ‘WHAT?! But… I have a reel already, what do you mean I have to do an art test Yes this maybe true, but no need to get discouraged or concerned, the fact that you got this far is a great indication that they like what they see, but now they want to quickly assess you to see if you’ll be a proper fit for their team.
They’re a few reasons you would be subjected to an art test; for instance in my case, coming from a television/animated film background, I had no game art experience to show per say, and even though I had the needed experience and skillset the studio/s I applied to required I do an art test to better gauge my skill at creating a low poly in-game character or environment. Other reasons can stem from inexperience, the fact that they want to make sure you’re a serious applicant or in some cases it can simply be in line with an Art College assessment test.
Usually studios will issue you art tests in a variety of ways, some include;
- They issue you concept art they’ve created and ask you to replicate it (usually under NDA)
- They give you a general synopsis of what they require and ask you to go to task
- They give you a rough concept piece and ask you to use it as a base to get you started thus giving you creative freedom to some extent
The ball is in your court
When beginning an art test, the first thing you should do is wrap your head around the fact that your employer has just given you your first task of your new job, by doing this you would essentially put yourself in the correct mindset to get the job done to the best of your abilities. The second thing you should do is take some time to really observe what you’re tackling. Ask yourself a few questions in regards to the subject at hand, for instance if it’s a character, start by creating a short back story for him/her, it doesn’t have to be detailed, but just a couple sentences describing who they are. Ask yourself things along the lines such as what is the age of the character? judging by their clothes what time and place are they in? How did they get to the situation they’re currently in? what’s their disposition? And so on. The trick here is to assess your subject so you essentially create a personal interest that gives you a drive to complete it. If you just dive head first in without taking into account what it is exactly you’re creating, you’ll more often than not feel pressured and stressed and totally not fully enjoy what you’re doing. This is something you don’t want, because once in the industry it doesn’t get much easier. And by doing these tests, you essentially are prepping yourself for your career.
In addition to this, always and I mean always collect as much reference as you can before you begin, there’s no limit at what you can find between using Google and Yahoo’s image search features. Having the proper references greatly aid in your creation.
Although the clock might be against you, I strongly urge that you take the given time to conduct the test to its fullest extent, work on it until you feel like you can’t possibly work on it anymore, don’t make the mistake of rushing through the work because you believe this would impress the potential employer. In some cases yes it can, but the reality is if your test is full of errors because you failed to properly validate your work, it maybe a very costly mistake.
Also if you feel the need to consult your peers to go over your work, feel free to do so. Personally I won’t condone it simply based on the fact that it’s a test to assess your skill not others, but it is your purgative to seek assistance from others. I generally don’t like this practice, but on the other side of studio walls, it is an essential practice that’s constantly being carried out.
Standing out from the rest
I’ve been personally subjected to this a few years back when I had one of my first tests. It was down to me and another young, hungry artist who hadn’t been in the industry before, but he was quite eager to start. We were both given a rough concept of a masked solider and asked to embellish where we could but at the same time sustain the general feel of the character, plus we needed to have it done within a week’s time. At that time I wasn’t proficient in low poly work so I decided to work on my variation as a hi-poly model. Although we both finished on time, and both pieces were liked, I submitted my model in a grayscale render and my competition submitted not only a low poly version, but also a fully textured and rigged character. Needless to say I was blown away by his effort; he truly went above and beyond the Call of Duty and left me standing in the dust. I don’t believe I need to tell you who got the gig do I? J
The moral here is regardless of what you are given, always try to do just a bit extra than is needed and more often than not, it pays off big time. Studios relish in the fact that an applicant cares enough at this stage to give their all and then some to accomplish a given task. Imagine what that candidate can do if given the opportunity?
Delivered as promised
As a final note, I would like to also state that timely delivery of your tests is always favorable. When submitting your test for revisions, always make sure that it’s a 100% complete based on their instructions, and that you deliver everything on time and correctly. Having incomplete work would usually result in a toss, so try your hardest to deliver on time.
In addition to all of the above, Art tests are never wastes of time even if you don’t land the position. If you look at it this way, at least now you have a new piece for your portfolio. And maybe if you’re lucky the art team will give you feedback on what worked and what didn’t. This information is vital if received, so be sure to note it for future use.
Well that’s it for now, but I hope this has been of some help to you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a message. I hope to see you back here for Part III
Tito A. Belgrave