What does junior-level art ACTUALLY look like? It's a question that I've seen many times, so I asked the game dev Twitterverse to share the work they were making when they broke into the industry.
I have compiled a few of those examples here, but I really recommend checking out all of the responses in that thread. SO many wonderful people took the time to respond and it provides a ton of insight into the expectations for junior-level workers.
This is not a complete or perfect list...and expectations vary by year, company, and job, so take these examples with a grain of salt.
Since this includes the work of other artists, this post is public instead of being early access. This is a bit of an exception to my usual set-up (blog posts are usually in early access for $5 Patrons) because I don't want other people's art to be behind even a very temporary paywall in any way.
All images are used with permission and reflect the work of the artist from when they were hired for their first job in the games industry. Some have been cropped slightly. Some are low resolution because they were taken from Twitter. :p
These are in no particular order! Please let me know if I got any information wrong or if edits need to be made.
"I professionally started working late 2009, mostly for 3D that was used in print (VRay cinematic quality posters/box art), so these were pieces for my portfolio revamp for handpainting & low poly art early to mid 2013!"
"These are from 2013-2014 and I was hired in 2014 as a concept art outsourcer for the League of Legends Champion Update Team with Riot Games."
(Kristina's tweet with images)
(J's tweet with GIF)
(More GIFs from The Woodsman project)
"Wanted to add that I have no formal education in game art (my degree is in uh, cello performance). I taught myself everything and made these projects after self-directing what I wanted to see in my portfolio. It’s hard, but it’s possible!"
"My title was "Artist/Designer". I did a lil' bit of every art role (UI, trailers, concept art, etc)."
"My very first game job was as an in-house texture artist for a mobile game during the summer of my 3rd year of college and this was the work I had at the time."
"I was hired for Facebook games & indies as a freelancer and my jobs came out of that"
"After posting these online during my 2nd college year I was contacted by Game textures and asked if I wanted to work for them. This was amazing to me as I was planning on applying to them once I got better. I did not learn how to make any of this at college so googling is a must "
"The bar is much higher now than it was back in 2014"
"I made these back at Obsidian for Armored Warfare maybe circa 2015 as an environment artist. This was in my Quixel days, right before Substance took over my life. The lesson? Stay nimble and stay learning!"
"Quality over quantity. Cliche but rang true for me as my latest environment landed me a spot at Rebellion. By putting myself out there on polycount, I was spotted by EightyLevel and the exposure from my breakdown undeniably played a part in the process."
This is ultimately just a small sample of the variance you can see in entry-level portfolios. Expectations vary by company and role, and the lowest bar for junior artists is constantly rising. I included the year because of that- the constant shift upwards in quality and skill.
I hope this provides some insight into what may be expected from folks just trying to break in, but remember that quality is not the only aspect to being hired! Soft skills, networking, and professionalism are all also very very important parts of the process.
You can see MANY more examples of junior level portfolios from the last 2 decades in the original thread.
Further examples of other underrepresented game art roles and at-entry portfolios:
- Recently hired in AAA? Show us your portfolio (Polycount)
- Animation Showcase and Critiques (Polycount)
- VFX Friday on Twitter
Thank you to everyone that responded with their work! I might add more later to bolster the content a bit more :)